Feeling rejected when your baby only wants dad? Check out these 5 reminders when baby prefers dad over mom or cries when he’s with you.
It’s a pain and jealousy you feel, but for surprising reasons: your baby only wants dad. You love the fact that she has a great bond with your partner, but it still hurts to see your own child ignore you. No matter how much you try to be “exciting” and fun, she always wants daddy.
You even thought it would be temporary, but several months later, nothing has changed.
There are times when she won’t even look you in the eye, but as soon as she sees daddy, she’s completely engaged and happy. She smiles more at dad, or will only settle and stop crying for him. You wouldn’t change a thing about their relationship, but it’d be nice if she gave you the same attention.
Any mom would feel stung when her baby only wants dad. Am I trying too hard? you might wonder. Will things eventually work out? Am I a bad mom?
What to tell yourself when your baby only wants dad
Deep breath, mama. Rest assured that you’re not the only one going through this. How you don’t understand why your baby prefers to be with dad all the time, or how something that should bring you joy brings pain instead.
As moms, we feel the expectation and even pressure to be the primary caregiver for our kids. That we have maternal instincts to instantly bond us to our children. It doesn’t feel reassuring that many kids do prefer moms more so than dads.
So, when you feel like your baby is rejecting you for dad, even as early the baby stage, it can sting.
Thankfully, nearly every mom I’ve talked to who has experienced the same has said that everything works out in the end. That kids will even bounce from one parent to the other through various stages in their childhood.
Still, it doesn’t always help when you’re in the thick of it. What can you tell yourself when your baby cries with you but not in dad’s arms? As these parents said about the article:
“I really appreciate you speaking to this. I think a lot of moms feel shame during this transition time in toddlerhood. This made me feel less alone.” -Anna
“Thank you I felt you wrote this article for me! Glad I’m not alone with my worries and anxiety.” -Alana
1. Relax and enjoy the freedom
As painful as it can feel to be “rejected” time and time again, find the positive in the situation. Perhaps the biggest one? You have more freedom.
Think of the exhausted mom who can’t peel her baby away from her even to use the bathroom. Instead of seeing your baby’s attachment to dad in a negative way, think of it as a way for you to relax on the couch or run an errand.
Take an extended break, tend to household tasks, or enjoy your alone time. You can change how you feel from hurt to grateful from a simple shift in perspective.
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2. Be available, not needy
Think of a typical “needy” relationship between a couple. One person might be clingy or only feel validated from the other that she weighs the relationship down. Few people find neediness an admirable trait in their relationships.
The same applies to you and your baby.
While we all appreciate being needed on certain levels, being too needy can set an awkward energy in the room. Don’t feel like who you are as a mom, and especially as a person, relies on how much your baby wants you.
Instead, be available. It’s that quiet, confident knowing that you’re here when he’s ready and wants to be with you. Don’t transfer hurt, fault, or resentment from his separation anxiety. Instead, shrug it off with a knowing that you’ll always love him no matter what.
3. Be present
In many families, dad is the “fun one.”
He’s the one who roughhouses with the kids and tickles the baby. He changes his voice during story time and takes them on exciting outings. Meanwhile, mom is the one who reminds them not to track mud in the house and changes the baby’s diapers.
While you don’t have to be an instant entertainer, try to make this one simple change: be present.
Instead of thinking of all the things you still have to do as you’re changing your baby’s diaper, smile and engage with her. Talk to her and listen to what she “says” while you’re together.
You may not be as funny or entertaining as dad, but you can be more present and attuned to her.
4. Don’t take it personally
You may have been tempted to personalize hurt feelings about your baby’s daddy phase. It’s easy to assume that another person’s behavior must be “proof” of their negative view of you.
But that only spells trouble, since in most cases, it’s not about you at all. The more you take it personally, the more burden and heartache you carry.
Don’t assume that you’re not a good mother or that you must not have what it takes to bond with your baby. Instead, find other possible reasons. One example is that dad is wonderful with kids. For instance, my husband has this odd knack of being good with babies, even other people’s.
Another could be that dad stays home with the baby and spends more time with him. And yet another reason is the opposite: he doesn’t get to see the baby often, and is a welcome sight and exciting playmate.
Don’t make your first reaction a negative story about yourself. Often, it has little to do with you and more to do with other reasons.
5. Don’t give in to unreasonable demands
Do you pass the baby onto dad to get him to stop crying? It’s tempting to hand him over in defeat, especially since he doesn’t want to be with you.
But having dad stop what he’s doing to appease his tears can send the wrong message: That he should only be with dad. Or, in other words, that he shouldn’t be with you.
Instead, keep trying to soothe him or change his diapers and let dad stay in the background. Not only does this show that you’re just as capable, but you and baby will also learn what works for the both of you. The more you pass him off to dad, the fewer opportunities you’ll have to build this bond.
Moms who’ve had a baby who only wanted dad will tell you that it all works out in the end. Plenty of reasons can explain why dad is your baby’s favorite parent right now, but know that she loves and needs you in a way only a child can love a mother.
She knows you won’t leave, ever, and likely feels secure with your relationship. And even if you take on the day-to-day drudgery that might label you as “not as fun as dad,” you’re still loved no matter what.
Instead, relax and enjoy the little bit of freedom you have. Be available, not needy, and more importantly, present in your interactions with her. Don’t take his preference personally, and avoid giving in to unreasonable demands that could send the wrong message.
All that to say, keep your head up, mama. There will come a time when you’ll look back on this time and wish she still preferred dad.
Get more tips:
- Dads Are Co-Parents, Not Babysitters
- Why Dads Should Wake Up for Night Feeds
- 5 Useful Tips for New Dads in the Newborn Stage
- Heartwarming Children’s Books about Dads
- 6 Ways Dads Can Support Breastfeeding Moms
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This article was very helpful and reassuring. Thank you for taking the time to write it!
Nina Garcia says
I’m so glad, Hanni! Thanks for letting me know <3
I really appreciate you speaking to this. I think a lot of moms feel shame during this transition time in toddlerhood. This made me feel less alone.
Nina Garcia says
I’m so glad the article resonated with you Anna—thank you for letting me know. You’re definitely not alone!
Thanks for this article! So helpful.
Thank you I felt you wrote this article for me! Glad I’m not alone with my worries and anxiety.