Last Updated on September 11, 2021.
If your baby cries with dad, this guide is for you! Find out why your baby prefers mom, and how you can easily build a strong bond between baby and dad with our 21 bond-building tricks!
When my youngest was born, she was so different from my first. She looked completely different. She behaved differently. And it was a real shock for us. It was particularly hard on my husband. We had expectations. We thought that it would be a repeat of our first baby (who was a trick baby, by the way).
We were so wrong.
Baby G was difficult. She was fussy, constipated, and didn’t sleep well. We joked regularly that if she had come first, we’d only have one child. And it was really hard for my husband to bond with her.
When dad was in charge, she cried and cried.
To make matters worse, I had a difficult recovery from a c-section, so dad was in charge a lot. Plus we had a 2-year-old running around our brand new house.
Here’s my point: there were a ton of factors that contributed to our difficult situation. And those factors greatly impacted my husband’s ability to truly bond with our new baby. None of it was his fault. And it certainly wasn’t’ the baby’s fault. So we just had to work through it.
Why do babies cry with their dad?
Each baby is different. And each family is different. Sometimes, babies bond immediately with both parents. But it’s also totally normal for bonding to take a little time for one parent (usually dad).
And there are an infinite number of factors that you cannot control or predict. Sometimes you’re just at the mercy of your circumstances.
This can be really difficult for both parents. But it’s important to remember that it’s completely normal. There’s nothing wrong with your baby, and there’s nothing wrong with dad if it takes days, weeks or even months for them to build a connection. It was a full year before my husband started to feel truly connected to Baby G.
RELATED: Are Stay at Home Dads Losers?
Why do babies prefer mothers?
It’s typical for babies to prefer their biological mom. This is for obvious reasons. Baby was physically connected with her biological mom for the better part of a year. She heard her voice every day. Studies have confirmed that newborn babies recognize their mother’s voice almost immediately after birth.
You might find that your baby only wants mom. This is totally normal too! Each baby is different, and it might require some work for other adults to develop a relationship with the new baby.
Why do babies cry when they see a certain person?
You might notice that babies warm up to some people quicker than others. This might be due to their physical characteristics and their similarity to the people they know. For example, if none of your baby’s typical caretakers have a full beard, your baby might be particularly fussy around someone with a full beard.
How can I get my baby to settle with his dad?
You’re probably thinking, “Ok, great, but how do I fix this problem? How do I get my baby to settle with his dad?”
If dad is unable to settle baby, there are a few things you can do to help develop that parent/child bond between them. Here are a few tips and tricks you can try starting today!
21 Tricks to Promote a Dad and Baby Bond
Skin to Skin
Skin-to-skin contact between baby and dad has a huge number of benefits. It’s great for baby’s brain development, helps reduce stress and anxiety, and boosts baby’s immune system just to name a few. But dad benefits too. Skin-to-skin contact triggers the release of oxytocin, the “feel-good” hormone. This will help dad feel more “in tune” with the baby and help them develop a deep bond quickly.
There are few things that make a baby feel better than a full belly, and when dad participates in feeding, the baby will associate dad with that wonderful feeling. Some parents struggle with this one if the baby is exclusively breastfed. But you could choose to pump and then bottle feed so the baby has a chance to bond with dad over feedings. If that’s not an option, dad could also be present for feedings. Even just talking and smiling at the baby during feedings could help develop the dad/baby bond.
It can be hard for moms to leave their brand new baby alone with anyone, but it’s a great way to give dad and baby a chance to bond. Even if it’s for a short time while mom takes a nap!
Let dad be in charge of special activities with the baby! Find an activity that the baby really enjoys and let dad always handle that activity. Taking a walk around the block, bouncing in the bouncer, swinging in the baby swing, or tummy time are great options. Baby will naturally associate that fun activity with dad!
The least pleasant responsibility with a new baby is definitely diaper duty, but it’s an opportunity to get to know the baby.
A great way to initiate a strong bond is to introduce the baby to dad’s scent from day one. This can be done through skin-to-skin contact, but you could also let dad sleep with baby’s linens or clothes for a couple of nights. Note that it’s not recommended to put any random articles of clothing in the baby’s crib, so don’t just toss dad’s shirt into the crib.
The physical contact plus the element of water offer a great way for dad and baby to build trust and attachment, so let dad handle bath time! Bath time is a unique opportunity to build bonds with babies because it’s one of the most important activities for cognitive development. Baby’s senses are fully engaged and their brain is hyper-focused.
Newborns don’t “play”, but there are games that you can engage in with babies to help develop bonds. Peek-a-boo is a popular one, but you could also play games that include physical touch, like the “Little Piggies” (wiggling toes) or “Itsy Bitsy Spider” (crawling up their body).
Smile & Laughter
Smiles are the foundation for social relationships for babies. Babies develop trust and love for caregivers who smile at them regularly. It’s an easy way to develop attachment, and it sends the baby the signal that they are safe and secure. It helps babies develop trust. So make a point to smile at your baby often, and engage in laughter!
If you’re only going to focus on one bonding activity with your baby, it should be this one. Reading to your baby has an infinite number of benefits. You can even start reading to your unborn baby in the womb!
When you read to your baby, you’re introducing communication, promoting brain development, and encouraging language development. And as if that’s not enough, studies have shown it also promotes a parent/child bond, even before birth.
Music & Dancing
Music triggers the release of oxytocin, that “feel good” bonding hormone. It’s a great activity for parents to use to build life-long bonds with their babies. As a bonus, music has been known to promote brain development and encourage language development. So put on your favorite tunes and dance around the living room with your baby in your arms!
Practice Holding Positions
One factor that is sometimes overlooked is the baby’s comfortability in dad’s arms. Is dad stiff and awkward when he’s holding the baby? Some people struggle to find a naturally comfortable position to hold a fragile newborn.
Don’t worry, practice makes perfect!
As silly as it might feel, dad should practice holding a babydoll. Practice techniques for picking the doll up out of a crib, carrying the baby around, burping, swaddling, etc. Pay close attention to supporting the doll’s head, neck, and back. This is a great activity for anyone who’s new to caring for a baby. And you should feel no shame in trying to get it right before the baby arrives.
Using an infant carrier or baby sling to “wear” your baby is a popular attachment parenting technique to build a strong connection with your baby. Let dad practice babywearing around the house, out in nature, or during a shopping trip!
When you practice baby massage, your infant will feel relaxed and secure. Physical touch will help them feel a sense of trust and connection, so let dad practice baby massage!
One of the cliche images of motherhood is a mom in a rocking chair with her baby. That’s because rocking is a bond-building activity. The motion of rocking or gliding back and forth reminds your baby of being in the womb. So let dad take a turn in the rocker with the baby to help him strengthen that parent/child bond!
This doesn’t work for every baby, but some babies love car rides.
A car ride might remind your baby of being in utero. The tight feeling of the infant car seat; the soothing motion of speeding up, slowing down and turning around corners; and the hum of the car’s engine can offer your baby comfort. Let dad sit in back seat with the baby while they’re experiencing this soothing car ride to help them build a bond.
One quick note: Babies should not be in their car seats for an extended period of time for safety reasons. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions on your car seat before a long car ride.
Your baby’s bedtime routine is a great opportunity to get dad involved, especially if baby cries with dad at night. Routines in general offer babies a sense of security because they can predict what comes next. This can be difficult if you have an unusual schedule, but if you can make it work it can be a powerful bond-building activity. Let dad handle one or more pieces of the bedtime routine, like wiping down baby’s gums (yes, you should be doing this even if your baby doesn’t have teeth!), reading the bedtime story, singing the lullaby, getting your baby into her sleep sack, etc.
Babies are natural explorers. When you take them out into nature, their senses are heightened. They are exploring all the new sights, sounds, and smells around them. Their brains are wired to engage with new things around them. If dad is the one introducing them to these amazing nature adventures, it will help build their bond!
Sharing Soaps & Detergents
Scent can be a powerful bonding agent. If your baby is struggling to bond with dad, let them share soaps and detergents for a while.
Personal Grooming (for dad)
If your baby is struggling to bond with dad, one trick you can try is to make sure dad’s personal grooming habits stay consistent, specifically regarding facial hair. If dad’s appearance changes every few days, your baby might be confused.
Last, but certainly not least, co-sleeping can help families develop deep, loving attachments. Now, before you send me messages about the dangers of co-sleeping, I want to mention that this is not for everyone, and it’s imperative that you do it safely. And yes, there’s research that indicates there are risks with co-sleeping.
The truth is that the dangers of co-sleeping are not as black and white as our western culture would have you believe. There’s ample research that babies benefit greatly from a developmental and bonding perspective of co-sleeping.
There are many resources that can help you decide if co-sleeping is right for you and help you set up a safe co-sleeping environment. Here’s a great article from the University of Notre Dame on the topic.
I am not encouraging co-sleeping, but I want to acknowledge that it’s a great option for some families. Each parent needs to decide what’s right for their family. And I would be remiss if I did not mention this as an option for bonding with your baby. Co-sleeping is a practice that’s been around for millennia, and many cultures around the world still embrace it as the only way to raise a child.
What You Should Do Next…
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