Parents Struggle With Guilt When Kids Prefer Nanny Over Mom or Dad

It's hard enough for parents to spend their days away from their young children, leaving them in custody of a caregiver, but the problem grows when baby begins to ask for nanny instead of Mom. Child psychologist Dr. Michael Bradley reveals how common the power struggle is and what parents can do to regain their top spot.

Bradley says the phenomenon of children bonding with nanny over mother is a real concern for newborns to 1-year-old children. In early childhood, babies study the features of those around them. "Babies register memories through sight, smell, sound and touch, and could have attachment confusion if they're only registering their nanny," says Bradley.

Past the first year, the memory window closes for the baby and the attachment issue becomes less of a developmental concern. Through his practice, Bradley has found that babies see parents as one large person -- mom/nanny, not mom and nanny. Babies will pick up on any tension between parenting figures.

VIDEO: What to do when kids prefer caretaker to mom and dad.Play

Bradley suggests working parents consider making tough priority decisions. When kids are older, he says, parents can focus heavily on their career, but time with young children can never be reclaimed. Parents should focus on building relationships with their children and take time to do child-centered activities such as day trips without the nanny, reading, playing and just hanging out.

Bradley says parents must convince their children that they are completely focused on them. "The lost income is more than compensated by the priceless payoff of connecting with a newborn. Once that bond is built, mom can more easily transition out of home," says Bradley.

Bradley warns the worst thing a parent can do in an attempt to remedy the power struggle is fire the current nanny. The newborn could suffer from separation anxiety and attachment trauma, and develop infantile depression. Parents also shouldn't tell nanny to do anything differently -- like be less motherly. Children can pick up if adults are not being genuine.

"The biggest warning sign a newborn is bonding more with a nanny is if the baby gets more excited or reaches for nanny instead of mother," says Bradley.