Help! My Baby Won’t Settle with Anyone Else!

Dad and baby

Does your little one only settle with you and not your partner or another caregiver? This is so common! Your baby’s temperament plays a big role here. Sensitive or even slow-to-warm babies will have a hard time accepting other people settling them and will need lots of time and support to get to that point. Hang on for the tips at the end though…

Why is parental preference a thing? A baby most commonly attaches to mom which is biologically and developmentally appropriate. It was once necessary for survival. But there are other reasons…

  • Your baby is familiar with your scent and so it is very comforting and reassuring being settled by you. Your scent literally triggers calm.
  • If you are breastfeeding or have been the only one bottle feeding your baby, they see you as their source of nourishment. They are also deeply emotionally connected to you for this reason.
  • Your heartbeat is a familiar rhythm that they have been listening to for 9 months. This too is incredibly soothing to them.

Benefits of Dad getting involved include:

  • Lower risk of postpartum depression/anxiety for primary caregiver
  • Relieves stress from primary caregiver
  • Creates a more positive family atmosphere
  • Creates bond between secondary caregiver and baby 
  • Increased parental satisfaction and relationship 

First set them up for success by doing some of the following things:

1. Skin-to-skin – this is amazing in the early weeks for your partner and baby to have that very close contact. Baby gets to know the other caregiver and be comforted by their smell and feel and the other caregiver gets pumped with oxytocin which encourages bonding and feelings of love and affection.

2. Do bath time – this is a pretty common practice amongst this current generation of parents. Giving your partner the opportunity to do bath time not only relieves you for a bit but allows for some wonderful bonding to take place. 

3. Change nappies – this is a great help for mom when your partner is around. It can also be a great way to bond with baby – make it fun and interactive getting in lots of eye contact, kisses and giggles.

4. Take a feeding shift overnight – if your baby is still doing multiple feeds overnight, have your partner do the first night feed (expressed BM if breastfeeding) giving mom a longer stretch of sleep and getting baby used to being resettled/fed by your partner overnight. 

5. Burp baby after feeds – another one for the newborn moms! Have your partner do the winding (you can download this free Optimal Winding Guide for him to follow) when they are around or overnight, show them the tricks – you’ll be surprised how they take this job very seriously 😉

6. Do an outing – get your partner to take your little one out for an outing while you get some rest or do something you enjoy. This not only builds the other caregiver’s confidence in looking after baby without you but encourages time to bond. 

7. Take over in the early mornings if baby won’t go back to sleep so mom can get a few more zzz’s. If you’re struggling with early mornings, read this blog post here. Or grab my Early Waking Masterclass!

8. For toddlers and older children – have your partner do some intentional floor play or run around outside to get some energy out. Having focused one-on-one time following the child’s lead even for just 10-15 minutes a day does wonders for preventing behaviour issues. This also helps with bedtime settling.

9. Let your partner establish their own way of settling your little one to sleep or doing bedtime. It is so important for your partner to explore soothing techniques that work for them and baby instead of pushing a certain method on them that works for you. They have their own unique relationship. This empowers your partner to take on some of the night load so mom can get some rest. 

10. Talk to your partner about what you are learning about sleep – even share some resources you have found interesting or have already worked to improve sleep. Getting your partner clued up will give them more motivation to go along with your efforts to optimise sleep. Ensure you are both on the same page at all times when it comes to routines and sleep to prevent misunderstandings. 

Sometimes the hardest part when it comes to sharing the load is letting go and trusting your partner will figure it out. After all, they are another caregiver of your child and (hopefully) has your child’s best interests at heart. Give your partner lots of opportunities without giving into the desire to “rescue” if your little one gets upset. Resist the urge Mama! If we keep jumping in to rescue (barring your little one being hungry and needing a breastfeed) we miss the opportunity for your partner to become more confident in their role. It is a great learning experience for all of you and sharing the load where possible is so worth it.

Here is a step-by-step process for gently getting your partner or another caregiver involved in settling:

Step 1: The other caregiver is in the room while mom does the whole wind down routine and settling. Do this for 3 days.

Step 2: The other caregiver does the wind down routine while mom is in the room, mom takes over for settling with the other caregiver still in the room. Do this for 3 days.

Step 3: The other caregiver does the whole wind down routine and settling while mom is in the room. Do this for 2-3 days.

Step 4: The other caregiver does the whole wind down routine and settling with mom out of the room.

Important notes:

  • You can use the above gradual method or go cold-turkey, letting the other caregiver figure it out with your little one. If you go cold-turkey, pay close attention to the below points.
  • Start with the nap (or bedtime) that is typically easiest for them to settle (always make changes when it’s easiest).
  • It is important that mom avoids jumping in to rescue and rather allows the alternative caregiver to figure it out with baby. This builds the caregivers confidence and allows baby and the caregiver an opportunity to find what works for them.
  • Have the caregiver wear something of moms or use a comfort item that smells like mom (mom can wear the comfort item for a few hours before sleep).
  • Ensure the alternative caregiver exudes confidence as babies pick up on anxiety and uncertainty

Need some help with your little ones sleep? You have options!

>>Grab my DIY Happy Self-Settler Guide (ZAR497 / $27)

>>Send me an email to enquire about my one-on-one sleep support packages

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