My baby hates her father!!!
March 1, 2009 10:56 AM   Subscribe

Can any armchair baby psychologists tell me why my 9wk old baby screams her head off when her father carries her?

I have a pretty goodnatured infant who is exceeding all her developmental goals. She's very friendly and allows strangers to carry and even babysit for extended periods without a whimper. Yet when the caregiver happens to be my husband, she pulls a Jekyll and Hyde and becomes inconsolable. She screams and cries so hard she stops breathing and throws up. I tried letting her cry it out with him trying to console her and all she did was cry non stop for 3 hours till i caved in and took her and she stopped immediately. I've had him wear my sweater so she can associate my smell with him but she's smart and knows the difference! I'd like this behavior to stop because i need my husband to be able to take her sometimes so i can run errands or just have some me time. What else can i do?
Somr pertinent information:
- She doesnt latch so she's fed expressed breastmilk supplemented with formula.
- Sometimes (when she just woke up or is too sleepy to care) she lets him feed/burp her but that's about it.
- My husband has an aversion to dirty diapers so i tend to do diaper duty 99 percent of the time.
posted by ramix to Human Relations (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe he's just holding her awkwardly? Maybe boobs are comfortable?
posted by Sys Rq at 11:03 AM on March 1, 2009

Facial hair?
posted by jozxyqk at 11:14 AM on March 1, 2009

posted by Ugh at 11:17 AM on March 1, 2009

does she react the same way if he's near her while you're with her? Does he ever help you with her otherwise? What about if she's lying down, neither of you are touching her, does she react badly to that? Is it only when he holds her, or is it a proximity thing? Are you the kind of mom who holds your baby all the time?
posted by lizbunny at 11:24 AM on March 1, 2009

2nd facial hair. How about glasses?
posted by thebrokedown at 11:24 AM on March 1, 2009

Personal hygiene? Body odor? Deep voice? High-strung? Loud?
posted by camworld at 11:27 AM on March 1, 2009

Best answer: IIRC, 9 weeks old is a little too young for the "cry it out" method on anything. I think the ability to self-soothe to various things only comes later.

Try "Kangaroo Care" - have him take a nice warm shower so his skin is all warm, take off his shirt and all but the baby's diaper, and the THREE OF YOU snuggle together under a blanket. Try this just at feeding times, and then if you start to see results from that, keep going 2-3 days and then try longer times, not when feeding. It takes babies 2-3 days to adjust to ANYTHING new at all.

Make sure he's holding her tight enough, etc. Sometimes men don't always hold babies tight enough.

He needs to get over the aversion to dirty diapers. I know this is a little OT, but to ME, in my personal opinion which is obviously worthless, it signals that he has some perhaps subtle discomfort with the whole baby thing. If that is on any degree true, betcha she can feel it. I'm NOT saying he dislikes her or is anything less than loving and open, but babies can smell fear. And I think for one parent to say "You know, I don't want to do chore X in raising our child" is just weird. It strikes me as something ELSE going on. My two cents, take it or leave it.
posted by bunnycup at 11:32 AM on March 1, 2009 [21 favorites]

Best answer: First, your baby is 9 weeks old, so don't write off stranger anxiety just yet--that usually kicks in at 5 months at the earliest. While lots of newborns prefer their mothers (they know the smell and voice of their mothers at birth) they're usually not terribly aware of Other People vs. Family until a bit later. This varies, though.

Anyways, babies can be little Richter scales of stress, a quality that haunt lots of dads. The first few times they've held the baby, the baby cried. Maybe the dad wasn't used to holding newborns, maybe the newborn was just cranky, but new dads can be susceptible to guilt for not being immediately comfortable with the baby. The dad gets increasingly stressed when they have to hold the baby, the baby senses the stress, and the cycle continues. A better baby expert can weigh in on whether or not this is compounded by the baby's ability to associate this stress with the dad, or if the baby just keeps sensing a stressful adult.

The point is, your husband might be sending a slew of unconscious "omg omg omg" signals (tense muscles, rapid heartbeat, rough jostling, switching positions every 10 seconds) to your daughter, even if he's rationally trying to be collected. This explanation alone might relax your husband. One suggestion: if the baby likes baths, let your husband hold a well-fed, well-rested daughter in a nice warm bath, when they're both soothed and comfortable. </nanny
posted by zoomorphic at 11:41 AM on March 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: She doesn't hate him, and like all baby things which cause short term panic, it will pass. Most babies prefer their mommies to begin with - she began associating food, safety and security with you within the first few hours of life. She doesn't have preferences yet beyond what meets her needs - in other words, she doesn't hate him, she just doesn't know not to be scared of him. A friend of mine also prepared me for some of this, by letting me know that babies don't really do much and aren't that much fun for the first three months and that I will lack the things an infant needs (namely a foodsource). On top of it, I'm 6' 3". I'm big and ultimately it was akward when it came to holding him at the early ages. It took me a while for the two of us to be comfortable.

The bottom line is, she ultimately won't remember negative feelings for him. They may hurt him now, but this is a *short term* situation (seriously, two weeks from now she'll be a completely different baby). He can't give up trying, and you have to grin and be supportive to the both of them in their efforts to get closer... Just remember, the baby *will* sense your nervousness (and his) if you aren't comfortable with your husband holding her... All I can say is take a few deep breaths and enjoy some screaming... (we took to blaring some happy music and dancing around to entertain him).

Let him feed her more. Make him change more diapers - seriously... everyone is adverse to changing diapers. he may be slow, he may want to throw up... and the poop may somehow find its way into his hair... but its not an excuse, and he will be a better dad because of it... plus I told my son, every time he cries he's mowing the lawn when he's older.... its a good strategy. Right now I know that in 15 years my lawn crew will be regretting his infantile behavior...
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:54 AM on March 1, 2009

Maybe boobs are comfortable?

I don't think the maybe is necessary here.

It's probably just chemistry. I'm a man (with facial hair, sometimes, when lazy) and some strange babies seem to love me instantly and won't go elsewhere. I'd be a great stealth baby thief. Others are not so happy.

A baby bonds with its mother quickly as a survival mechanism, but there's little need to bond with the father or others.... though there should be a family bond with fathers, siblings etc sooner or later. Just keep trying until baby gets used to the smell/feel. It'll happen eventually.
posted by rokusan at 12:29 PM on March 1, 2009

bunnycup wrote:
And I think for one parent to say "You know, I don't want to do chore X in raising our child" is just weird.

More precisely, "I don't want to do chore X in raising our child, so I won't" is weird, selfish, immature, irresponsible, and otherwise unparental.

Division of labor is one thing. Refusing responsibility is another. He's a father, and he should be too mature for "ew, it's icky - you do it!".
posted by IAmBroom at 1:15 PM on March 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

Something similar was asked at the Advice Smackdown recently (though about an older child) that can be summed up as: This Is A Phase.
posted by rhapsodie at 3:49 PM on March 1, 2009

He's a father, and he should be too mature for "ew, it's icky - you do it!".

Yeah, sometimes we're not. Sorry. But your inner-MBA should look upon this as an opportunity for negotiation over further divisions of labor. "If you hate this so much, how about I always take care of it, but you're now solely responsible for task XYZ?"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:10 PM on March 1, 2009

Your kid and husband sound pretty normal to me. I have a 3 year old and a 7 month old. Both didn't have much use for me for the first 4-6 months. Same things that you originally describe. Screaming and crying. Lunging for mom. Tell your husband it gets better. I took it personally with the first one. But eventually the baby will realize that their is someone other than mom in their lives. then they get really fun.

I also struggled with the diaper duty...(strong gag reflex). All I can say is he will have to get over it eventually. I can manage the diapers now, but have to run for the hills if the older one pukes. As they steps.
posted by The Burge at 6:37 PM on March 1, 2009

I have kids at six, three, and one year. They weren't all comfortable at first, but they came around. It helps to know it's normal, and to not stress about it (the stress can make it harder for baby to relax with dad).

Actually, being unstressed about the reaction your kids have to you will be useful to you throughout their lives. There's likely plenty of times where they're going to hate you--actually hate you--throughout their childhoods. You're going to love them anyway then, too.

Just accept that she's uncomfortable, but realize that you can do nothing about it, it's not your fault, and you are going to love her anyway.

Mostly offtopic:

- She doesnt latch so she's fed expressed breastmilk supplemented with formula.

That'll be one of your opportunities for better bonding. But you should know that the latching problem might be solvable with the right lactation consultant (ours was a godsend, and the right latch can be less painful than the wrong one).

- My husband has an aversion to dirty diapers so i tend to do diaper duty 99 percent of the time.

And you *don't* have an aversion? Just make sure you're both holding up your fair share. One family I know, she's responsible for "input", and he gets "output". Perhaps with that nursing problem you can reverse this should she begin to chill out around dad.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:18 AM on March 2, 2009

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