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My daughter has difficulty relating to her 6-month-old.
Q: My grandson is almost 6 months old and he gets upset every time his mother either holds him or talks to him. Is there anything she can do to stop him from doing this? She is always telling me the baby does not like her; I told her to continue talking to him and holding him. When he cries, she tries to get whoever she can to take the baby; I said she needs to stop doing that because it will only get worse if she continues to show the baby that his crying upsets her—I feel babies can tell when you are not feeling good. Also, she is about 4 or 5 months pregnant again. Could this have something to do with her reactions? I talked to her doctor about this and he told me to get in touch with our mental health office to have my daughter evaluated. Would you agree? I don’t know what to do—I’m only 37 and have never had any of these problems before—but these issues are causing me to become more mentally depressed.
A: Yours is a complex situation, and it is not easy to deal with it in a brief answer. Furthermore, there is so much you didn’t mention that undoubtedly plays a role: Was the baby’s birth normal? Did your daughter have good prenatal care? Is there a father available? Is money a problem? Answers to all these questions undoubtedly influence your daughter’s behaviour. First, let me say I agree with her doctor that your daughter should have a mental health evaluation. She is unquestionably under a lot of stress in anticipation of having responsibility for two very young babies in the near future, and that is sure to impair her mothering behaviour with her present baby. In addition, it sounds as though she needs some basic parenting skills. We think everyone knows how to take care of a baby, but this is not so. As I don’t know where you live, I can’t make a specific suggestion, but do ask at the doctor’s office or clinic where she takes her baby for check-ups and immunization. They probably offer such a course; if not, they will be able to tell you where to find one.

Your daughter is lucky to have you to help her. Try hard not to be too critical of her; that will only make matters worse. And be observant of what she does when she holds her baby; you may be able to identify something that is causing pain or discomfort. Finally, urge her to hold him when he is being fed and play with him (tickle his tummy after a nappying, hide her face behind a towel and say “Where’s mummy,” etc.). Once he begins to expect that the interaction will be pleasant, I bet the crying will stop.