Don’t be fooled by that angelic sleeping face, you are looking at the face of a supposed bad baby.
I was often asked, when my Daughter was really little (mostly before she turned one); “is she a good baby“. This meant, did she sleep all night, did she never cry. “No”, I would reply, she’s a terrible sleeper/cries non stop/psycho/terror/monster/trying to break me (delete as appropriate depending on the day we had had), but I still really love her”. It had never occurred to me that a baby had the capabilities of being good or bad, they just are. Sure they can be loud or quiet, asleep or awake, pooping or pooping (all day long!).
Yet the notion that these tiny beings (beings which cannot feed themselves, move to safety, or even recognise their own hands initially) were actually these devious, manipulative beings, setting out to make life difficult seemed wide spread. A local Health Visitor once, promoting night weaning, described a six month old to me as “just being pissed off you won’t give them what they want”. Terms like “spoiling the baby”, “giving in”, “needing tough love”, “getting what they want”, and “they’ve got you wrapped round their finger”, came in thick and fast.
I truly believe that babies have only needs not wants (I talk more about my thoughts on that here). They aren’t capable of being ‘bad‘ or ‘good‘, they are all about survival and just ‘being’. I think it can be really useful to take the perspective when looking at young Children from an Evolutionary perspective (they don’t know it’s the 21st Century), as opposed to applying Cultural norms. A baby born in England, is no different to a baby born in Africa, nor a baby born 500 years ago. However, the Cultural expectations upon them, and therefore the way we treat them can be vastly different.
I know most people who refer to babies as being good or bad haven’t really thought through what they are saying. it’s making conversation, and probably repeating something they were asked as new Mums. So perhaps we can stop talking about good and bad babies (all babies are just perfect, we all know that). And it might lead to not feeling we are being judged as good or bad mums?