4 Month old hates his daddy

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: When my son was born he was failure to thrive. It was not discovered until he was 2 weeks old. I was told by everyone in the hospital he was eating when he was not. During this time I was attempting breast feeding. The doctor told us we had to feed the baby every 3 hours. He would not wake up, so we were told to strip him, get him cold with a wash cloth, make him uncomfortable to get him awake enough to eat. So we did. I was not good at this since I was exhausted and it was a daunting task to wake him up, so my husband did it most of the time. Once, we discovered we needed to bottle feed him he was all set. So I pumped and feed him in a bottle. When he was 3mo old he started breast feeding for real this time! But this is not the issue but I am sure it has something to do with it.

My son is a great baby. He’s 4 mo old talking, laughing, smiling,and just rolled over today. He is great with me and most other women. He is okay with his Daddy on a good day but most of the time he looks at his daddy and starts screaming. Screaming to the point he is red and hyperventilating. This has been a problem since our baby was about 1.5months old and it has only been getting worse. With the baby screaming at the top of his lungs it frustrates my husband. My husband has tried a million and one different things with our son. He can do the exact same thing as me and the baby will hate it and scream and not stop.

My patience is wearing thin, and I am worried this will ruin my husband and his sons relationship along with mine with my husband. what can I do to help my husband and son get along?

A: What a sad, sad situation. It sounds like your baby was traumatized by the efforts to wake him when he was an infant. Your husband was only doing what he was advised to do to help save his son’s life. But a baby doesn’t know that. All he knows is that the big person with a deep voice made him cold and hurt him. And a soft person with a higher familiar voice and warm milk comforted him. He understandably feels insecure and afraid with your husband and safe and secure with you. Your son doesn’t “hate” his dad. He is simply reacting to a perceived threat in the only way a baby can — by hollering for you! When your husband gets frustrated with him, it only confirms his idea that daddy isn’t safe.

This isn’t an unusual situation with babies who have had extensive medical procedures as infants. Please tell your husband not to take it personally. But you are right to be concerned about long-term problems if something isn’t done now. Fortunately, your baby is still very young. With effort, the right interventions now can turn things around.

You and your husband need some coaching on how to help your baby unlearn his fear response and learn that his daddy is also a safe person to be with. If there is a neonatal intensive care unit in a hospital near you, they might be able to refer you to a counselor or program that can help. Another resource for you might be the local chapter of La Leche League.

Please make every effort to find the right help as soon as possible. With every passing day, you are missing an opportunity to set things on a happier course.

I wish you all well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 16 Aug 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). 4 Month old hates his daddy. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 30, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/08/16/4-month-old-hates-his-daddy/