Worried your child prefers his carer to you?

Our child psychologist explains your baby’s relationships

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Most of us have a carer we rely on for support with our babies – maybe a child-minder, nursery nurse, friend or grandparent.

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Having someone you can trust to leave your baby with so you can go to work, shop, or make an appointment is essential. But it can also be confusing when your little one seems to prefer the carer’s company – and you start to worry that he’s more attached to the carer than to you.

Multiple attachments

It’s completely normal for a baby to have a loving connection with his mum and dad, his grandparents, his siblings, and also the person who looks after him during the day. Your baby is capable of forming an emotional bond with more than one adult in his life. He simply thinks, ‘It’s great having so many people who love me’.

The psychological attachment that your baby develops with his carer doesn’t reduce his capacity to form a bond with you. In fact, there’s some evidence that a strong bond between carer and child can help your baby grow closer to you.

Preferring the carer to you

If you’re worried that your baby likes the carer more than you, you can take positive action. Remember, bonding with your baby is more likely to occur when you’re relaxed in each other’s company and when you have fun together. Try to spend less time fretting about your baby’s attachment to his carer and more time enjoying his company when you’re looking after him.

Getting involved is key. Instead of leaving all the baby-care tasks to the other carer, make sure you’re in the routine too. Feeding, washing and changing all help bring you closer together. Set aside ‘you time’ every day (more at weekends) for you to be with your baby exclusively, no matter how tired you are or how much else you have to do. Take time to play, sing, talk to and cuddle him. This all helps make up for times when you can’t be with him.

Ways to stop feeling paranoid about your baby’s affection:

  • It’s nothing personal. Reassure yourself that your baby’s strong connection with her carer is good for her psychological development.
  • Think positively. Have confidence that you’re an effective, caring parent who’s doing a thoroughly good job in raising her.
  • Talk it through. Express your concerns without criticising the other carer. Ask the carer to talk to your baby about you while she looks after her in your absence.
  • Use photographs. You could leave a picture of yourself for the carer to show your baby when you’re not there.
  • Prepare for changeover. Suggest that the carer gets her dressed and prepared in time for your return – that’ll get her ready to see you again.
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