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DD prefers DH--I feel like I'm failing at AP

676 Views 16 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  Bloodflower
I haven't talked about this with anyone outside our marriage, so I'm a little nervous about posting.

DD is 4 months old, and she strongly prefers her father--she always has, even when she was a tiny newborn. I could never comfort her in the first few months, and she would cry and cry until he intervened. This broke my heart and also left me somewhat humiliated--I'd never heard of a newborn that didn't like her mother.

I thought it would get better with time, that she would start to bond with me. It is better than the first few months--she snuggles with me now at night and I nap with her, which seems to have helped her bond with me. But she still prefers him the vast majority of the time.

Luckily, DH is able to work from home, and so he can step in (I'm a SAHM). But, I know it's taking a toll on his work. And it has made me feel like I'm not good for much--basically, I act as the housekeeper/cook while he is the care provider AND full-time worker. Lately, I've been doing as much stuff for his work as I can, so that he can stay caught-up.

I read ALL the AP books before she arrived--I was going to sling her and go about my day, I loved the ideas in the Continuum Concept, it was going to be terrific! But she really doesn't like me to wear her--she'll let her father wear her all day, but she cries and cries when I give it a try. We have tried EVERY carrier and every position (we've spent a small fortune on 8, yes 8, different carriers). The latest embarrassment for me is that I thought she didn't like the hip carry--I told my DH that it just wasn't working and that she was so uncomfortable I had to take her out and carry her home in my arms for 10 blocks while she cried all the way. So, he gave it a try this weekend, 3 different times--she loved it so much that she kept contentedly falling asleep in the hip carry with him.

So, I really haven't been able to be AP during the day with her. I spend most of my time just trying to keep her from crying because I'm not the one she wants to be with, and hoping that DH is able to to get some work done. I dread the days when he has to leave even for a few hours, as she really goes ballistic.

The best solution would probably be for DH to stay at home and for me to go to work. But, DH finished his PhD and we moved to Europe just before DD was born so that he could do a 3-year postdoc. I gave up my terrific job and we got rid of everything we owned. I can't get a job here because I don't have a work permit. And DH really doesn't want to go back to the U.S. because of this--he feels like we can work through it and that it will get better with time.

I'm not sure where the problem started. I had a natural birth and it was agonizing (she was enormous), but I was absolutely determined to make it work. She was wonderfully alert afterwards, and she spent her first hour or so cuddling with her dad--I've often wondered if that's where it all started.

I'm really falling apart over this. DH has been wonderful, but it is taking a toll on our marriage. DH has dual American-German citizenship, so he has family nearby. But, I'm far away from all of my family and support.

And I lost my own mother when I was 3-years old, so I have looked forward to this my entire life--I remember someone telling me that it's important to remember there are two chances in life for a mother-daughter bond--I lost the chance with my own mother, but I would have a chance with my own daughter someday. Perhaps that is why this has been so devastating for me.

I love that she has such a strong bond with her father, but I am starting to get really down on myself about all this.

Has anyone else struggled with this? Is there any hope that her bond with me will get better with time? Is there anything I can do to improve that bond? Any suggestions for helping her to accept me as the care giver?

In any case, thanks for felt good just to get it all out.
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I'm assuming you are is she with you when she is nursing?

I don't have much experience except for the fact that Ellery prefers DH when she's overtired...he has this bouncy dance he does and it's to the point that she calms down the minute I hand her off to him. Sometimes its frustrating especially when he's working the night shift and I have an overtired baby until 12pm

Sounds so hard!! I don't know/haven't experienced what you have, but I do know that it will get better. Our dd's have gone through phases of preferring one parent over the other, but eventually it does switch. Back and forth - it has changed a few times with my almost 1-year old. I am sure that as she gets older, she will be able to show her affection to you more concretely.

Other than that, I have only
to give.

Take care, keep your chin up... you are most definitely NOT failing at AP. or mothering. Your bond is there. It is obvious that you adore your dd.

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I'm assuming you are is she with you when she is nursing?
I am definitely breastfeeding, and that's been going well. However, I've noticed that she's very business-like about it--she nurses very quickly, gets what she needs, and quickly disengages. I've had several people say to me things like "isn't it just wonderful when they gaze up at you while you're nursing?" And I'm never really sure what to say because she hasn't really ever done that (I did get a giggle once

This wouldn't concern me so much if she wasn't so incredibly social with others. She absolutely lights up for DH, and she entertains the neighborhood with her squeals of delight when we take her out walking.
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Sometimes I feel very frustrated when ds fusses, fusses, fusses with me... and then lights up and squeals happily when fun daddy enters the room! I've been so attentive and caring and... where are my creds, huh?

Thing is, though, he fusses with me because he feels comfortable sharing his negative emotions. And babies have a LOT of them. There's a huge load of discomfort and frustration involved in being a baby. Your dd loves you (inasmuch as babies love). As a matter of fact, she doesn't really differentiate between you and her. You are VITAL to her; you are like oxygen. Sounds to me like she is so comfortable with you that she just lets it all out with mommy.

Ds also nurses quickly and without eye contact. But although he isn't giving easy-to-perceive signals, I know that he is enormously comforted by nursing and that it bonds us. He is 6 months now and it has recently gotten much easier to tell how he's feeling.

You have my sympathies. It is surreally hard to be a new mom without a support system! Human beings did not evolve to be able to do this alone. Give yourself some credit, and give yourself a break. Find something fun to do out of the house... and see if dd doesn't have a big smile for you when you come back after a few hours. It sounds to me like it's time to focus a little more on your happiness and do something that nourishes you.

And btw, she wouldn't light up for others and entertain the neighborhood with squeals of delight if you weren't doing a great job! Hang in there--I'll be thinking of you.
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As a matter of fact, she doesn't really differentiate between you and her. You are VITAL to her; you are like oxygen. Sounds to me like she is so comfortable with you that she just lets it all out with mommy. [QUOTE/]

ITA with this. Its amazing that they don't really know the difference between themselves and mom for quite awhile.

I think you are being very AP by following her lead in terms of what comforts her. I also agree with a pp that said the favorites switch back and forth over time. DD had a period of preferring dh more too, also around 4 to 6 months, but now she is leaning back toward me. I have joked with dh that we definitly need to have another baby someday so I can have a child of my own cuase dd is definitly "his girl"
It sounds like you are the most wonderful mother. Your dd is very lucky to have you.

But I was nearly moved to tears by your self-doubt. I am wondering if your dd is picking up on this as well. If she senses you are worried and uncertain she will reflect this too. Perhaps dh is just more comfortable and sure of himself and dd picks up on this. Also, if everytime dd is unhappy and you are trying this and that and then dh comes to the rescue, it's probably just the change of scene that jolts her out of her funk (no offense to your dh LOL!!). Try having him out of sight/earshot while you (calmly) try to soothe her. She needs to trust that you can "come through" for her and that won't happen if someone else interrupts you (even if asked by you!) because it conveys to dd that you aren't in charge and aren't to be trusted. I disagree with the others that you shouldn't be concerned but do think you should be able to quickly turn this around given her very young age and your obviously excellent mothering skills. Sounds to me like she's just developed a habit that needs to be gently changed to include you too.

Good luck!
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Hi Katie,

I feel for you, what you are going through must be very hard for you.

Periwinkle said (I think it was periwinkle) that she was moved to tears by your self-doubt. I was also nearly moved to tears by your post, and that statement rang true for me. Our ds is 3 months old now, and we are doing really well. But in the first few weeks after he was born, I was convinced my dp was simply a better parent than I was. It seemed she was full of tricks and techniques to handle him where I could only shrug and say, "I don't know what to do." I felt constantly unable to just make decisions, to act, to think of what the best course of action could be at a given time. When one of our friends asked how I felt about dp going back to work, I broke down and sobbed, saying I was horrified at the thought, that I was unable to do this without her. Weeks later, the same friend (who happens to have an MA in councelling psychology) said she had felt, at the time, that I had some post-partum depression. Looking back, I think she was right (and I don't at all mean to suggest that you might have that; that's just what happened to me).

I don't feel like this at all anymore and things are pretty much great. When
DP went back to work, I actually came into my own. I realized I was comparing myself to her instead of just being myself. But last week we were on vacation and I felt that the baby just wasn't connecting with me, and it really hurt me. I had to remind myself that he's just a baby, and our bond will always be there, no matter what.

All I can say is believe in yourself; your little girl sounds like she is thriving, which means you are an amazing mom! Keep seeking support and talking about it with your husband.

Good luck to you and I hope this helps.
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Oh, and another thing...

About feeling you are failing at AP: for what it's worth, our son hates, but I mean really hates, being in a sling. He can handle Baby Bjorn if we are out, but will mostly cry if I have him there in the day around the house. I felt so bad about that about that at first, even though we've never said or decided that we would be full on AP. But the sling thing is one thing I thought for sure I would do. Now, when he's not in my arms, he's near me in his favorite little chair, or we're on our bed and he's on his back and we're playing. He's doing exceptionally well.

My approach to parenting techniques is that I take what works for me and leave the rest behind. I don't want to fit my baby into a system if it doesn't seem to work for him. I strongly believe that as parents, we are the experts on our children. So don't worry about feeling like you've failed at AP; there's no test. If some aspects of any technique don't work for you, that's ok; work out a compromise, adapt things. What's important is that you feel confident about your parenting style, not confident about how well you are following a certain approach.

Any way, hang in there!
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I am so sorry you are going through this! I am also married to a German Stefan (although mine hasn't applied for US citizenship because he doesn't want to give up his German and isn't sure of how it all works). We have discussed moving to Europe (which he would LOVE), but I just can't imagine living as a SAHM with no family or support whatsoever!

I am wondering if his working from home is making the situation *worse* rather than *better*. Personally, I didn't come into my own as a mom until after everybody left and it was just me and the baby... alone... all day. It sounds as though your role as primary caregiver has not yet been established.

Your babe is still very young. As hopeless as this may seem, you have many many years of motherhood and bonding ahead of you! Things will get better.

As far as the carriers - don't sweat it! Even if your babe *never* wants to be worn by you (highly doubtful!), it doesn't make you any less of a mom.

I wish you strength and perseverance to get you through these trying times.
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I went through the same thing. It was hard! I cried a lot. My dd is now 15 months old, and is pretty euqal now, maybe a little more of preferring me. I felt liek an awful mother.

I don't have any advice, just empathy.
I agree with a lot of the stuff people have already said. She might be picking up on your despair and frustration. And APing isn't a job or a test you can fail. You're doing everything in your power to meet her needs and make her happy, that's what it's all about. There's a good chance that it really is the change of scenery w/ Dad that's helping to calm her down.

And you aren't alone. My son is going to be 15 months in a few days. His second word was Dada. His 4th was kitty. He still can't say mommy. :LOL: But it will even out over time, I know my DS loves me beyond doubt.
i've gone through this with my daughter, have had many a big cry over the unfairness of it. my husband just recently started working again, he was at home and available all day until 2 weeks ago. Willow definitely preferred him until about 5 months, then she started reaching for me. i blame myself in every way possible. i never did get that "gazing up at mama" look when i was nursing her, oddly enough i now get it when i bottle-nurse her. she actually avoided looking at me until she was about 3 months old! but would stare at her daddy for hours. i felt like hating him at one point.


Originally Posted by uuelisabeth
Thing is, though, he fusses with me because he feels comfortable sharing his negative emotions. And babies have a LOT of them. There's a huge load of discomfort and frustration involved in being a baby. Your dd loves you (inasmuch as babies love). As a matter of fact, she doesn't really differentiate between you and her. You are VITAL to her; you are like oxygen. Sounds to me like she is so comfortable with you that she just lets it all out with mommy.
this is what i finally realized what was happening! daddy is fun, but mama is comfort. when she did cry with him, he'd distract her from crying by swooping her around until she giggled ... he never just let her cry. i got so frustrated! i couldn't do the physical stuff he was doing, so she'd just cry and cry for me. but then i realized, i'm the only one with the ability to truly comfort her! she cries to me because i listen, i don't try to stop her from crying.

now that he's at work all day ... everything is fine!! she needs me for everything, she reaches for me, she yells "mum-mum!" when daddy is holding her and cries for me. thinking back, i probably should have told him to "disappear" in the house once in a while so i could truly be alone with her.

{{{more hugs for you}}} it is SO hard without family. i'm isolated except for a local playgroup, that helps keep me sane.
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just a quick post but what uuelisabeth says is TRUE! i am a mom of four, my oldest being 17 years and youngest is 10.5 months. mom is like water and air... just there. but dad is fun and giggles and excitement!

IT GETS BETTER! honest, your child will become more and more interactive and delightful as your relationship grows and changes... which it will for the rest of your lives!

i also agree that if you don't have any support, you are probably in the middle of a nasty postpartum depression, and as soon as you start getting over that (some alone time, exercise, eat well, and keep taking that prenatal vitamin for at least as long as you are nursing), the sun will start shining for you again.

hang in there! your daughter hasn't ever felt your absence, which is why she is totally taking your presence for granted. believe it or not, this is a good sign! she is so comfortable, so secure, she has no worries about you now. you are doing a wonderful job! relax and enjoy it as much as you can, mama.


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Thank you all so much for taking the time to read my post and for offering such terrific suggestions! You all gave me SOOO much to think about...

I never thought about a baby perhaps feeling more comfortable fussing with the mother than the father and looking to the mother mainly for comfort.

I think you're also right that she's probably picking up on my distress, and I've been working on this after I read all your posts.

I'm also working on comforting her myself, rather than letting DH jump-in right away. I think you're right that this will help her have more confidence in me.

Thanks again everybody! I really appreciate all these ideas...
Katie - hang in there! I just wanted to add that if dh is bigger than you, she may feel 'safer' w/his bigness when being worn. If you can stand the crying for a short time, get dh to put the babe on your back in any of several safe ways (mamatoto site has lots) and start walking. Walk right out the door, mama, and give that baby something interesting to look at! Distracted, interested babies are not crying babies! I totally kwym about not getting the gazes. My ds is 1 month older, and he didn't start to really give giggles and gazes until about 3 1/2 - 4 months. Now it's all about what I'm looking at, and he makes faces at me all the time. Little scamp! Dh here is very competent as well, and it was hard for me to compete. Capitalise on the bfing time, make it as warm and cozy as you can, and wear your baby whenever you can. Back carry's may work better for you because your back is broader and stronger than your front or hip. Ds didn't like the sling or anything like that either. Only a few holds are ok w/a babe that small for your back, but utilise having dh home for getting the baby on nice and comfy (even if crying at first - this will pass quickly once you get moving).

Good luck mama - I def. feel you are doing it all right (AP parenting is all about listening to our kids, even when they say things we don't want to hear, right?!), and this will turn around quickly. She sounds like a wonderful little baby! Enjoy the good moments, and allow her to have her say in some stuff, but w/in the boundaries you and dh establish. Ok??? I spent my dd's first 4 yrs. in canada w/out any help or family or very many friends the first couple of yrs. sucked. Things got better over time, but it was hard. Doing it on your own is VERY empowering!!!
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My heart goes out to you. It must be so painful to feel that distance from your sweet girl!

I have not experienced what you have, but I have experienced this with my dd: nothing lasts. Everything changes. One challenge of parenting is to remember this!

Another challenge is to stay present in the moment and respond to our children as if we hope for and expect the best outcome. YOu need to grieve about the fact that your experience with her has been so different from what you wanted and expected. But if you are with your dd and find yourself thinking "She's rejecting me" or "I'm afraid any minute she's going to cry for Dad" you might try replacing those thoughts with "I love you" like a mantra, over and over. I have not experienced this with my child but I have in many other relationships: although it can be *really* hard, you can continually offer the other person the invitation to relate with you in the way you want. Then when they are ready, you are also ready to build on the seeds of better relationship as they sprout, rather than holding an expectation for things to go badly. KWIM?

And I must say, YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE! You are loving your dd the best way you can and that's all our babies ask of us.

Re your isolation -- might there be a LLL meeting in your area?

Hang in there!!!
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