Child is Too Attached to Nanny

Archived Q&A and Reviews


I'm embarrassed to even ask for advice on this but it's really getting to me. My husband and I both work and we are blessed to have a wonderful nanny (we actually share her with another family). My 9 month old daughter really loves this nanny and I know she's in good hands all day. That's the most important thing of all. However, my daughter is getting more and more attached to the nanny and, as silly as it may sound, I often feel that she prefers the nanny to me. I'm working from home today because my daughter has been ill and I wanted to be close by. Granted, my daughter is very fussy, but when I try to take her from the nanny to comfort her, she cries in my arms and reaches out for the nanny. I've experienced things like this at other times as well.

In the evenings and weekends, we spend tons of time together and are very close. I don't work late nights or spend much time away from her at all when I'm not at work. She's my first priority. I just can't help feeling hurt by her preference for the nanny at times - even though I know that she obviously doesn't mean to hurt me. I worry that we don't have the bond I hoped we'd have.

I'd love to hear from any other working moms who have experienced this. Thanks in advance.

I'm sure you'll get a slew of answers on this one, but I just wanted to throw in my 2 cents, as a pretty anxious first-time mother who worried excessively over her baby's attachment to his nanny. I had the exact same experiences, including him reaching for her when I was holding him, and, much as I was pleased that he loved her so much (and I was also thrilled with her manner, style, and ability in taking care of him) I couldn't help but wonder if I wasn't spending enough time with him or the right kind of time, or making the most of the time--in short, if somehow he had bonded more with her than with me. But here's what happened: when he hit about a year old, he became far more capable of more complex expressions of his feelings. He still showed his adoration of his nanny, still sometimes preferred her company (still does, at 2.5 yrs), but he also was able to make clear to me--in his actions, and later in his words, that he understood who the mom was. At the most crucial moments, it is me he expresses a preference for, even as he is now capable of pushing at me and telling me to go away when his nanny shows up. Maybe also with the time passing I've relaxed and realized that since I'm the one there in the middle of the night every time he needs me, I'm the one there first thing in the morning, and, oddly, since I'm the only one he feels safe enough to have full-blown tantrums with (a delight you've got some months before you experience) that there's no question that we're bonded and that his feelings for me are unique and primary. I now have unalloyed delight in his feelings for his nanny, and others to whom he's become closer as he's matured, like his grandparents, to whom he was hostile until about age 2, both because I'm more confident and because he's capable of showing me how he can love two people at once, differently. I really think you're experiencing the limited ability of a 9 month old to express, or even be conscious of, all the levels of her feelings. The ones for you are certainly there, but they're probably so primal and unconscious that at this early age she doesn't even bother to bring them to her conscious mind, because she's so secure and confident with you. STill, everyone will tell you how lucky you are to have this nanny, and you are, but it's a painful period to go through, even if you know you'll come out the other end. Good luck.

I would encourage you not to worry about it, and not to think it means that your child prefers or the nanny or thinks the nanny is her real mother. I went through the same experience when my now 5-year-old daughter was a baby and toddler, and talked to a lot of people who'd been through the same thing (and to people with professional expertise) and in the end felt reassured that it didn't mean she loved the nanny more. In the end I just came to feel glad that I was leaving her with someone that she had a good relationship with. She ended up staying with that nanny until she was 3, and was always very fond of her (and I was always a bit jealous), but in retrospect I don't think it hurt my relationship with her in the least. The only danger I can see is if you find yourself feeling colder to her because of her apparent preference for the nanny -- that sometimes happened to me at the beginning, but I was able to get over it in the end. Rememberthat you are the one who has always been there and will always be there for the long haul, and that at some level your daughter knows and appreciates that.

I have a similar situation with my 9-month old, though my circumstances are much different which leads me to speculate that it might be a 9-month old developmental thing!

I am a stay-at-home mom (working on a degree) who is with my daughter all the time EXCEPT for 2 afternoons a week, when she is with her wonderful babysitter, and one day or day and a half when she is with my mother. My mother comes to my house to watch my baby for this one day a week, regularly, and we see her at other times occasionally.

Lately, my daughter has shown a MARKED preference for my mother--her grandmother--on the day she stays with us. Like your child, mine prefers to be held by her grandmother even when I'm right there. It is of course wonderful that my daughter loves her grandmother so much, and I'm more grateful for their bond than hurt, but I had the same somewhat jealous feeling as you describe.

My daughter is also beginning to experience some separation anxiety (from me) so I wonder if the two may be related. Perhaps at 9 mos. they are beginning to figure out who the different important people in their lives are while simultaneously realizing they themselves are separate people, capable of crawling away. Who knows? But I think the bottom line is that you describe a very close and loving relationship with your child and THIS will endure no matter what. Christine

I suffered through the same feelings from the time that my daughter was about 6 months through about 10-11 months, as I recall (she is now 2 years old). I think 6 months is the stage at which babies really start to identify the people in their lives and become strongly attached to those who take care of them. It was very difficult for me since I felt the guilt of working full time and being away from her, compounded by the fact that she seemed so attached to my husband's niece, who was living with us at the time and caring for our daughter. I felt a bit silly even talking about my feelings with my husband and at times resorted to somewhat petty behavior to make sure that my daughter spent time with me when I was around and not with our niece. I found, though, that after she hit about 10-11 months, she definitely preferred my husband and I, and my jealousy basically vanished. Obviously I only have experience with my own child, and I think these feelings are completely normal and common, but you might also be comforted by the fact that this stage is temporary and you will not always have to feel as if you are in competition for your child's affections.

As a final note, while I used to self-pityingly think that it wouldn't even matter if I weren't around, that is absolutely not true as you are the mother and cannot be replaced in that capacity. You have a bond with your daughter, I think it is just different because you are not the one spending most of every day with her at this point. I would say don't gloss over your hurt feelings, but also accept that this stage will probably pass and that you are irreplaceable as your child's mother. Good luck. Erin