YOUNG children sometimes refer to their babysitters as 'mama' or will cry for the sitter even while in their mother's arms. It doesn't bother some parents, but it can, understandably, cause feelings of jealously and guilt in others.
This type of bonding between child and caregiver is natural, as child psychologist Camille Lemonious explained, especially if the child spends more time with the caregiver than the biological parents.
"The child can get more attached to the babysitter," Lemonious said.
"What I have realised with children and what other psychologists have said is that children generally spell 'love' t-i-m-e. The more time you spend with a baby or child playing with them, talking with them, etc -- especially playing with them -- then the more attached they will become to you," she said.
"Because that is part of their love language. Children love to play."
Play is also beneficial for the adults as that's when they get to find out more about the child such as what they are thinking, what is happening in their lives and if somebody has done them harm.
"Hence, while you play with them and you are spending time with them they will be speaking to you through their actions and also through their words when they are able to articulate," Lemonious explained.
Therefore, if the babysitter is the one playing with the child on a regular basis, a bond is sure to develop.
"When you have your babysitter from early in the mornings and sometimes the babysitter is the one who feeds the child, bathes the child, dresses the child, does everything for the child while the mother just gets the child probably occasionally to breastfeed or when they come home tired and will hold the child for a few movments here and there, sometimes that is not enough," she said.
The psychologist said she has seen situations where the child actually cries for the caregiver and not the mother.
"The mother is holding the child and the child is crying for the caregiver. So the caregiver is leaving and it becomes a cry-fest, a whole lot of bawling because the child has developed such a strong bond because sometimes the first face they see in the morning is the caregiver's, especially if that person is a live-in and is the one who plays with them and ensures that they get their meals."
But there are ways that the situation can be reversed, Lemonious said.
"The parent...will have to make a deliberate effort to spend time with the child. Talking with them, finding out how was their day, what happened, etc. If it's a baby, ensure that you spend quality time with him. You should be the one to bathe the baby, spend time breastfeeding, talking to the baby and hence bonding," she said.
Breastfeeding, she explained, is extremely important. But the short time allowed for maternity leave in Jamaica is one of the problems preventing bonding between mother and child, because breastfeeding should continue for at least the first six months of a baby's life.
"Breastfeeding is a must so that a young baby will know the mother's scent," the psychologist said.
"In some countries some mothers get a year off for maternity leave, some even two or three years. Sometimes in Jamaica the mothers can only afford three months and that is part of the problem, because these early months when they should be bonding with the baby they are out working," she said. "So they have to drop off the baby at daycare early in the mornings then pick up the baby late in the evening."
If this is a problem affecting you as a parent, you should:
* Ensure that on weekends you spend quality time with your child.
* Spend time talking, planning, doing things with them to ensure that they know and remember that you are the mother.
* Make a deliberate effort to spend time with the child, whether early in the mornings or in the evenings.
* Ensure that you call the child during the day. Even if it's a baby, call them during the day so that the sitter puts the phone at their ear so that they hear mommy's voice.
* Ensure that you are not working overtime. Come home early enough to spend time with the child before they go to sleep for the night, making your face the last they see before they fall asleep.