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My grandson cries every time he’s in his mother’s arms!
Your question touches me, as I realize that both you and your daughter were very young when you became mothers. I would guess that part of your concern stems from a desire to help your daughter avoid some of the difficulties you may well have had when she was little. Taking care of a baby is never an easy task, and it is undoubtedly even more difficult when you must do it before you have fully lived your own young adulthood. You don’t mention whether there is a father in the picture, but if your daughter has to cope with your grandbaby while in the throes of a second pregnancy, life is extra stressful if there is no father present to support her emotionally and to help with the physical work. Your grandson will be under a year of age when the second one arrives, and the coping problems will undoubtedly increase.

I agree with you that, if at all possible, she should try to learn how to comfort her baby when he cries. Perhaps she is not a good observer and does not take notice of the things that set off the crying. Here is an area in which you can help by saying things like, “I noticed the other day that he cried and cried if the milk was too slow coming out of his bottle. Maybe you should check the holes in the nipples.” Or offer any other observations about what might have set off the crying. An experienced mother—like a grandmother—can be a big help to a new mother with such suggestions if they are not given as accusations: “I told you to check the size of the holes in those nipples, and you haven’t done it.”

We have to help our children “fall in love” with us. This happens as we do humble and ordinary things for them: holding them while they take their milk or while we watch TV or simply sit down, smiling and talking pleasantly as we look at them or change their diapers, smiling back if they smile at us, letting them cling to us the best way they can, keeping them in the room with us as we go about regular household routines, placing them where they can follow us with their eyes as we move about the room, and responding to their cries with loving remarks and pleasant touches.

As for whether she needs to be seen at the mental health facility, why don’t you ask her if she feels she needs this? The doctor may be sensing other areas of disturbance in addition to her difficulties with her baby. Whatever else might be in the picture, it sounds as though she is depressed. If so, the consequences will spill over on the expected baby as well as on your grandson.

Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education