Whether you’re a sleep-deprived mother of a newborn who can’t get a break or a father who simply wants to connect to his daughter or son… when your child only wants mom IT IS HARD.
As a mother of 3 kids who each have their own unique personality, I have experienced time and time again each child going through phases of “only wanting mom”. And let me tell you, sometimes you just want to cry.
Why do babies only want mom?
Why is this? Why does my child have crying fits every time I leave? Why can’t grandma take a turn? Why can’t my husband step in to help so I can get a much-needed break for my mental sanity?
You aren’t alone in these thoughts and questions. I want to reassure you that it is normal for some kids to have a preferred parent AND that there are things that can be done to help change this so that each parent can have that special bond with your child.
There are many reasons why a baby has a strong preference for his or her mother.
First, let’s face it, your child grew inside mom for 9 months, so it’s no wonder they have a stronger parental preference for mom.
Second, a breastfed baby who is securely attached to mom has a strong bond and might have a harder time connecting with other adults.
Babies might also only want mom because she is the primary caregiver and she spends the majority of time caring for baby as opposed to other family members.
If a child doesn’t go to a daycare center and is at home with mom all day, then it can be harder for the child to connect with dad when he comes home from work causing a strain on the entire family.
Third, at around 6 months, separation anxiety starts to set in and baby might start having a stronger preference towards mom again and that’s when those baby screams increase. This is a difficult stage for many parents and babies as they are trying to develop a sense of trust and find that safe person.
These are all valid reasons for a baby to prefer mom over dad (or anyone else for that matter), and it can lead to a lot of problems such as a clingy baby and negative feelings towards your child.
But have no fear! There are things that can be done to help guide your child’s preference and find a good solution for you and your family.
Can a baby be too attached to mom?
There isn’t such a thing as being TOO securely attached to mom OR to dad. However, it can still be frustrating when your baby prefers to go to mom for every little thing.
Child development experts say that a baby’s attachment to both parents is a sign of later resiliency.
Clinical psychologist, Dr. Laura Markham, (author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids) said that, “securely attached toddlers are healthier, tantrum less, and develop a “conscience” earlier.
As they get older, they’re more cooperative with parents, get along better with peers, learn faster at school, have higher self-esteem, and are more flexible and resilient under stress”.
So while it doesn’t hurt to have a positive attachment to mom, it is a good idea to help your baby or child become securely attached to dad (or other caregivers) as well so they can have a well-rounded sense of self.
Is it just a phase?
I will say, that this could just simply be a phase that your child is going through. Sometimes a growth spurt, the development of new motor skills, teething and sickness can all be a reason for parental preference.
And each of these things happens on a regular basis in a child’s life. So if your child is experiencing one of these things then HIP HIP-HOORAY for you!
There isn’t much else you need to do besides continue to love your child, connect one-on-one and wait it out. If this isn’t the case, then read on for some tips on how to help meet your baby’s needs as well as your own.
How do I get my baby to bond with dad?
I know. I know.
This is all great and dandy to hear the “WHY” behind the clingy behavior, but now comes the question of “HOW”. “How in the world can I help my baby bond with anyone else but me?!” One of the most important things is to never give up. Keep trying.
I am the oldest of 8 kids and once my dad realized that we preferred mom, he resorted mostly to work because he felt isolated from us and felt that he couldn’t develop the connection that he desperately desired.
I get it. It’s easy to give in. But trust me, it isn’t worth it! Stick with it!
Let’s go through some ideas of what to do to help baby develop that special bond with dad and be willing to go to other caregivers as well.
What To Do When Your Baby Only Wants Mom
1. Know That It’s Normal
Like we mentioned before. Remember that this is totally normal. You aren’t alone and your partner isn’t some crazy person who just doesn’t know how to handle babies.
It happens to so many families and there are things that can be done about it.
2. Have Your Partner Hold A T-Shirt Of Yours
A mom’s scent provides a strong sense of security for a baby.
So having your spouse wear or hold one of your articles of clothing could be just the key to helping your child be ok with dad! (just be sure to take a picture of him in your shirt for the baby scrapbook)
3. Wear Baby
Contact napping is so important!
Sometimes it’s the only way that my kids will ever calm down– when they are being worn.
This is a huge help when you have other children and need to get something done but your baby won’t go to anyone else. Simply wrap them up on you or put them in a different baby carrier and they can be toted around.
That way they still feel like they are getting that quality time with you but you still have free hands to clean the house, fold the laundry, be a nurse, and a chef, and a psychologist for your other kids, and then hopefully get a nap somewhere in there too!
4. Put Baby Near You In A Bouncer Or Swing
A swing or bouncer can save you! When baby is at such a young age, it can be hard to set them down on the floor or couch and even hard to wear them sometimes.
If you have a baby who only want to sleep in your arms, consistently trying to switch to a bouncer or swing could help.
Having somewhere you can set them down while you exercise or do something for yourself is one way to meet all of your basic needs. If they have a hard time with you leaving their sight, then you can put them in the bouncer and do push-ups over them, fold the laundry while sitting right next to them, or read your book out loud to them.
You can also use the bouncer or swing for naps if they don’t want to be set down. This will help soothe them without you having to do it.
Try to only do these things when you don’t have another option because you also don’t want baby getting too reliant on you being with him or her 24/7.
5. Have Your Partner Be The Fun One And Don’t Overreact
When dad gets home, have him be the one to take the baby from you. Even if he or she cries at first and doesn’t seem to like that one on one time with dad, it will benefit your child in the future.
If he is having a hard time knowing what to do with baby to connect, he can try these ideas to make your baby laugh.
These can be such special bonding times for a dad with his child and it’s important they get that connection especially if he is gone working all day. Take this time to pump, take a nap, or relax and don’t feel bad about leaving your baby.
Remember, it will pay dividends in the future!
And, if he starts doing all sorts of crazy tricks with your baby like my husband tends to do (such as throwing them in the air, taking them down an insanely high slide, balancing them on one hand, etc) then try not to always rush to stop him.
It is actually important for the baby to experience these different types of play from both mom and dad. This can help build connection with dad and baby and they will develop that secure attachment.
Soooo, I know it’s hard, but even though you’re scared to death and closing your eyes waiting for the sobs to start, let them have their special time together and only step in when it’s an emergency.
6. Try Different Times Of The Day
If baby is having a hard time going to sleep without you sleeping right next to him or her, then maybe try a different bedtime. Move bedtime up 20-30 minutes and see if this helps to prevent over-tiredness.
It also can help with that separation anxiety that babies will feel when they have to go to bed. And this is a huge plus because if baby does fall asleep earlier then that only means you have extra time for YOU.
Always a bonus when you are a tired mama needing just a bit of alone time to eat your hidden stash of ice cream!
7. Leave The House
Just do it. It’s hard. It’s sometimes scary and daunting especially if this is your first baby.
But if you never leave the house, you’ll never know if your baby can survive without you.
Start from when they are young and plan a girls night out once a week where your spouse can stay with the baby. That gives baby and dad that one on one bonding time that they need AND it gives you a break from baby.
You will be amazed at how you feel after having some adult connection without having to worry about your little one! From the get-go, plan dates with your hubby so that your baby can get used to the fact that she or he will be left with other trusted adults in their lifetime.
It doesn’t have to be long– start with just a 30 minute outing to the grocery store or to get ice cream. Then slowly increase the time. This will help baby become accustomed to other people spending time with him or her, give you the breaks (that you SO deserve) and if you need to go back to work, it will make the transition to daycare a lot easier for them.
8. Keep Trying
Remember! DON’T GIVE UP! Just keep walking along and singing your song (insert Pete the Cat here). You can do this! It’s hard work to train your baby (and frankly yourself) to give that trust and attachment to other adults besides just mom. But it’s worth it and both you and your baby will reap the benefits now and in the future.