My baby is attached to me!
No parent wants to think that their baby isn’t getting enough love and attention. However, there does come the point for most parents when they have to spend more time away from their baby for any number of reasons. It can be very hard on a parent when their baby has separation anxiety.
1. What is separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety is a stage in a baby’s development where they become upset or distressed when their parents leave them. Whether you are dropping your baby off at daycare or heading into the basement to change over the laundry, a baby that is overcome with separation anxiety will become very upset. They may scream or cry or throw a tantrum. Your baby might seem completely inconsolable, and it may be impossible to distract them. This can be a miserable and sometimes embarrassing experience for any parent. This can also be hard on family members like grandparents or aunts and uncles that might have previously been a favorite person when your baby suddenly doesn’t want to go to them.2. Is separation anxiety normal?
Separation anxiety is a sign of a healthy baby with a strong attachment to their parents. Some parents are afraid that this means that they have spoiled their baby, but this isn’t true. Most babies will go through a period when they have a lot of anxiety about being away from their parents. This usually starts around eight months and lasts a month or two. Another period usually starts around 15 months. Most babies will have multiple periods of separation anxiety over the first few years of their lives that come and goes.
3. What causes separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety is a normal part of your baby’s mental development. At about eight months old, your baby will develop object permanence. Before this point, your baby does not understand that something that is not directly in front of them still exists. If you take a toy away from them, that toy ceases to exist until you give it back. Once they can understand that something that leaves still exists, they become distressed when things go away. Until they develop the ability to understand that when things leave, they will come back, the anxiety will persist.
4. What can you do to manage it?
Teaching your baby that you will always come back is essential. There are many ways to help manage your baby’s separation anxiety. The goal is to teach your baby that when you leave, you will always come back. A great game to play to help teach them this is peek-a-boo. By disappearing behind your hands and then coming back over and over, you are reinforcing that when you leave, you will always come back. Teaching your little baby rituals for when people and things leave and come back helps them to associate these things with one another. Teach your baby to say “goodbye” when you leave and “hello” when you come back. You can also put your baby’s toys into a bag or box and then help them look inside to see that the toy is there. This helps to build their confidence and security.
5. Is holding your baby going to make things worse?
You will not make separation anxiety worse by holding your baby. A baby that is held will cry less. There’s nothing wrong with showing your baby affection or wanting to be close to them. You might want to try wearing your baby so that you still have your hands free to do other things. However, you should avoid letting your baby fall asleep on you. You can hold them until they are sleepy or lay with them, but try to lay them down before they fall asleep. This will help to reduce nighttime anxiety if they wake up, and you are not there.
6. What happens when separation anxiety ends?
Separation anxiety will eventually end. Often once your baby’s separation anxiety has been soothed, you might find that you’re the one who’s feeling the separation anxiety! Your baby will usually go through an adventurous period after the phase ends, so you might find yourself feeling anxious when your baby is out of your sight. It’s perfectly normal for you to be concerned about your baby’s well-being. It’s important that you keep your anxiety under control and not to give your baby a reason to think that something is wrong. Just try to keep calm when you find your baby exploring new places or investigating new things that they probably aren’t supposed to be.
7. When is separation anxiety a problem?
Doctors will typically not diagnose or recommend treatment for severe separation anxiety disorder for a child younger than six years old. Severe separation anxiety disorder is a condition where a child shows severe symptoms of anxiety when separated from their parent or caregiver. While it is unusual for children over 24 months to show serious signs of separation anxiety, it is not unheard of. If you are concerned about your child’s symptoms or you think that something more serious might be wrong, you should always talk to your pediatrician.
Separation anxiety is a perfectly normal part of a healthy baby’s development. A child that suffers from separation anxiety is not spoiled or bratty. You, as a parent, haven’t done anything wrong or caused the separation anxiety. While it is hard on you as a parent, it will eventually end. Most babies will go through more than one phase of separation anxiety as they grow up. There are a few things that you can do to help keep yourself sane while you’re waiting for the next stage of development to begin.