When your newborn is screaming in your face and nothing you’re doing is helping, it can lead you to the question of whether your baby hates you—to which the answer, according to MacNamara, is always no. She assures parents that while a baby may be frustrated—maybe they’re hungry, maybe they’re overwhelmed—they simply “don’t have the cognitive capacity for hate.”
So why are online parenting forums filled with distraught parents wondering why it can really feel that way? Infants give very little back in terms of reciprocity, so parenting can feel especially thankless in those early days. (Apparently this feeling returns in the teen years. Can’t wait.)
“When we assume responsibility for a child, there’s this existential thing that happens where we assume that if our baby isn’t happy, there’s something wrong with us,” explains MacNamara. You can’t take it personally, she says. An infant’s frustration is actually a signalling system that’s meant to bother parents so they pay attention and take care of an unmet need.
But what about when it seems like your baby prefers everyone over you, from Grandma to the grocery store cashier? Rest assured that babies are biologically programmed to attach to their primary caregiver. While you wait for this to feel true, focus on the small ways your little one does show love—like following the sound of your voice, gazing into your eyes and snuggling into your chest. Before you know it, you’ll be getting those gummy smiles, slobbery kisses and heart-exploding “I wuv you” announcements.
If you’ve waited long enough and something truly doesn’t feel right about the relationship between you and your new baby, speak to your healthcare provider.