Understanding Why Babies Cry When Dad Holds Them: A Guide for Parents

Understanding Why Babies Cry When Dad Holds Them: A Guide for Parents

You’re a new dad, and you’ve been looking forward to bonding with your little one. But every time you pick him up, he starts crying. It’s frustrating, isn’t it? You’re not alone. Many new dads face this challenge.

Understanding why your baby cries when you hold him can help you find solutions. It’s not about you being a bad parent. Babies have their own ways of expressing comfort and discomfort.

In this article, we’ll explore some common reasons why your baby might be crying when you hold him. We’ll also offer some tips and strategies to help you both enjoy those precious bonding moments.

Key Takeaways

  • Babies crying when their fathers hold them is a common phenomenon and not a reflection of poor parenting. This can be due to various reasons like tiredness, overstimulation, hunger, discomfort, or longing for their mother.
  • A baby’s physical discomfort while being held by their fathers could be due to tight clothes, soiled diapers, sensitive skin, and other minor health issues or sensations. Mindful observation and caring actions like gentle rocking or playing soft music can help soothe the baby.
  • Babies are more familiar with their mothers due to more time spent together, often leading them to cry when held by their fathers. Increased time with the baby, skin-to-skin contact, and shared feeding and changing duties can help familiarize the baby with their father.
  • Emotional bonding with the mother starts from the womb itself, causing babies to be less at ease with others. However, babies can establish multiple bonds and fathers can create a secure feeling for their babies over time.
  • Communication cues from babies primarily involve body language, facial expressions, and crying. Understanding and responding to these cues over time can help reduce the baby’s discomfort and make father-baby bonding moments more enjoyable.

Sometimes, babies might cry when held by their fathers, which can be due to various reasons such as unfamiliarity or differences in holding techniques. BabyCenter discusses how babies develop preferences and how parents can manage and understand their responses. For fathers looking to strengthen their bond with their child, Fatherly provides strategies to improve bonding and comfort babies effectively.

Reasons why the baby cries

Reasons why the baby cries

Even when a father holds his child with the utmost care and love, babies often cry. Your initial reaction might be to question your parenting abilities. However, let’s assure you – it’s perfectly normal. Babies are unique individuals with their specific needs and means of communication. Crying is just a means to express their needs or discomfort.

There could be several potential factors at play:

Tiredness and Overstimulation

Infants can’t handle a lot of activity. Their sensory systems are still developing. Overstimulation can make them cranky and tearful. Imagine dealing with a constant influx of new sights, sounds, smells! It’s all wonderful but exhausting.


Infants need to feed frequently because of their rapidly growing bodies and brains. Hunger is one of the most common reasons for a baby to cry, even when he’s in his father’s arms.


Your baby might be uncomfortable due to gas, a dirty diaper, or a tight swaddle. They have no other mode to communicate such discomforts but to cry it out. It’s vital you master your baby-soothing skills to pick up on these subtle signals.

Need for Mom

Some babies may also miss the smell and warmth of their mother. Need for mom doesn’t mean a personal slight for you, Dad. You’re doing great. It’s just that your baby needs time to warm up to new sensations and people.

Physical discomfort

Another possible reason your baby may cry when you hold him is physical discomfort. This discomfort can stem from a variety of sources. Your infant’s clothing may be too tight or the diaper might be soiled. It’s also worth mentioning that babies have sensitive skin which can be easily irritated by fabrics that do not agree with them, such as wool or other coarse materials.

Infants cannot verbalize when they’re uncomfortable. So it’s imperative to be mindful of these potential discomforts when your baby starts to cry. It could be as simple as adjusting their clothing or changing their diaper to soothe them.

Moving on to another common issue – babies also exhibit discomfort when they are facing teething issues or other minor health concerns. For example, an increased body temperature, congested nose or upset stomach may contribute to your baby’s unrest when in your arms. Babies do not know how to express these discomforts other than crying. So, it’s crucial not to overlook these possibilities.

Also, note that babies’ senses are constantly developing and adapting. Bright lights, loud noises, or even the sensation of being held might be too much for them at times. A father’s hold or touch might be different from the mother’s – perhaps a bit stronger or differently angled – leading to potential discomfort for the baby.

To ease these discomforts:

  • Keep their environment calm and soothing.
  • Rock them gently.
  • Play soft music or a lullaby.
  • Maintain a comfortable temperature in the room.

Remember, patience is key when you’re trying to soothe a crying baby. It’s natural for babies to cry when they’re uncomfortable. It does not reflect on your ability as a father. What’s more important is how you handle the situation and comfort your baby. Adapt and respond to your baby’s unique needs. Taking the time to figure out what makes your baby comfortable ultimately strengthens the bond you share with them.

Lack of familiarity

Lack of familiarity

Another possible explanation as to why your baby may cry when you, as a father, hold them is a lack of familiarity. Babies are very in touch with their senses and may react to unfamiliar scents, voices, or touch.

Remember, during the first few months post-birth, it’s typical for a baby to spend more time with their mother. This can be due to breastfeeding sessions or maternity leave provisions. As a result, your baby’s senses will likely be more accustomed to their mother’s touch, smell, and voice.

When you hold your baby, they may be perplexed by your scent, the sound of your voice, or the unique way in which you hold them. It’s different from what they’re accustomed to and, hence, can result in tears.

To resolve this, you can increase the amount of time you spend with the baby. Skin-to-skin contact, often termed ‘kangaroo care,’ is a fantastic bonding exercise. By holding your baby against your bare skin, you allow them to adjust to your scent and tactility. Even if you can’t do this activity frequently, doing it as often as possible can help tremendously.

Regularly talking or singing to your baby, when you’re holding them or not, is another great way to familiarize them with your voice. Again, the more time you spend interacting with your baby, the more used to you they’ll become.

In addition to these methods, sharing feeding and changing responsibilities can also make a difference. It provides an opportunity for baby-father bonding and helps reassure your little one that they’re safe and content in your arms.

Remember, patience is crucial. The process might take time, but consistent efforts will surely make a difference, making precious moments with your baby enjoyable for both of you without tears.

Emotional bonding with the mother

You’re diving into the next chapter of this article and decoding the underlying principle of emotional bonding with the mother. This bond forms the basis of a baby’s initial reactions and behaviors. It’s something that starts developing right from the womb. So, don’t be surprised if your baby cries when a father – or any other person – tries to hold him.

During pregnancy, babies hear their mother’s voice, experience her movements, and even ascertain her moods. This forms a strong, intricate bond between the mother and the baby. It’s not just emotional, but also biological. Mothers release chemicals like oxytocin during childbirth, which strengthens this bond and sets the baby at ease.

So what happens when someone else tries to hold the baby? In the first few months, a baby may not recognize or be used to other people’s smells, voices, and touches, making them uncomfortable — and they express it the only way they know how — through tears.

However, there’s a silver lining for dads and other caregivers. Remember that babies are capable of forming multiple bonds — it doesn’t mean they can only bond with their mothers. There are plenty ways to establish emotional connections with your little one, to make them feel secure when they’re in your arms.

OxytocinStrengthen bonding at birth

Communication cues

Now that you’ve understood the significance of emotional bonding, let’s dive into baby communication cues.

Babies crying when held by their dads is not uncommon. It’s certainly no cause for concern. This phenomenon can constitute a part of the baby’s growing ability to express themselves—beyond their bond with mom.

Your baby is young, yet they are rapidly gaining experience about the world around them. Through their five senses, they decode information, build ways to communicate it, and consequently form emotional bonds. Understandably, mom is the first significant bond, but other bonds take time and nurturing.

Babies can’t talk yet, so they communicate through body language, facial expressions, and most distinctly—crying. When a baby cries while their dad holds them, it could be due to unfamiliarity. But, don’t take this personally. This is just their way of saying “I’m not used to this yet.” Remember, your smell, voice, and touch are still fairly new to your baby.

Baby’s Form of CommunicationCrying is one of the most noticeable forms of communication for babies.
FamiliarityBabies may cry when held by ‘unfamiliar’ persons. It’s a sign of discomfort due to their limited experiences.
No cause for concernCrying does not automatically signify distress. It can be a sign of hunger, fatigue, discomfort, or a need for a diaper change.

It’s all about understanding your baby’s cues and clues. Progressively, as the baby spends more time with dad, the crying spells might reduce. Baby-soothing techniques—like speaking in a calming voice, gentle rocking, or singing a lullaby—might prove helpful.

Remember, bonding with your baby is a process and every new experience counts. This is a part of their emotional and cognitive development journey. And you, as a parent, play an instrumental role in this.


So, you’ve learned that your baby crying when dad holds him isn’t cause for alarm. It’s just a part of their developmental journey and a way they communicate. Remember, the bond between a mother and her baby starts even before birth, and it’s natural for a baby to react differently with dad. But that doesn’t mean dads can’t establish a strong bond too. With time, patience, and the right soothing techniques, dads can build an equally strong emotional connection. The key is to understand and respond to your baby’s cues, as this is their primary way of communicating. So, don’t fret if your little one cries when dad holds him. It’s just their way of saying, “Hey, I need a little more time to get used to you.” Keep nurturing that bond, and soon enough, those cries will turn into smiles.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is emotional bonding with mother necessary for babies?

Emotional bonding with the mother, even before birth, significantly influences a baby’s reactions and behaviors. It sets the base for future emotional and social interactions in life.

Why do babies cry when held by their dads?

Babies use crying as one of their primary means of communication. Their crying when held by dads is a normal part of their development and expression process, it is not necessarily an indicator of discomfort.

How can parents understand their babies’ communication cues?>

Babies communicate through body language, facial expressions, and crying. Observing and understanding these cues can provide insights into their needs and feelings, helping parents to respond effectively.

What techniques can be used to soothe a crying baby?

Engaging in techniques like swaddling, singing, gentle rocking, or providing a quiet, calm environment can be effective in soothing a crying baby.

How can parents nurture their bond with their babies?

Spending quality time, engaging in skin-to-skin contact, practicing responsive feeding, and reading, singing or talking to the baby are some methods that can help parents strengthen their bond and support the baby’s emotional and cognitive development.