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Publication #FAR0301

Going Back to Work after Baby Is Born1

Kate Fogarty2

Figure 1. 
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Once a baby is born, deciding the best time to return to work can be emotional and difficult. Parents often wrestle with questions, such as how daily separation might affect the attachment relationship or the mutual, warm, enduring bond between an infant and his or her caregiver.

As more moms are devoting time to their careers, babies are spending more time with caregivers who aren't their parents, and it's well known that babies develop attachments to fathers, siblings, grandparents, and even caregivers outside the home. Still, infants up to one year old show a preference for a primary caregiver (Bowlby 1969), especially when they are distressed (Lamb 1997).

According to a nationwide study done by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (1997), no attachment differences were found between infants who had received nonmaternal child care over much of their first year of life and those who were cared for primarily by their mothers. Infants separated from their mothers were similarly upset, regardless of whether most of the care they received came from their mothers, fathers, other relatives, or nonrelatives inside or outside the home. What was shown to be related to attachment insecurity in this study was mother's insensitivity to infant's needs, combined with poor child care or frequent changes in child care. So, for parents who worry that their baby won't love them as much if they work, with quality child care and your loving attention, you should be just fine.

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our website at

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Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss: Vol. 1, Attachment. New York: Basic Books.

Lamb, M. E. (1997). The development of father-infant relationships. In M.E. Lamb (Ed.), The role of the father in child development (3rd ed., pp. 104-120). New York: Wiley.

National Institute for Child Health and Development (NICHD), Early Child Care Research Network. (1997). The effects of infant child care on infant-mother attachment security: Results of the NICHFD Study of Early Child Care. Child Development, 68, 860-879.

National Institute for Child Health and Development (NICHD), Early Child Care Research Network. (1998). Early child care and self-control, compliance, and problem behavior at twenty-four and thirty-six months. Child Development, 69, 1145-1170.

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National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Early Child Care Research Network. (2000). The relation of child care to cognitive and language development. Child Development, 71, 960-980.

Pederson, D.R., Gleason, K.E., Moran, G., & Bento, S. (1998). Maternal attachment and representations, maternal sensitivity, and the infant-mother attachment relationship. Developmental Psychology, 34, 925-933.

Stifter, C.A., Coulehan, C.M., & Fish, M. (1993). Linking employment to attachment: The mediating effects of maternal separation anxiety and interactive behavior. Child Development, 64, 1451-1460.



This document is FAR0301, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 144 and published January 2008. Reviewed January 2015. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Kate Fogarty, assistant professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.