“Alloparenting” and helping babies adapt to non-biological caregivers
4 minutes

Photos taken in collaboration with Deborah Quek, featuring one of our ParentWise families

If you have been the primary caregiver for your baby, transitioning the child to a new caregiver when the situation arises can be one of the hardest things a parent has to do.

Concerns many parents have may include fears of whether the baby will adapt well to the new caregiver and whether time spent apart will have negative effects on the relationship between parent and child.

However, studies have shown that having other consistent caregivers for your baby does not adversely affect the bonding between mother and child as well as the temperament and development of your baby.

“Alloparenting”, which is care provided by consistent caregivers apart from the biological parents, has been shown to not compromise a child’s development. Having a stable group of caregivers who are responsive to an infant’s cues and needs is as good as having an individual who is solely responsible.

Having other consistent caregivers for your baby does not adversely affect the bonding between mother and child as well as the temperament and development of your baby.

But while some babies may adapt quite readily to new caregivers, others may end up crying for the entire duration when the parent is away. This certainly causes stress for both parent and baby. Your worries about your baby’s wellbeing are inevitable.

Here are a few tips to help the caregiver transition go more smoothly.


1. Reinforce that mother-child bond

Studies have shown that babies with a closer bond with their mothers tend to manage their feelings better and have better social-emotional skills.

So rather than worrying about not being able to be the primary caregiver to a child or how caregiving arrangements will affect a child’s growth, it is more important to focus on forging a strong parent-child bond.

2. Interact with new caregiver together with baby

Give your baby and new caregiver time to get to know each other. Having the new caregiver interact with your baby in your presence helps the child feel more comfortable with them when you aren’t around.

One way is to leave your baby with the caregiver for an hour or two on several occasions before the actual day of transition. If your baby is attending an infant care, make arrangements to be around for the first few times. This will allow the new caregiver to interact with your baby while you're nearby.

Your baby may feel anxious and cry, but trust that things will settle down soon. After all, your new caregiver and your baby need time to build a positive relationship.

3. Let the new caregiver feed the baby

Providing opportunities for your caregiver to feed your baby is one way to ease this transition. Caregivers can strengthen secure attachment with babies in their care by providing skin-to-skin contact as well as smiling and interacting with the baby during feeding time.

4. Bring an object of comfort

Another way of making the transition easier is to let your baby bring a comfort object from home such as a favourite blanket, pacifier or toy. The transition object, which babies associate with their primary caregivers, helps them feel less anxious with new caregivers.

The most important thing is to find a caregiver you trust and who treats your child with love and respect. Once your caregiver has been chosen, be it a domestic helper or educational care centre, have faith that the transition will sort itself out and you will come home to find a happy and well-adapted baby.

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