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'No, You Can't Spoil Your Baby': New Study Shows How Cuddling Affects Children

Some conventional wisdom suggests that coddling crying babies spoils them, but new research from University of Notre Dame psychologist Dr. Darcia Narvaez suggests parents and caretakers should pick up children when they cry.

The research, which will be featured in the journal of Applied Developmental Science, studied more than 600 adults and found that those who were cuddled as children had better mental health and were more likely to be well-adjusted when they got older. 

"These things independently, but also added up together, predicted the adults' mental health, so they were less depressed, less anxious, and their social capacities -- they were more able to take other people's perspective," Narvaez told WSBT. "They were better at getting along with others and being open-hearted."

Narvaez added that parents should try to be responsive to their children’s needs.

"What parents do in those early months and years are really affecting the way the brain is going to grow the rest of their lives, so lots of holding, touching and rocking. that is what babies expect," she said. "They grow better that way. And keep them calm, because all sorts of systems are establishing the way they are going to work.

“If you let them cry a lot, those systems are going to be easily triggered into stress. We can see that in adulthood -- that people that are not cared for well, tend to be more stress reactive and they have a hard time self calming.”

Narvaez recommends parents follow their instincts when it comes to comforting their children.

“No, you can't spoil a baby," she said. "You are actually ruining the baby if you don't pick them up. You are ruining their development."

According to Narvaez’s website, she specializes in “in ethical development and moral education.”

Sources: WSBT, Dr. Darcia Narvaez / Photo Credit: cheriejoyful/Flickr, Tatiana Vdb/Flickr

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