Dealing with Separation Anxiety in Babies
Your baby was such a social butterfly for the first few months of his life and enjoys the attention of people with such a friendly bright face. Then all of a sudden...everything changed. A smile would then turn to a loud cry and screams if you leave or if they see someone else other than you. This surely is one of the most painful stages of being a parent, when your baby experiences separation anxiety.
It can start anytime between 6 and 24 months, though it usually peaks at about 12 months and starts to ease up by about the 2-year mark. While most babies experience it at some point in their young lives, it may be less intense for some and much harder for others. This phase is completely normal for a baby’s emotional development and the good thing about it though is that it won't last forever and usually eases by the time babies are about 24 months old.
1. Practice leaving your child others
Practice leaving him with somebody they already know - grandparent/s, aunts, cousins. Your baby may still protest, but he might adjust to your absence more easily when surrounded by well-known faces.
2. Let your child get to know his caregiver first
This ensures that your child is comfortable with that person and won't feel as if she's being left with a stranger. You may also want to let the sitter know about your child's favorite toys, games, and foods.
3. Create a short-and-sweet ritual to say goodbye
Babies find comfort in routine. So if you make it a habit of saying and doing the same things every time you leave, you’ll create a sense of normalcy that they can rely on.
4. Try to be "cheerful" in saying goodbye
You may feel anything but happy and calm when you leave your child with somebody else. But this is where the phrase “fake it ’til you make it” comes in handy. Your baby will be comforted by your body language and know it’s okay to be apart from you.
5. When you leave you have to leave
You may also have the sitter or caregiver distract him after you leave. Hanging around trying to comfort him may only prolong the agony.
6. Make a happy return
Sometimes we overlook the important part of the separation process -- the reunion. Happy reunion rituals are essential to reinforcing the parent-child bond and keeping separation anxiety in check.
7. Patience is always the key
It will take time for your baby to learn that it’s okay to be apart from you and that you will come back for her.
8. Assess the situation
A baby’s symptoms may sometimes be triggered by stress over a new childcare situation or caregiver, the recent arrival of a sibling, moving to a new home, or tension within the family. Unfortunately, some of these situations are unavoidable so giving your child time to adjust to a new situation and practicing the advice above should help.
9. Take a second look at your baby's sitter / caregiver
If your child only reacts to a particular daycare teacher or babysitter, or if they are having other unexplained symptoms like sleeping trouble or changes in mood or appetite, go with your instincts and reevaluate their caregivers.
10. Change your goodbye routine
Reevaluate to make sure you aren’t taking too long to say goodbye. Check your body language to see if you’re coming across as anxious or worried. You could also try establishing a different ritual.
11. If everything doesn't work, consult the doctor
As always, if your child’s intense or prolonged behavior concerns you, schedule a visit with your doctor.