What if a baby cries with dad..? This is quite a common situation. Let’s take a look at why a baby screams when held by their dad and what can be done to improve the situation.

baby screams when dad holds himPin
Mom’s question:
My 5-month-old baby screams when dad holds him – or actually even whenever his dad touches him. It really upsets my husband, and he says it makes him not want to even go around him or do anything for him.

I am at my wits’ end with what to do. I am so exhausted because I have to do everything if we don’t want the baby to scream. I am spread so thin.

What can we do? Please help

by Kristina Ball
(Seattle, Wa, USA)

Easy Baby Life:

Tips When Baby Screams When Dad Holds Him or Her

Why Babies Cry With Their Dad

It is quite common that a baby prefers one of the parents, usually the mom. It can be tough for both parents, but most – at least emotionally – for the one NOT preferred.

It is, however, also really hard for Moms when you can’t get a break. Babies are often far more attached to their mothers – after all; they start life inside you. You smell all nice and milky; you are probably far more attuned to how to soothe him.

It is very natural for a little baby to want security, and if mom is there the most, mom is preferred; simple as that. From time to time, at least. It is a natural development and bonding process.

But since your husband is sad about it and you are exhausted, you should try to change it! What Dad should NOT do is give up! More time spent with the baby is needed, not less!

Helpful Tips to Make Baby & Dad Bond

Here are some things you can do to improve the situation:

1. Eye contact and smiles

At first, Dad can start making lots of eye contact and play lots of smiley games like blowing raspberries and peepo – all while in your arms. This way, your baby will gain more confidence with him. Dads can often be a little scary, with big deep voices, rougher movements, different smells, etc.

And often, when we want to hand over the baby, it is late in the day, the baby is tired, and Mom is getting a bit stressed and wants to get dinner on, and he will pick up on your withdrawal. And just when you most need a break, all he wants is you!

2. Co-sleeping

Are you co-sleeping? Safe co-sleeping can also help the baby and dad to get closer.

If they spend the night (or some naps) close together, your baby will become much more used to his dad’s movement, smell, voice, et cetera.

3. Carry baby around

Another possibility is to invest in a front carrier pack. This way, your baby can be in dad’s arms, getting used to his smell, but still see you, if that helps. Or even without seeing you.

Many 5-month-old babies really love being up and around and being carried face out on dad’s chest when going out to touch the leaves or flowers, for example, can be a great adventure – enough to “forget” mom for a little while.

4. Time Alone With Dad

Have you tried going away for short periods of time, leaving your baby and husband to each other? That is actually the most effective way to speed up the bonding process between the two of them.

This may not be appropriate at first, but once they have become a little more bonded than now, you can start practicing by just taking a bath or shower with the door shut and the baby awake and together with dad. After a while you will have to go shopping, going to the hairdresser or whatever… :-)

Choose a time when your baby will likely be alert and content and simply walk out of the house! Agree with your husband for how long, and make sure you enjoy it and rely on them handling the situation. Even if it is just for 30 minutes, it will give them time alone and you too.

5. Outdoor activities for Baby and Dad

Another, maybe even better option, if you are exhausted, is that your husband and baby leave the house and let you relax and sleep.

Your baby is getting old enough to enjoy going to a playground to watch other kids and maybe try the swing. Another activity that can be fun is  baby swimming. Maybe your husband could consider a baby swim class once per week as his little project with your baby?

If you let them spend time together as often as possible (with and without you), I’m sure things will improve. Maybe your child will continue to prefer mom for a long time – many babies do – but it can be to a lesser degree.

Overcoming the Hurt Feelings And Focus on FUN

A crucial point for Dad to focus on is that your baby is not rejecting him as a person. Your baby is just feeling unsafe. There is nothing personally against Dad here.

If your husband can ignore his hurt feelings while spending time with your baby and focus on FUN, chances are that your baby will also feel the shift and feel more secure!

If you need ideas on games to play with your baby, you can read this article on 5-month-old baby development. You’ll find ideas on how to play with a 5-month-old if scrolling down a bit.

I hope this gave you some ideas on what to do when your baby screams when his dad holds him.

I really wish you good luck!

Here are some more tips for Dad on how to bond with a baby

And here is a long forum discussion among parents who feel rejected by their babies.

Hey, parents! Have you been in this situation? Share your feelings, thoughts, or tips!

Leave a Reply

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Chisom JB

    Hey, thank you for creating this content.

    Just this afternoon, I tried to play around with my brother’s child, but he was just crying the entire moment.

    Maybe I’ll try either one or two of these your tips!

    Thanks once again.

  2. Spacecadet

    Initially my grandson wasn’t behaving this way, but recently started crying when his dad holds him. Dad gets frustrated.

  3. FL

    I was always able to soothe my son until recently. He’s turning 4 months tomorrow and for the last week or so, I feel like he hates me. I play with him and sing to him and walk him around, but he keeps screaming until mommy takes over. It’s quite heart breaking. I work from home so I’m always home. There was a time he would be screaming in moms arms, then I pick him up and he stops crying immediately. I was able to put him to sleep easy and put him back to sleep. I don’t know what’s going on, but it really sucks… :(

  4. Jim

    Bottle feeding is the way to go

  5. Dad's shirt...

    Babies especially young babies rely a lot on smell to feel out a situation. They know mom’s smell means safety food and warmth.

    So here’s a suggestion, and this works both ways, try putting one of your husband’s shirts (that is not fresh from the laundry, it has to have a bit of “dad” on it.) try putting dad’s shirt in your sons crib with him
    when he’s asleep or use it as a light second blanket. The smell will reach him on a subconscious level and help your baby to associate the comfortable world of sleep with his dad’s smell. Also when dad is not
    around, try keeping one of his shirts nearby for feeding time. This also works the other way, your baby associates your smell with safety so keep a t-shirt or a towel you used on your hair around for your husband to drape over his arm when he holds the baby.

    And one more thing,if your son is bottle feeding (or if you pump and then bottle feed) you can start out feeding the baby and then when he is half way through slowly hand him off to dad without interrupting his drinking. Now dad will also be someone who provides him with food and comfort.

    Good luck and I hope these tips help. I know this must be a tough situation for you.

  6. Kathy B

    It’s great that dad wants to be close to the baby so hopefully that will come soon. There might be more than one reason the baby reacts negatively to dad. Women naturally have a softer, gentler touch and usually a softer voice. Their skin is smoother so when they hold the baby to their face, the skin contact is

    Dad should make sure he uses a light touch when lifting/holding baby. He should speak in a low tone when near the baby and try to use a light, sing-song tone that comes naturally to women but
    not to men. If he has facial hair, he shouldn’t let it touch the baby’s skin.

    You could try having him just sit on a couch next to you while you hold the baby. Have him gently touch baby’s hand, leg, foot while speaking softly to him. Gradually move the baby so he’s on daddy’s lap but still close to you. A few sessions of this should help immensely.

    When my son was a baby, he had the same fear of dad but after several sitting-together occasions, he learned to play with dad and the situation resolved.

    Encourage your husband to understand this is fairly normal infant behavior and is not at all a reflection on
    him as a parent or a statement that the baby doesn’t like him. Silly as it sounds, many men are that concrete in their thinking and it needs to be fixed now.

  7. Jen Hunter

    That’s awful, and I bet it turns into a real feedback loop, too – because now the dad is all stressed out around the baby and the baby can sense it!

    I think small babies naturally prefer whoever’s around them the most, especially if that person is the source of All Good Things (namely milk). Please tell your guy not to take it too personally (though I know that’s hard).

    I think instead of just plopping the baby right into his dad’s arms, get him used to his dad being around him, in closer and closer proximity. Spend a lot of time with dad just in the room next to him.

    Also, make sure that your husband becomes the source of other Good Things, so the baby gets good associations with him. So if the kid doesn’t want to take a bottle from him, perhaps the dad could use a favorite toy or cuddle the baby in a favorite blanket. Don’t let his dad be around when the baby is fussy or tired.

    Hope this helps!

  8. David allen

    Hello I’ve tried all of this but where I work 15 hr days I don’t get much time with my son. The time I get is taking him to my parents in the mornings when me and my wife go to work and I get to see him for a few moments when I get off work. My days off I feed him and play with him but as soon as his mom leaves the room he screams and will not stop untill she gets holds him. What else do I do to get him to want to spend time with me?

    1. Michael Johnson

      If you figure it out, tell us. My kid does the same thing but he’ll scream untill he blacks out (for a lack of better description), throws up, bites, claws etc… THe first 6 months were fine, the 14 months after…..no sign of improvement.