26 Jan
Help! My Nanny Can’t Hold My Baby!

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

I’ve recently gone back to work so we had to get a nanny for our 4 month old. A friend of ours loves her nanny and our babies are about the same age so we have decided to do a nanny share where the woman watches both babies. I thought that this was working out really well until recently when I learned that the nanny doesn’t hold my baby very much.

My friend’s daughter is much louder and needier than my son so it seems like he is getting the short end of the stick.   When they go out, the nanny has my friend’s baby in the Bjorn while my son is stuck in the stroller. And when it’s feeding time she has the girl in her arms with a bottle while my son is, once again, stuck in the swing or bouncer!

I’m really worried that my child isn’t getting enough physical contact! Am I being overly paranoid and high maintenance? The nanny is really great in every other way!


Please Hold My Baby


Dear Hold My Baby Dammit,

I don’t think you are being paranoid or overly high maintenance.

If you were, your worries would include:

-Is the nanny watching me while I sleep?

-Can she hear my thoughts when I’m not wearing my foil hat?

-Why won’t she use military corners when making my son’s bed?

-Is the nanny planning on stealing my child and selling him to Angelina Jolie?

-Why won’t the nanny feed my son his rice cereal from our best china?

-Doesn’t the nanny know my son only likes Beethoven Symphony performed by the New York Philharmonic, NOT the Old El Paso Orchestra!

It seems to me that your concern is warranted. The sense of touch is the primary way a mother or caregiver communicates with her baby. And given that the skin is the largest sense organ, this makes it extremely important. Studies have shown that touch helps in both the growth of the body and the brain, and can even aid in digestion. Physical contact, such as holding, hugging, and massaging, creates a sense of security and attachment that helps babies to blossom.

That being said, attachment studies have also shown that it’s more about quality contact than quantity. So your real concern should be if the nanny is able to give your son the quality interaction he deserves.   Does she respond to him immediately when he needs it? Does she talk to him? Does she hold him other times of the day? Certainly, if he were in daycare this would be the case. And there are thousands/millions of children who thrive in that environment.

It’s time to have a serious heart-to-heart with your nanny.   Because, not only is she in charge of your most precious bundle of joy, but she is also being paid to be a nanny – not a daycare. And taking this one step further, you really have to listen to your gut. You are your son’s mother. You know him best. If this situation doesn’t make you feel comfortable, then change it. There’s no need to throw around labels like “high maintenance” when it comes to your child. You want what is best for him. Even if that means getting a nanny just for him.

Good Luck,

Tonya, TMH

Here are a few interesting articles on the subject:

Brain Development in Childhood

How Important is Physical Contact With Your Infant?

Stimulation and Development During Infancy: Tuning in to Your Baby’s Cues

And this book is an amazing resource*:

What’s Going on in There? How The Brain and Mind Develop in The First Five Years of Life by Lisa Eliot, PhD

I read this while I was pregnant and have gone back to it throughout my son’s 4 (sometimes seemingly LONG) years.

*This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.

14 Responses to “Help! My Nanny Can’t Hold My Baby!”


Comment by DoNotFaint.

I’m a nanny, and I don’t think you’re being paranoid. If I were in this situation, I would want ideas. As many as you could come up with. I *love* the ideas Tanya has articulated and suggest that you share them with your nanny who is not, as has been correctly pointed out, a day care.

My mother runs a home day care, and the youngest in her current group cried unless she was held until she became interested in crawling. Then, she was ok for five minutes at a time. It happens. My mom had to bring in extra help. If your son ends up needing his own nanny, it won’t be your fault. Just pray that your friend doesn’t kill you for stealing her nanny, who may just want to work with the baby who does not need to be held at all times…


Comment by Wendi.

Well done, Tonya! Perfect advice.


Comment by tracey.

You definitely need to discuss this with both of them; your friend and the nanny. You are paying her to care for your baby and babies need physical love and attention.


Comment by Alexandra.


Is there even any question?

Has this writer in forgotten the very first case study they bring up in Psych 101? The French babies who weren’t held?

Worse than a Chucky movie…

Anonymashley Reply:

After being horrified at the thought of the French study I googled it. Thankfully, there is no recorded study on touch deprivation in babies, some sad instances of unintentional touch deprivation in orphanages, but no actual studies conducted. Snopes is super.

Tonya Reply:

It’s possible Alexandra meant Rene Spitz, educated in Paris, he studied neglect and deprivation of infants in institutional environments. And these studies are very sad.

DoNotFaint Reply:

The studies are really sad, but they’re also *not* about babies with caring, concerned moms (or nannies) who are not seriously mentally disturbed or tasked with caring for 30 infants at once. I hope you’re joking when you compare this to what has happened in horrific institutions.


Comment by mtwildflower.

I’m glad you’re asking this question instead of one along the lines of, “My baby breaks out in terrified wails every time the nanny picks him up and he’s come up with strange bruises on the bottoms of his feet. Should I be worried?”

Seriously, if you are going to entrust the care of your little one to someone else, then his not getting held as much as you think he should be, is small potatoes.

As a child daycare provider myself, I am not ashamed in the slightest to tell parents that I only provide adequate care. Kids are well taken care of, changed regularly, fed regularly, hydrated often, allowed to play and be kids, boo boos are kissed, stories are read, etc, etc.

That said, I am NOT in any way shape or form the best care that kid is going to get because that comes from Mom and Dad alone, period.

If you want better care than your nanny is providing, then the answer is to take care of your child yourself.

I'm a big ol' b with a captial B! Reply:

This isn’t an either/or issue. It’s not ‘this nanny’ or ‘mommy’ (who may not be able to afford not going to work). There are many options out there–even center daycare, that can provide better care than this nanny and maybe mom will choose to stay home and take care of baby if they can afford it.

Don’t make this sound so harsh because there are many different options.

And for the record, minimizing this as small potatoes does not make me want to entrust children into your care.

Flabbergasted Reply:

I’ve seen some nannies giving better care than their parents ever do. And did you seriously just basically say if they’re not getting beat you don’t have cause for complaint? Finally, can I get the name of your daycare so I can make sure to avoid it? Wow.


Comment by jlholmen.

I have to say, as a mother of one year old twins, one of my daughters was VERY needy while the other was content to be put in her bouncy seat, on the play mat or pushed in the stroller. I still held her and played with her and they are both happy and well adjusted.. As far as the nanny is concerned, you had said that she was only taking care of the one child when you and your friend decided to share, it could be too much for her to handle.. Has she ever taken care of more than one baby at a time before? I used to nanny and I have taken care of 6 kids in one family before, but even that was easier than my girls were. It makes a HUGE difference when those kids are each one to two years apart! Maybe she needs some time to adjust and for you to give her some ideas as to how she could feed both at the same time or hold both..

Tonya Reply:

Thank you. This is great advice!!


Comment by Regina.

as a member of the old el paso orchestra, i’m offended. we can rock beethoven better than any mariachi band in town.


Comment by Kara.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

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