Do you have a zelcro baby? Or a toddler who can maintain a hold on you like a baby monkey? There are a few ways you can help your baby cope with separation anxiety but the good news it usually isn’t a sign of a real problem and is usually just a healthy (but sometimes difficult) part of child development
Just when you think life with a baby isn’t too exhausting and suddenly your baby can’t bear to be away from your for a moment to play, eat or even sleep. You try to be sensitive but occasionally you need to put them down and it can be emotionally draining to hear them whinge or cry each time you leave the room.
As your baby is developing their understanding of the world and the people around them they begin to realise that their main caregiver is separate to themselves and that this person who tends to their every need can potentially go away. Of course we know that we won’t go to the bathroom and stay their for the rest of our lives (sometimes tempting?) but your baby doesn’t know that yet. Even at three years old my son still looks relieved and slightly surprised as he says “Mummy you comed back!” each time I collect him from nursery. Separation anxiety isn’t a bad thing and babies don’t need to be rushed out of it, but by gently allowing them opportunities to see it is really fine to be away from you they can make their way through and remain confident and secure in their relationship with you.
- Leave your baby with grandparents or their other parent for short periods on a regular basis. Build up the length of time gradually. It could just start with them playing with the baby while you’re still in the house.
- It’s ok to leave the room for a moment even if they do complain. Call out so they know you’re still there and come back quickly so they see that you don’t go for long.
- Leave quickly and calmly. If they’re crying because you’re leaving the only way they’ll stop is if you stay or you go and they manage to be distracted and have a nice time.
- Try to return when you said you would so they know they can trust you to come back when you are meant to.
- Enjoy the cuddles. If you are able to slow down and enjoy the moment then perhaps your baby will feel satisfied and move away more happily.
- Baby wearing saved my sanity and kept my baby content.
- Let them go if they want to. If out of the blue they want to go out with daddy or stay at Grandma’s and you haven’t planned for it, try going with it instead of pre-empting the negative reaction. They might pick up your reluctance and read this as a sign that it’s not safe to be away from you.
- Try not to worry. Some people might tell you that it’s a problem or that your baby has wrapped you around their finger but try not to worry what other people think. You know your baby is happy and developing as they should be.
Written by Mary Reay