Is My Baby Antisocial?

baby back - google - okay to modify and reuse

baby back - google - okay to modify and reuseDear Mr. Dad: My 7-month old baby is happy and playful when he’s at home. But when I take him to my new dads’ group (yes, that’s a real thing), he seems to have zero interest in interacting with the other kids. The same thing happens at the park or anywhere else where there are other babies. I’m worried that there’s something wrong with him or that I’m doing something wrong. Is there?

Sounds to me like the only thing that’s wrong is your expectations. Until babies are about 10 months old, they’re generally not very interested in interacting with other humans except the ones they see every day and who feed them. It has to do with something called “object permanence.” Let’s say your baby is playing with a toy. If you gently take it away and replace it with another one, he won’t protest. And if you cover it with a blanket, he won’t look for it. As far as he’s concerned, it no longer exists.

But in the not-too-distant future—usually at about 10 months—you’ll notice a dramatic shift. His out-of-sight-out-of-mind mentality will gradually fade as he discovers that, gasp, objects continue to exist even when he can’t see them. Now, he’ll protest if you take away something he’s playing with, he’ll get excited when he sees a favorite toy, and he’ll look around for it if it’s not right in front of him. He’ll also start paying attention to other babies.

Paying attention to other babies doesn’t mean interacting with them, though. Babies typically do what’s called “parallel play,” meaning that they’re perfectly happy to play with a toy while sitting next to another baby, but they might as well be in separate rooms.

To adults, babies engaging in parallel play look like they’re ignoring each other. And if that’s all they’re going to do, what’s the point of getting them together? The point is that it’s a stage they have to go through. Although you may not notice it, those babies are occasionally glancing at each other and they’re taking mental notes on how to steal each other’s play techniques. Today’s fleeting interactions are laying the groundwork for tomorrow’s lifelong friendships.

It’s a slow process, so don’t expect too much too soon. Over the next year or two, it’ll look more and more like little kids are playing with each other, and you may even notice some behavior that will seem very much like cooperation and sharing. It won’t be. What you’re watching is actually a live-action play called, “Toddler Property Rules in Action.” It goes like this: “If I see it, it’s mine. If I’m holding it, it’s mine. If you’re holding it and I want it, it’s mine. If you were holding it and you put it down, tough luck—it’s mine. Once something is mine, it’s mine forever so don’t even think about trying to take it from me.” Like parallel play, these rules are a normal part of child development. It’ll be a while before they can imagine that other people might have feelings.

Despite all this, there are a few things you can do to help your baby develop friendships.

  • Keep putting him in situations where he’ll be near other babies.
  • Don’t expect them to play together: Plop them down next to each other, give them toys, and step back.
  • If your baby is shy, withdrawn, or gets fussy, don’t force the issue.
  • Limit these “play dates” to a few minutes.
  • Praise anything that looks like sharing or pro-social behavior, but don’t expect to see too much of it.

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Do You Read Me, Baby?

reading to newborn

reading to newbornDear Mr. Dad: I have a two-month old baby and I love to read to him. My wife thinks I’m wasting my time and that there’s no sense reading before he starts learning words. Is it too soon to be reading to my son? If not, what should I read?

You’re definitely not wasting your time. In fact, reading to your child is one of the most important things you can do. Admittedly, for the first few months, your reading won’t seem to be having any effect. And it doesn’t really matter what you read: a Wall Street Journal article, the menu from that Chinese takeout place down the road, or your high school calculus textbook. It’s not about education. Besides being a wonderful opportunity for the two of you to snuggle together, the goal is simply to get him used to the sound of the language and to have him associate reading with comfort and fun.

“When children have been read to, they enter school with larger vocabularies, longer attention spans, greater understanding of books and print, and consequently have the fewest difficulties in learning to read,” writes Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook. If that doesn’t convince your wife, try this: 60 percent of prison inmates are illiterate and 85 percent of juvenile offenders have reading problems. I can’t guarantee that reading to your baby will keep him from getting arrested 13 years from now, but there’s no question that reading is an important habit to develop, and there’s no such thing as “too early” to start.
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Dancing with Your Baby + Love’s Promises

Sue Doherty, author of Dancing with Your Baby.
Bonding and better health for you and your baby.
Issues: How touch, music, and movement benefit your baby; the ideal time to introduce your baby to music (hint: it’s before birth) and dance; how dancing with your baby benefits you.


Martha Ertman, author of Love’s Promises.
How formal and informal contracts shape all kinds of families.
Issues: The difference between a “deal” (I cook dinner and you wash the dishes) and an enforceable contract; Type A families (heterosexual couple raising a biologically related child) vs. Type B families (pretty much every other kind of family imaginable); how contracts shape and sustain families as opposed to simply being cold and calculating.

Three Must-Have New Baby Items


SONY DSCSo the day has come, and you’re holding that tiny, helpless, unbelievably lovable, and completely dependent-upon-you baby in your arms. Congratulations, and welcome to the journey of fatherhood. Whether this is your first baby, or the third or sixth, that old provider-protector instinct is already kicking in. But between trying to cope with those nighttime wakeups and adjusting to a new pace of life, it’s not always easy to make the right decisions for the newest member of your the family.

Don’t worry, dad. The fact that you want to give your baby the very best means you’re more than halfway there. Three of your most important activities are going to be feeding, schlepping, and swaddling–all of which require the right equipment (and technique). Unfortunately, it’s hard to filter through the dizzying array of products and the equally dizzying amount of misinformation Here’s an intro to the equipment and some info that will help you stay on the right side of each one.

Baby Bottles

You may have heard the phrase that “breast is best” when it comes to feeding your little one. Many studies have shown the myriad benefits of breastfeeding, so it’s considered all the better if your wife is able to nurse. Does mama work full-time? If she can pump, give her encouragement to do so—and kudos for the hard work it takes to make this happen. The key to giving a breastfed baby a bottle is finding a variety that closely simulates the breast. Styles like the line of NxGen Nurser baby bottles are regularly recommended by lactation consultants.

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Pay No Attention to That Program Behind the Screen

Dear Mr. Dad: My baby just turned one and I went to pick him up a little early from his daycare to celebrate. When I got there, the kids were crawling around but the TV was on and tuned to some kind of reality show. I asked the sitter why, and she said “So what?” and told me that the TV is often on in the background and that it’s no big deal. My gut says she’s wrong. But before I fire her, I need something to back me up. What’s so bad about TV?

A: Honestly, do you really an excuse to fire a sitter who shouldn’t be caring for kids? But since you asked—and since you’re not the only parent out there who’s not sure whether it’s okay for babies to watch TV—here goes.
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A Revolutionary Sleep Training Method

Lewis Jassey, co-author of The Newborn Sleep Book.
A revolutionary method for training your newborn to sleep through the night.
Issues: The importance of sleep for both baby and family; the myths and truths about baby sleep; why babies wake up crying (hint: it’s not always because they’re hungry); the Jassey method of sleep training.