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Baby Only Cries when Held by Dad










QUESTION:

I'm a first time father and my baby girl is just about 3 weeks old. I've noticed since we came home from the hospital that I have little patience with her, no matter how horrible I feel afterwards. It seems to me that nothing I try to do helps calm her down. The only chance I get for some quality non-crying time with her is when my wife has just fed her (she's breastfed) and she is half asleep. It's almost like she doesn't know she's laying with me and not mom. When she does start crying, my wife gets frustrated because I can't figure out how to calm her down, and I have to end up giving her back to get fed, or have my wife do whatever it is she does that works. The fact that I can't really hold her without her crying or can't spend any time with her while she's awake without needing to run back to my wife frustrates me to no end, which in turn cuts my patience to almost zero. Because of this, I come off as harsh and uncaring when I talk to my daughter to try and calm her down, and it obviously makes my wife incredibly angry that I'm frustrated with our daughter after only dealing with her for 10 minutes, while my wife has spent the whole day consoling her. I feel helpless, and concerned that I'm not going to be the good dad I always thought I could be.

The biggest hurdle I think I'm facing is that our daughter will not sleep away from either my wife or myself (mostly my wife). We can occasionally get her to sleep in a motorized swing if she's been fed at length and is incredibly tired, but the rock and play, pack and play, bassinet, crib, co-sleeper, bouncer seat all are a no-go. It's either my chest, my wife's chest, or next to my wife in a side feed position. It causes my wife to not ever really fall asleep because she's worried about SIDS and what not, and that in turn means she's never really getting sleep in between feedings. Which means my wife is extra sleep deprived and all of the fun things that come with that. If I could just get the baby to sleep away from my wife, I'd be more than willing to pull an all-nighter to get my wife some rest. But instead I get constant cries, which means I get frustrated, which means I have to give her back to breastfeed, which means mom gets no sleep. It seems like a viscous cycle.

I've read through the asked questions, and I'm going to try a couple things like talking her for a walk with some headphones on and try to lock down a a method to calm her, but right now, I feel like I'm at the end of my rope. My wife is beyond tired, cries because she's tired, cries because she's mad at me, cries because she dreads feeding again (but she refuses to supplement with formula, which I support her in, but don't know how to make breastfeeding easier for her to handle), and on top of that my baby cries when I hold her, cries when I try to get her to relax. Whole lot of crying going on and I'm frustrated because I seemingly can't fix any of it. Any suggestions or help would be most welcome.




ANSWER:

When one parent is at home with the baby they get the chance to learn how to read baby's cries and figure out how to soothe them. So you're at a disadvantage if you're not with your baby as much moms is and she swoops in to "fix" things when baby cries. You aren't getting a chance to figure it out on your own. Reminder her of this (gently), that she didn't know how to soothe the baby 3 weeks ago either and it will really help you bond with your daughter if you have a chance to reach that achievement on your own. When your daughter's done feeding and your wife hands her to you, tell your wife to grab a shower, have a nap, or put on some noise-canceling headphones and do whatever she wants. This gives you 30+ minutes of uninterrupted time with your baby, to figure her our on your own. She doesn't have to and she shouldn't feel like she needs to do everything or show you the "right" way. Check out our article on gatekeeping (what this phenomenon is called). If your wife wants you to be an engaged, involved father to your daughter, you need the time to be with and care for your daughter on your own and in your own way. It's great for your baby too!

There are ways dads can help mom with breastfeeding (we know it can be physically and emotionally draining!). Your support of her breastfeeding goals is so important.

To troubleshoot the crying, you need to find one thing that works. Do something dramatically different to break the pattern of you getting frustrated, then mom getting frustrated at you. Try headphones with baby in a front carrier on a long walk outside away from your wife. Once baby falls asleep, you will feel the opposite of frustration, which will encourage you to develop other techniques at calming your baby, but start with one to break the pattern. Crying typically peaks at 6 weeks and is over at 3 months, so it may get wore before it gets better, but you'll have your soothing repertoire down by then!

That's how we get to be good dads, by just keeping at it.

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