When a baby decides that mom is the only one that can dry her tears, sing her a song, or sit with her on the floor, it can be hard. Hard on mom. And hard on dad. So what do you do?
If baby suddenly decides she doesn’t like dad, mom can take a step back to allow bonding opportunities for dad and baby. Your little one may resist at first, but after soothing walks in the carrier with dad, story time, bath time, and maybe even starting a new tradition just for baby and dad, the bond will grow strong in no time. Just don’t give up!
Now, let’s dive into why your baby may not like dad anymore and what you can do to help them bond.
Why doesn’t baby like dad anymore?
It’s not so much that baby doesn’t like dad anymore, but more likely that baby is just showing a preference for mom. This is pretty normal. So dad, if you’re reading this, you’re not alone!
Before your baby is even born, mom has home field advantage. Mom’s scent is the one mom knows best, and her voice is the one baby has been hearing constantly for 9 months.
Baby can distinguish mom’s voice, even in the womb. Studies indicate that baby’s heartbeat accelerates as a response to mom’s voice. That’s pretty powerful! So it makes sense that in the first few months of life, baby will show a preference for mom.
Between six and 9 months, baby will really show their preference for their primary caregiver as separation anxiety starts to set in. This could be mom or dad, depending on who feeds and cares for baby most.
Of course, if mom is still the favored parent, this will all change when baby is around two years old and she starts to be curious about new things in her world. She will begin to take more interest in bonding with dad. She’ll also become intrigued with other siblings and toddlers she is around, too.
Baby only wants mom not dad
Baby is likely to develop a preference for mom if she is the primary caregiver.
That’s because mom is taking care of her, feeding her, changing her diapers, and comforting her when she cries.
After 6 months of age, many babies start to experience separation anxiety. When this happens, whichever parent is the primary caregiver around this time will likely be baby’s favorite. The good news is that this doesn’t last forever. As with most things with babies, it’s just a phase, and this too shall pass.
Breastfed baby only wants mom
Breastfed babies are even more likely to show a little favoritism towards mom than a formula-fed baby. Part of this is because mom is baby’s food source.
Babies are so familiar with mom’s breast milk that they can not just identify the scent of mom, but also the scent of her breast milk.
The other part of this favoritism has to do with baby being cuddled up against mom when being breastfed. She is being fed and comforted by mom multiple times a day, and it’s this consistent connection that creates such a strong bond between baby and mom.
Do babies prefer one parent over another?
Although you may worry that it’s all in your head, babies really do go through stages where they will prefer one parent over the other.
These preferences are not always long lived and just because you are the chosen parent today doesn’t mean you will be the chosen one tomorrow – or you may not be able to get the time of day from your baby today, but she won’t be able to get enough of you soon enough!
So what makes a baby favor one parent over another?
- The mom and baby bond – Baby spent A LOT of time with mom before spending time with anyone else, learning mom’s voice and associating her presence with comfort. Once baby makes her debut, mom is now the source of food and the one who (usually) primarily takes care of her.
- Mom’s pregnant – If mom becomes pregnant, it’s common for a child to start preferring dad over mom, because she may think dad is more accessible and mom may be a bit preoccupied, being pregnant and all.
- Asserting independence – Let’s face it. Toddlers don’t get to make a whole lot of decisions on their own. As a way to show you their independence, they may start to prefer one parent do simple tasks for them over another. This is just her way of showing you she can make decisions for herself.
When do babies start preferring mom?
Babies start to prefer mom almost immediately.
It generally occurs within 2 to 4 months of birth because baby already recognizes mom’s voice and smell after being in the womb for 9 months.
When do babies stop preferring mom?
As your toddler becomes more independent, she may stop showing a preference towards mom.
This typically happens around two years old, once she realizes that she’s a separate person from mom. Up until this point, she wasn’t able to distinguish herself from her mom (assuming mom is the primary caregiver).
Now that she is developing her sense of self, it allows her to explore other relationships, namely a relationship with dad.
Effect on parents when baby has a preference
No matter which parent your child prefers, it will take a toll on both parents.
While one parent may feel ignored and left behind, it can also be stressful and exhausting to be the only one that your baby or toddler is willing to play with, read with, or calm for, especially if they have other responsibilities in either the workplace or household.
When this is happening, it is incredibly important for parents to be supportive of each other.
Effect on mom when baby doesn’t want dad
While it can feel good to have baby want you and only you, it can also take a toll.
It’s exhausting to be the only one that can comfort baby, hold baby, feed baby, take care of everything for baby all the time.
Sometimes mom needs a break, too!
Effect on dad when baby only wants mom
When baby only wants mom, it can be hard on dads.
It can certainly make dad feel bad and discouraged that baby is constantly choosing mom. It’s a good idea though, to remember that it’s just a phase and it’s not about you as a dad. In fact, trying to spend more time with baby can help to encourage that bond.
Helping dad bond with baby
If baby is showing a preference for mom, it’s a good idea to help encourage the bond between dad and baby.
At first, baby may still want mom, but if dad hangs in there, the more they can do together, the stronger their relationship will become.
Some great ways for dad to bond with baby include baby wearing, spending alone time together, dad taking on bath time, reading to baby, and starting daddy-baby traditions.
Dad can always strap on the baby carrier and tote baby around the house or out and about.
It can be as simple as walking around the kitchen and pointing out appliances or things on the wall to baby. It’s just about engaging with baby, not about what you are really doing. This can provide dad an easy way to keep baby close to him, giving plenty of time to strengthen their bond.
Sometimes dad and baby just need a chance to hang out together.
If mom has errands to run or just wants to leave the house for a bit, this creates a great opportunity for dad and baby to spend time – just one on one. That way, even if baby does get upset and wants mom, she’s not an option. And don’t worry, baby will be okay. She’s in good hands with dad.
Maybe mom is breastfeeding baby so dad can’t help out there, but dad can help out when it comes to bath time.
This can be a great way for dad and baby to have some fun! Baths are very relaxing for baby so it’s a great time to make sure she is comfortable and at ease when engaging with dad.
Spending time reading to baby is a great way to bond.
When baby is young, it’s not so much about what you’re reading as it is baby hearing your voice when you are reading. The more baby hears dad’s voice, the more comforting it will become as it is a familiar voice for her. So while she’s very little, it could be the newspaper even! But of course, as she gets older, you will want to choose more appropriate books for baby.
Starting a new tradition with baby can be a fun way to bond not only when baby is little, but it’s a great idea for continuing that bond throughout childhood and even adulthood.
Maybe it’s a breakfast date once a week at a cafe or a trip to a special park. Whatever you decide it should be, a special tradition that’s just for baby and dad will be something both dad and baby will cherish for years to come.