As a new parent, this is the question I am asked the most.
Yes, Soren is a good baby. But you know what? All babies are good babies.
In fact, I would suggest that all children are good children. Some are born with challenging traits or placed into situations that ultimately lead to the development of less adaptive coping mechanisms, but that does not make a child ‘bad’.
They are a product of their genes and environment, both of which are out of their control.
They are coping with the situations in their lives, with the brain wiring they were given at conception.
For example, some babies seem to sleep well from day one, whereas some babies are all-night ragers.
Some babies and children need a lot of reassurance, whereas other babies need less, or ask for it in different ways.
Some babies cry a lot, others don’t cry unless they’re completely overwhelmed.
‘Well, what’s wrong with saying he’s a good baby?’
When we think about good versus (bad?) babies, it’s important to think about our language. “Good” implies that a baby or child is capable of making considered, moral choices. The opposite, of course, is “bad.”
This has never sat comfortably with me.
In my studies last semester, I completed a unit on child abuse and neglect. One of the core aspects of the curriculum in this area was about risk and protective factors. In the first year of life, one of the most significant risk factors for child abuse and maltreatment is the child’s temperament.
So – a high-needs baby with colic and a need for reassurance is more likely to be physically harmed, ignored, shaken, or emotionally maltreated.
They are vulnerable.
This doesn’t mean it will happen, but the higher stress levels brought about by challenging temperaments and behaviours can create conditions where maltreatment is more likely.
In my mind, to then label babies as ‘good’ places the blame on an infant for stress brought about by higher needs. In a very small and implicit way, it blames a child for how others respond to them.
In any event, babies just need our love – and when they challenge us, they need it even more.