How can I get my 11-month-old to want to be around his dad as much as me?
Q: My son Julien is now 11 months old and he seems to be going through a mommy phase. He only wants to be held by me and be around me and won't pay attention to his dad and doesn't want to be held by him. He looks away and starts crying. It makes my husband feel terrible. What can I do? This just started a few weeks ago.
A: It’s understandable that your husband feels terrible. He should not feel alone, however, because this sounds completely normal. Many babies go through this “mommy phase” and they sometimes go through a “daddy phase” too. Especially when one parent spends more time with the infant (which may or may not be the case here), a baby can become clingy with that one parent and seem to “prefer” him or her.
However, this behavior doesn’t mean that Julien really loves you more or is consciously rejecting his dad. Letting your husband know that this phase passes may help ease his hurt feelings. As hard as it is, try not to be the only one to hold Julien or interact with him. You and your husband should play with Julien together, and you should model interacting with Dad (“roll the ball to Mommy, now roll the ball to Daddy;” “Hi, Daddy. It’s so nice to see you!”). Dad should continue to talk to, interact with, and make affectionate overtures toward Julien, in as nonreactive a way as possible. Showing his frustration won’t make things better. And I wouldn’t let this phase dictate your behavior. If you have an errand to run and Dad is home, run your errand. You can let Julien know that “Mommy will be back” and trust that your husband can handle Julien, even if he cries or protests when you leave.
Answered by Rachel Busman, Psy.D.