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Unaffectionate baby?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

DS is a bright and happy 6.5 month old. He meets and exceeds developmental milestones. He loves to be held and worn, spends hours comfort sucking, wants to be near me all the time, etc. He is very socially aware and gives smiles and laughs freely. He gives both DH and me huge loving looks and smiles. He's just not physically affectionate with either of us. 


He never leans in when held unless he is sleeping. When I hold him, he actually pushes against me with his hands to keep himself at a distance. When I give him a kiss, he moves away. When I rub his back, he arches it. He wants to sit with me, but he doesn't want to be cuddled. If I move my face close, he will touch it, but more of a curious touch, not affectionate. He touches my breasts while nursing, but more like squeezing which is unpleasant. 


He was 5 weeks early and we didn't have an ideal birth experience. He was taken from me at birth and spent 25 days in the hospital. I'm trying not to believe that this is why he is unaffectionate because I really don't want to have another thing to grieve over. From what I hear, my husband was similar in nature as a baby. He has grown into a very loving husband, although his mom has said many times he has never been particularly affectionate with  her. I grew up in an unaffectionate home with a very hands-off father and I've always looked forward to having affectionate children. Does anyone else have a baby like this? Is there anything I can do to help him be more affectionate, or is this just the way he is? I was hearing yesterday about someone's 5-month old that was giving them kisses. It has just made me so sad. I am not like some mom's who feel touched out by the end of the day. I'm actually craving affection from my husband because I've been giving so much of myself all day with no physical affection given in return. I'm really so thankful for LO and how happy and smiley he is, so I'm trying not to let this get me down.

post #2 of 17

i dont really know what to say. i am not an expert. but i think some people just dont like to be crowded. my babies didnt give me kisses until they were older but they wanted to be held. they didnt give me hugs till they were older either. they didnt like being swaddled, they wanted their arms free. but now that they are older they are very affectionate. My DH is not very affectionate and hates being crowded. he doesnt like holding hands or snuggling on the couch. he holds me while we fall asleep and that is pretty much it. and he was bfed as a baby and all that too. i hope someone else can come answer it too. for now i would respect his needs. just always be there to offer it to him if he wants it. like you have been doing. <<hugs>> 

post #3 of 17

I don't think this definitely means your DS will always be physically unaffectionate. I mean, there's no way to know for sure one way or the other, but I can tell you from experience that while my DD was always sweet, happy, and friendly, she didn't become a cuddler until, gosh, WELL over a year. I think she started giving those open-mouth baby kisses around 6 or 7 months, and I think she started hugging right around  a year but I have to admit, even those things didn't feel always super affectionate; it was more like she usually did them without knowing what they meant because she got a reaction from them. It's really only been in the last six months (from 15 months or so) that I started feeling like she wanted to snuggle, kiss, hug, hold hands, etc. just for the cozy comfort of it. Only in the last THREE months or so has she started to put her head on my shoulder when I hold her, tighten her arms around my neck, cuddle on the couch with me without wanting to nurse. Now she is extremely affectionate, offering hugs, kisses, etc. without being prompted. When she was a little baby she never wanted to just sit together. I don't want to just tell you not to worry, that your DS will DEFINITELY become affectionate because, as LionessMom said, some people are never physically affectionate, but I do want to reassure you that things could definitely change. Hope that helps.

post #4 of 17

I was never a very affection child but I definitely grew into it. My brother was the exact opposite, but now in his teenager years, you can't get him to hug our mom (of course, this is probably just him being too much of an adult :P)


I definitely wouldn't worry about it. DS will grow into it in his own time like I did. :)

post #5 of 17

Oh, wow! I could have wrote your post. I wear my 9 month old everywhere. If she is not playing she is in the Ergo. I co-sleep and breastfeed. Like you, I have nearly constant contact  with my daughter. She is smiley and happy and giggly but she is NOT cuddly. I think it is personality and temperment. That is what I'm telling myself :) I am just trying to appreciate the night snuggles (when she is sleeping) and just accepting that her non cuddliness is a  part of her.

post #6 of 17
My DD was never cuddly as a baby. She'd let you hold her to nurse, etc but wasn't leaning in or snuggling or anything. Otherwise she was always very smiley and happy. Just like Annaknitsspock's little one, she grew into it. Open mouth baby kisses at 12 months and she's just now starting to hug at close to 16 months. She was very active as a baby, wanted to be sitting or on her tummy, then crawling, and now running around. It's got to be on her terms and often she will push people away but she's very affectionate when she wants to be. I'd just keep being affectionate with him and let him reciprocate when he is ready. He may turn into a cuddle bug or he might not. I don't think it's anything you did or didn't do. As pp said, not everyone is physically affectionate but if you role model affectionate behaviour then he will know you approve of it.
post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thank you so much for your responses! It was just what I needed to hear...especially that some of your LOs grew into being affectionate. I had a little feeling of guilt after writing the original post since I hate to say anything negative about DS. But I just had to hear if anyone else had experienced this! Like Melanie Ann said, I do try to enjoy the nighttime snuggles. Those are great! Skycheattraffic, your DD sounds just like mine....very active!

Thanks again!

post #8 of 17
It's good to hear others stories about growing affection for sure! Honestly it sounds like he is quite interested in his surrounding and may just be excited to see and learn new things. Plus, he is willling to be "worn" or carried wich is a great sign of his attachment to you.

I will chime in on one comment you made regarding his premature/newborn experience. When a baby experiences NICU for an extended period (involuntary innability for baby to bond) or an unavailable parent bonding issue (not your case) , it can cause some issues with affection. However, be encouraged! Many NICU baby parents, adoptive and foster parents are able to bond and attach through affection. It is quite common, and it sounds like you are taking steps to engage attachment parenting techniques. I would be persistent with this and not chalk it off to persnality until at east 12 months, especially due to his medical situation early in life and presumably the involuntary position for you not being able hold, cuddle, etc when he was sick.

Many NICU, adoptive and foster parents experience this and it is not uncommon in preemies. Look further into attachment therapy/parenting if you are truly concerned.
post #9 of 17

I had a baby like that!


6 years ago in April i had a baby girl, at home, with only entonox (gas and air) as medication.  We were not apart for a single second.


When she was 4 months old my supply began to drop and i developed a huge goiter.  It was a long road but the short version is i lost my milk and by 6 months she was down to one feed a day, by 7 months we dropped even that feed.  She was fully formula fed.


She had NEVER been affectionate.  She was smiley, sweet and funny, she was engaging and entertaining.  She was not cuddly.  Hugs were 2 seconds, once a fortnight, on HER terms.  Part of the reason my milk supply was lost so fast was because she realised she could roll around on the floor with a bottle and not have to lie in arms and face my ribs as with the boob....*sigh*  She couldn't sleep if she was in bed with me, preferring her own cot and her own room (she slept MUCH better in her own room, waking and crying (but refusing to nurse) when she was in with me).


I was terribly upset by her lack of affection.  I have a friend whose son  (he and my dd were babies together) was dx ASD and HE was more cuddly and affectionate than my DD!


I wore her a lot, pretty much all the time unless i was running (i ran for exercise, and used a babyjogger performance), she was worn for at least a few hours a day until she was 3.


So...now she is a cuddly, affectionate 6yo who loves to sit on my lap and snuggle up on the sofa and climb into bed in the mornings for a cozy-up under the duvet with me...what changed?


2 things: 1 i stopped wearing her - i think a lot of her (lower than some maybe) physical-contact needs were being met by babywearing.  Only when she wasn't already being worn did she finally begin to have a slightly emptier cup for physical affection.  and 2 i had another baby.  When DD1 was 4 DD2 came along, and i had to hold and nurse her as i had DD1 and suddenly that little drop (it wasn't as if DD1 was particularly in my lap much before DD2 was born!) in touch was what pushed it over into a situation where she would need and seek more.  And now she LOVES to come and have a cuddle.


So maybe you're giving your little guy enough with all the contact you DO have.  And maybe as he gets bigger and the sorts of contact change and evolve and maybe you have another baby to have to hold and nurse and look after you will find there is a point when your DS WILL need and seek more physical affection from you.  For just now you have a very happy, secure baby whose needs are all being met.  Which is something to be very proud of :D

post #10 of 17

Aloof babies need love too!


My husband describes our daughter as cat-like, aloof, demanding, completely unreasonable, very destructive.  She can't be without me, but if I wrap my arms around her, she will frequently push my hands away.  She wants to sit on me, not be cuddled.  Mama is furniture.


But the odd morning when she throws her arms around my neck and snuggles in, even if it's only for 5 seconds, that really does make it all worth it.



But seriously, I have no idea how she manages to be so clingy and yet so un-cuddly. 

post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 

These responses are great! MrsGregory, yours made me laugh! "Cat-like" and "Mama is furniture." Sounds like my DS! Thank you, GoBecGo, for going into so much detail. It is encouraging to see that a baby that had the ideal birth experience had a disposition similar to my DS. And I'm so glad to hear that your DD is affectionate now! Smiles2012: It looks like I'll never really know if DS's birth experience has made a difference in his disposition. I'm guessing the best thing here is to just stop over-thinking and give him all my affection and let him work out how he wants to be in his own time. :)

post #12 of 17
I had never even thought that, by 6 months, a baby could be affectionate or not. Like they wouldn't know the difference yet? But my dd does turn away from kisses, doesn't usually hug back, etc. Hmmm. I guess she is not affectionate too...
post #13 of 17

My DD was 7.5 weeks early, and an incredibly affectionate baby in the ways you describe in your first paragraph (affectionate and social) and not at all in the more physical ways.


There are a few things - first, YES, aloof babies need love too!  Different people exhibit affection in different ways.  You have the baby you have, who is who he is, and likes what he likes, which is awesome.


Second:  as a mom of a preemie, I am so very, very aware of the way the experience affected me, and affected my daughter.  DD went through this physical ordeal.  I went through an emotional one.  My emotional scars profoundly affected how I perceive my daughter - much more when she was still tiny (she'll be three next month), and when I still needed help processing the trauma.


When DD was small, I was suffering quite badly from post-partum depression and from the aftereffects of trauma.  There's also a thing with preemies where you can feel like you're on the baby treadmill.  You have this baby, you spend weeks in the hospital, and then you come home with, essentially, a newborn.  Whereas, with a regular baby, by the time you're a month's worth of sleep-deprived, you probably have a pretty standard-issue one-month old.  These things made it hard for me to see my DD, if that makes any sense - I could look straight at my baby, and see the wall beside her head.  So it was hard for me to notice things like, oh, DD turning into the biggest, sweetest flirt in the world.  Or her incredibly devoted listening whenever I talked.  Having coffee with a friend once a week or so really helped, because they were better at looking straight at my baby and seeing her, and they could tell me what she was doing, which made me able to perceive it, which made me feel more connected to her, which sounds ridiculous, but really happened.


Anytime a preemie mama talks about this kind of problem, I want to point out that when you are exhausted, overwhelmed, depressed, or freaked out, those things are going to color your perceptions, sometimes quite extremely.  I think it's hard to get through a NICU experience untraumatized.  If you haven't discussed resources for PPD with your doctor or your son's pediatrician, I think it's worth asking for an evaluation with a therapist.  It can make so huge a difference.

post #14 of 17
Originally Posted by smiles2012 View Post

I will chime in on one comment you made regarding his premature/newborn experience. When a baby experiences NICU for an extended period (involuntary innability for baby to bond) or an unavailable parent bonding issue (not your case) , it can cause some issues with affection. However, be encouraged! Many NICU baby parents, adoptive and foster parents are able to bond and attach through affection.


In addition to my previous post, I wanted to hit this a little.


I am frequently bugged when we talk about bonding and parenthood, because no one (and I have asked) has been able to define bonding for me.  How do we know that it's happened?  Or that it hasn't?  If we can't answer those questions, "bonding" is just something that parents (usually mothers) get to be anxious about.


The paragraph I've quoted above bugs me because it makes it sounds like, if your babe was in the NICU, you're lucky if your kid doesn't depart for boarding school by age six.  I admit that there's a NICU parent lens, that I'm looking through, where I'm maybe a little sensitive about how connections between me and my kid might be perceived by others.


In my experience and observation, human beings have an immense capacity to love and care for each other.  It's hard to NOT develop an affectionate relationship with a baby you're around on a regular basis.  A few weeks in hospital isn't going to impede your child's ability to love and be loved. 

post #15 of 17

My 9 mo DD is not terribly affectionate yet, and she had an ideal birth experience, so I don't think it necessarily has anything to do with that. Mine is like yours - smart, active, happy, likes to be with us, but just not really physically affectionate. As of very lately, she will crawl up to me and want to be picked up just for fun, but she doesn't stay long and doesn't fall into the hug or anything. Doesn't like kisses. I figure she will get there.

post #16 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks MeepyCat for sharing. I appreciate hearing your point of view!


Most of my sadness in regards to DS's NICU time is that I don't know what it feels like to go to term, I don't know what it's like to take a baby home hours after giving birth, and DS doesn't know what it's like to go directly from the womb to mom's arms with no interruptions. For me, I was able to feel a difference in the bond I had with DS upon his arrival home. Co-sleeping and actually being able to nurse made a huge difference for me. When he first came home, he didn't seem to care if he was being held or who was holding him. After the first week, he wouldn't be put down for a moment and he only had eyes for me.  So, at least in my case, I'm able to somewhat define when "a bond" was achieved, but I know it's different for everyone.


I had emotional break downs a lot at the beginning, but I do not feel that I actually suffered from post-partum depression. I'm so sorry you did! It is hard enough as it is! I have been able to look at him as just a normal, term baby for quite some time now. He developmentally and physically caught up so quickly. It is also helping me a lot to hear other mom's who had a normal, term baby tell me that there babies are so similar to my own in affection level. It helps me to just relax and go with it and just appreciate my LO for who he is! :)




Originally Posted by MeepyCat:


In my experience and observation, human beings have an immense capacity to love and care for each other.  It's hard to NOT develop an affectionate relationship with a baby you're around on a regular basis.  A few weeks in hospital isn't going to impede your child's ability to love and be loved. 


I agree! This is how I feel too and I think this really helped me get by without getting overly depressed! 

post #17 of 17

Just my thought, but affectionate doesn't always mean better.


I was not an affectionate baby or child, or even young adult.  In fact, the only people I feel comfortable with being affectionate with are DH (I am over him like glue sometimes, it gets on HIS nerves!!) and then when the kids were born, I became affectionate with them, to a moderate degree.  Otherwise... meh.  Not really into the cuddly, huggy thing.  (Although this might be partially cultural... I didn't grow up in a place where hugging was the norm.)


Your baby might grow into the cuddly thing, or might not.  Both are OK.  He sounds happy and content and thriving regardless, and you're not depriving him of any affection, either.  :)

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