Attachment Advice Needed

So, my wife and I went out of our way to really try to balance out our daughter’s attachment to both of us. We split the first six months of work – I worked mornings and she worked afternoons. I pumped bottles for my wife to feed. We share bathing, diapers, etc. There are some things I do more of (walking dogs with baby in carrier everyday, clipping fingernails, etc.) and some things my wife does more of (riding in the backseat to comfort a cranky baby in her car seat, taking baby to music class and swim lessons, etc.) But, we really tried to both play active roles.

At about 6 months, our daughter started showing her preference toward me. At 7.5 months, it’s undeniable. In fact, she really doesn’t want ANYONE else holding her most of the time. She’ll tolerate short visits in other people’s arms, but for the most part, if I am present, she wants to be on or with me.

A big factor in this equation is that baby and I sleep pretty much attached. She nurses through the night, and I don’t really mind, so it is what it is (bad habits and all). She also has a strong preference for breast over bottle (from birth). So, if she thinks there is ANY chance she can have breast, she’ll stubbornly deny the bottle, even if it’s fresh, warm milk. Between 6:30 am and 3:00 pm, she will drink 5-6 ounces from the bottle from our nanny, and wait until I get home. At that point, she’ll chug milk through the afternoon and evening to make up for the lost calories. (Hellooooo reverse cycling).

My question is this: how long is the stage in which she insists that I be the one to tend to all of her needs going to last? It’s obviously frustrating for both my wife and I, and it clearly hurts my wife’s feelings. I try to remind her that it’s a healthy developmental stage, that it means our daughter is developing the essential skill of attachment, and that there will be PLENTY of times in the future when I am NOT the preferred parent and she is. Every baby goes through this, right? Do you have any suggestions? Any hope for when this will pass? Thank you!

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Practicing eating “solids” from a miniature silicone spatula, because she finds spoons to be extremely offensive.

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14 responses

  1. It comes and goes with Dar. Linnea prefers Leah at night. Otherwise she’s pretty happy with either of us and we have done everything “wrong” with attachment and me since Darwin has been proprietary off and on. I think a lot just depends on the kid.

  2. I also think we had a bit of an association with it ending and nursing. I remember literally EV screaming at the top of her lungs like panic if Cade at all touched her in bed while she slept. She had to be attached to me and couldn’t handle it. She always needed me to comfort her if she was hurt or upset. She’s two next month and things are so much more even. I’d say she even has a preference for Cade at this point. And I do think that all coincided with weaning at fourteen months. It might have been a bit earlier than that though? Abe has been bottle fed basically since birth but I pumped for the first three months and he has zero preference. Of course it could totally be personality but I do think nursing plays a role. I know things are more complex with two moms because her initial preference didn’t challenge his place as an equal mom but attitude played some role and he kind of accepted the fact that things would be a bit different in the beginning and eventually she would split her attention more equally

  3. Yes, dealing with this as well. I think my wife would love for me to give up breastfeeding (and pump exclusively) but I love breastfeeding so much and the baby hates bottles so much that its not going to happen. But that – and bed sharing to deal with the 4 month sleep regression – leaves me as the preferred parent and my wife as chopped liver. Unlike you and your wife, we don’t split the parenting roles. Somehow we have ended up in a 1950s housewife situation with my wife earning the money and coming home near bedtime with very little interaction with the baby, so in my mind, anything I do isn’t going to help the baby’s attachment to her. It sounds like your daughter is much closer to being equally attached to your wife. Maybe very, very soon she won’t have such a strong preference for you? I keep telling my wife that one day soon enough our daughter will prefer her because she’s the “fun” parent. I feel like we just have to wait it out, and do what we can to protect our partners feelings in the meantime….

  4. Yep, I think it’s at least somewhat related to nursing. Ansel still mostly prefers me, although he also seems to have a grasp now of what he prefers each of us for – me for comfort and sleeping, L for fun and laughs! It WILL shift and change, but for now it’s normal and I think you probably just need to remind your wife that she is crucially important even if it doesn’t always feel that way!

  5. We also really worked at keeping baby care as equal as possible, and I think it was when J was around your little one’s age that she started to show a preference for my wife. I found it SO hard, and had so many feelings about it. But it passed after a few weeks, though my wife breastfed J until she was 13 months old. Actually, it’s come and gone (often when J is going through a difficult time, like teething or a developmental leap or sickness), and while it’s never easy, it’s never as difficult as it was the first time now that I know that it won’t last forever. Occasionally, I even get to be the preferred parent (which I now know actually kind of sucks – seeing your partner feel the rejection is terrible).

  6. I was the GP and didn’t nurse either of my kiddos and both have had a preference to me between ages 7-14 months. We both take turns work part-time and stay home part-time and it still didn’t matter during those ages. My wife always says, “I can’t compete with a womb.” Honestly, I don’t think there is much your wife can do. Eventually it will fade. And like others have said, the NGP tends to be the ‘fun’ mom. While we provide the comfort.

  7. I’m going to go against the grain here – for us this wasn’t really an issue with nursing (he took bottles fine) but has really presented itself lately (almost 2.5). My wife and I both have strengths – she can play cars and trucks for hours and I am not phased by whiney or cranky behavior. This means that she is getting more easily frustrated with him at times it doesn’t bug me. Last night she declared that I am solely in charge of teeth brushing from now on because it gets her too wound up. I think that’s great that she identified it and passed off the responsibility. It’s hard when you are not the preferred parent and it tends to get frustrating. My suggestions are: 1) Make sure you never, ever, ever interrupt her time with babe. Even if babe is upset. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have family time but if she is specifically changing diaper then that is her time. 2) Have her explore when it is hardest for her. When she feels herself getting worked up. Splitting things 50/50 doesn’t mean you each change half the diapers. If changing diapers makes her feel stressed then you are in charge of diapers and she has another task. 3) Remember this will ebb and flow forever. I’m not saying it isn’t nursing related but there is no one solution. My kid has been screaming for me whenever upset for a few weeks now and this morning when I tried to brush his hair he insisted my wife do it. When my wife asked him why not me he said, “because I don’t like mommy.” She’ll have her turn, I promise.

    • I agree with you. All of the kids are super attached to me, and get bent out of shape when Callie tries to do things for/with them if they don’t want to. Similar to what you said though, it’s super important to let her have that time uninterrupted not matter how much they lose it. She pointed out that when the kids were crying if they got hurt, or if they were screaming because they wanted something, I would always jump in, and that kind of undermined her. SO I get that. And totally fluctuates. There are days at a time where everything is “NO MAMA! I want mommy!!!” It’s hurtful, but everyone will have their time to shine!

  8. It may be related to the nursing at this age, but the preferences will ebb and flow throughout the infant and toddler stage. My son preferred me during much of infancy, then when he was closer to one maybe it switched and he only wanted my spouse to put him to bed. I think he still mainly prefers her, but when he wants to be comforted he wants me. It hurts to not be the chosen parent (but sometimes it was just fine when he woke up in the middle of the night and I’d get to sleep because he only wanted her). Maybe your wife can have some activities that she just does with her. For example when my son was 6 months every Saturday morning he and I’d go to the library for a baby song/story time activity, and when he was mobile we did the gymboree classes together- my spouse would occasionally join us, but mostly it was just our thing and she enjoyed having her cup of coffee undisturbed those mornings.

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