Crying means your baby loves you…ever heard that one? Okay, so not every tear is a sign of your baby’s affection for you, but the ones that fall due to separation anxiety are. These tears mean your baby is attached to you and doesn’t want you to leave him to go to work, to run errands, or to even leave the room.
Before six months of age, your baby is probably fine with any friendly face. It’s around that six to eight month mark that she starts to differentiate one person from another and starts to pick her favorites’ list, putting parents and caregivers at the top. Your baby’s memory is also developing at this point to remember that you exist even when you’re not in front of her face. Add these two things together and you may get one upset baby when you try to sneak away.
The Face of Sadness
Your baby’s separation anxiety may reach a head anywhere from eight to 24 months of age. It also may come and go multiple times meaning that your baby may have trouble being apart from you at eight months old and then again in the toddler years. He may cry, cling to you, or throw a tantrum anytime you try to leave him with someone else. Some babies are so attached they can’t even stand for you to leave their sight for more than brief periods. This may lead to frequent waking in the night just to make sure you’re still close.
How To Ease The Distress
Separation anxiety is bound to happen, so what can you do to help reduce the stress on your little and you? Rather than just deciding to never ever leave your baby’s sight, try these tips instead:
- Pick a routine and stick with it. Sound familiar? It seems like all advice pertaining to babies says something about a consistent routine. It’s no different when it comes to saying goodbye. Preferably choose something short and direct. A simple hug, kiss and ‘see you this afternoon’ works best. It may be especially important for older kids to remind them that you will return. You can also try to give them an idea of when that will be, like after naptime or before lunch.
- Make it familiar. People of all ages can have a hard time with new and strange surroundings, especially babies and toddlers. When you have to be away from your baby, it’s best to leave then in familiar hands. Invite the babysitter over a few times when you are going to be there so that everyone can play together. Take some time to explore new areas with your baby before you leave them at a new daycare. Hopefully seeing that you trust this new person and place will make your baby more confident when you leave.
- Don’t try to pull a fast one. It may seem like the best thing to do to avoid screaming and crying is to drop your baby off and run, sneaking out before he even knows you’re gone. This could just end up being a sneaky way of breaking your baby’s trust in you. That’s not to say that you can’t have your baby distracted with a new game while you say your goodbye though, just as long as he knows that you are leaving before you’re gone.
- Pull out all the stops. Make your return an epic event. Spend a little extra time pouring the attention to your little one and make sure she knows how proud of her you are for braving the day without you.
Separation Anxiety and Sleeping
This may be a little harder to soften with the tips we discussed above but they can still help.
- Routine, routine, routine. It can’t be said enough, develop a predictable bedtime routine so that your baby knows what’s coming and when. It may be easier for him to be apart at night if he knows exactly when it’s happening.
- Comfort but don’t coddle. If your baby wakes up in the middle of the night and just wants to see your face, do it. Just don’t pick her up, rock her, etc (unless she still needs nightly feedings or diaper changes). Just let her know you’re there, rub her back and let her get back to sleep.
- Find a bedtime pal. Have your baby take his favorite fuzzy animal or his Kyte Baby blanket to bed with him. This soft, cuddly object will be there for him when you can’t be.
This is more for older kids, babies younger than one year shouldn’t have any blankets or stuffed animals in the crib with them. For those younger babies, the softness of Kyte Baby Sleep Bags may provide that much needed comfort.
- Make the mornings bright. Just like making a big deal out of returning from work, make the morning wake up that much more sunny. She made it through the night without you, now celebrate with some one-on-one playtime.
Separation anxiety is tough stuff and may make you feel like you’re doing something wrong in the parenting department. Just know that it’s perfectly normal and that almost every baby goes through it. Remind yourself that they love you so much that they just can’t stand the thought of being apart. Most importantly, remember to stick with it. Even though it may break your heart to hear your baby cry, stick to your routine and put that much more energy into your return or morning celebration.