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Does My Child Love the Babysitter More Than Me?

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Question: Does My Child Love the Babysitter More Than Me?

When my one-year old child is sleepy or hurt or hungry, he cries for the babysitter he loves. How do I regain my emotional bond with my child? Does my child love the babysitter more than me?

This question is part of a series of frequently asked questions by working moms. To submit a problem from your life, email me a very brief description of your question.

Answer:

When working moms first turn over a child to another caregiver, we worry whether the babysitter will love our baby as much as we do. But when that bond forms securely, we worry he loves the babysitter more than his own mother. Sometimes it seems we can't win!

First of all, be happy that your son has an adult he loves and trusts as much as he loves his babysitter. That relationship can be a source of nurturing and support for his lifetime. I know some teenagers and young adults who are still very close to their childhood caregivers.

That said, it is vital for children to form a secure attachment to their mothers in order to build a stable emotional foundation for life. The earlier this can happen, the better.

Does your child look to you for comfort and to have his needs met when the babysitter is absent? Do you have plenty of loving, cuddly time together? If so, you don't need to worry that he loves the babysitter more than you -- you can clearly meet his needs and this is probably just a phase.

But if your son rejects you even after his babysitter has been gone for hours, you need to reestablish yourself as the primary caregiver. You must proceed gradually to avoid triggering separation anxiety or making him feel abandoned by the babysitter he loves.

At this point, your babysitter knows his routines and how to soothe him best. Spend some time with both of them so you can see how he signals being tired, hungry or bored. Set aside any feelings of guilt or jealousy you may have and just focus on learning everything you can from your babysitter about your son's needs. Don't try to take over from her. Create a low-stress environment of fun, special play so that he enjoys spending time with you.

Then, give the babysitter an entire day off. Take responsibility for all your son's needs -- eating, diapering, soothing and playing. This may feel overwhelming at first, but don't worry, all new moms feel this way. Look for ways to build attachment such as cuddling and reading together. Repeat this exercise as needed.

You must expect that this transition will take a long time. Remember that you have 17 more years (at least) with him at home to cement those mother-child bonds. It's a worthwhile goal. After all, only you are his mother, and it's your job to guide him to adulthood with confidence and love.

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