“I am worried my baby does not like me, what shall I do?” This is a surprisingly common question parents ask.
If you are bothered by these thoughts, it shows you are a concerned parent, but you are also that you are in a painful, uncomfortable place. No parent wants to feel like that, yet many parents do experience similar worries. You may feel confused and unhappy.
Because babies cannot yet talk in words, we have to interpret their behaviour. So for instance when babies look at their parents, they get very excited, because you, mummy or daddy, are the most important persons in your baby’s life. In order to regulate their heart beat, they may then turn away from direct eye contact with you. Sometimes we can interpret this behaviour wrongly as if baby is turning away because s/he does not like us, when actually baby just needs some space, before s/he is ready for more contact or interaction. We know that babies glance at their parents regularly, yet sometimes, especially if we are preoccupied, we miss these glances, because they are fleeting.
If you spent all day alone with your baby and you are both tired and a bit grumpy, it can be dispiriting to see baby light up when the other parent arrives. You may think that even though she just grizzled at you, she wants to be friendly and play with the other. Maybe she prefers him/ her? Of course a new person will have more energy, and different interactions than you have at the end of a long day with your baby. And baby will be curious and excited to see someone new, who is fresh and wants to interact, and temporarily be distracted, before s/he starts grizzling again.
If possible don’t judge yourself for feeling bad, and if you do, just notice that it is happening. Everyone does the best they can at any given moment. Being a parent is not always easy.
I suggest you put five minutes aside at a time of the day when both you and your baby are in a calm mood and provided your baby is safe, you just sit back and give him/ her your undivided attention (no texting, phoning, radio or TV). Don’t try to do anything yourself, just notice your baby’s initiatives, and if invited, follow him/ her. You will find that your baby loves this type of attention from you and this space can provide opportunities for mutually rewarding experiences.
Sometimes if we already feel bad inside, we judge ourselves as ‘not good enough’, then it is easy to imagine that baby also thinks like that. This is an irrational thought, because babies’ brains are not yet developed enough to think that way. If these thoughts persist, they are rightly bothering you. In that case I suggest you find help. A parent-infant psychotherapist will see you with your baby, and support you to sort out your confusing feelings. You will also benefit from Video Interaction Guidance (VIG), where you and your baby are filmed and then reflect on the good moments, when you ‘get it right’. This method will help you to become more confident and separate your feelings of not being good enough from your baby’s real needs in the moment. You will be able to be able to become more attentive and better at reading your baby’s cues. This will also help your baby to feel better understood, your communication will improve, and your bond will strengthen.