I was in the market a few days ago when I saw a scene I see played out over and over again, almost every day. A newborn baby was in his stroller while his mother was ordering a sandwich. He began to make some very obvious hunger cues. Since he was so far away from his mother she didn't notice these cues until he began to whimper. The mother started to rock the stroller. When he started to cry she rocked harder. When that didn't work she tried the pacifier. He kept spitting it out so she had to firmly hold the pacifier in his mouth in order to get him to take it. It was obvious that the pacifier was not what he wanted but I guess that he had already figured out that it was all that he was going to get so he reluctantly took it.
A few days later, I was on line at the supermarket when I witnessed yet another baby fussing in their stroller but this was one of the few times that the mother immediately picked her baby up. While she was picking him up she said to him "I know that I shouldn't pick you up but I will any way". I smiled at her and told her that she was doing the right thing by picking him up. She told me that she had thought that it was the right thing to do but that everyone was telling her that she was going to spoil him by doing this. I told her that she was just being a good mother by responding to his obvious need to be held.
This fear that a baby will be spoiled if you pick them up when they are crying is totally unfounded. In Africa, mothers almost always wear their babies in a traditional baby carrier for most of the day. In their carrier, close to their mother, the baby's need are instantly met. In New York City babies generally spend large amounts of time in their strollers, with a pacifier in their mouth, not being held by their parents. I think it's pretty easy to guess which children have a greater chance of being spoiled and apparently it has nothing to do with being held.