Dear Mr. Dad
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Coping with a New Step Dad
by Armin Brott
Dear Mr. Dad: I'm a new dad and I can't help but feel like my 2-week old girl hates me. It seems that no matter what I do with her-or even if I come near her-she screams and cries and flails her arms like she's trying to push me away or like she's frightened of me.
My wife, who babysat when she was young, has a lot more experience with infants than I do, and she says that I just need to spend more time our daughter. But nothing seems to work. She won't even take a bottle from me. I'm becoming more and more terrified to get near her because of how much it hurts to see her reaction towards me when I just want to play with her. Her not liking me is the most heartbreaking feeling I've ever had in my life. Is she going to hate me forever?
Answer: What you're describing is very common, especially when the baby is being breastfed. And it's important that you not allow yourself to back off-physically or psychologically. There is absolutely no possibility that your baby hates you. At this age, she's spending most of her time sleeping. And when she's awake she's going to be an eating machine. She's far too young to have preferences. It's all about needs. Since mom smells like milk, that's what your baby is going to be most interested in.
Your wife is absolutely right: you and the baby need to spend some one-on-one time together. The ideal time to do it is right after she's been fed, when she won't be as interested in eating. Your wife should leave the room so you can be alone with your daughter (or you can pop her into the stroller and head out for a walk). Sing, read, talk, whatever. Doesn't matter what you do. The object is to get her used to you and to get you to feel more confident and comfortable with her. Once you've established a solid routine, it's okay to try giving her a bottle (expressed breast milk is best). But be sure you do it waaaaay before she gets into the frantically hungry stage. Again, make sure mom is not in the room. If she is, the baby will want her and you'll be in the same situation again.
Finally, try as hard as you can not to take your baby's behavior personally. Research shows that babies respond to tension in the air by getting fussy and agitated. So if you're feeling skittish just being around her, it's going to be especially hard to deal with her. The calmer you are, the calmer she'll be.
I know that this is hard, but the fact that you wrote is a sure sign that you're a committed dad. You can do it.
About the Author:
Armin Brott's bestselling books, including the recent release of Fathering Your School-Age Child, have helped millions of men around the world become the fathers they want to be - and their children need them to be. Armin has been a guest on hundreds of radio and television shows, writes a nationally syndicated column, "Ask Mr. Dad," and hosts a weekly radio show. He and his family live in Oakland, California. For more information visit www.mrdad.com.