As a parent, one of the most challenging things to deal with is knowing how to handle a fussy baby. There are so many opinions out there about the proper way to deal with this, which often revolve around sleep and the debate surrounding “crying it out. As a result, a lot of parents I talk to spend a great deal of time worrying about whether or not they’re “doing it right,” and the access we have to countless opinions and perspectives on social media certainly doesn’t make things easier. Lately, one of the issues I’ve been thinking a lot about is separation anxiety and how it’s similar to sleeping problems, which is I want to take a closer look at here.
What Exactly Is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety, like poor sleeping, is usually caused by the natural development of your baby’s psychology. When babies first enter the world, they actually don’t understand that things not immediately in front of them continue to exist once they’re removed. However, at about the 6-8 month mark, they begin to develop what is known as “object permanence,” meaning they now know that things – including their parents – continue to exist even after they’re removed. While this is obviously a good thing, it also raises some questions in their little brains. “If Mommy or Daddy was just here, and now they’re gone, where are they? Are they coming back? Did they leave me?” This, naturally, leads to some hooping and hollering which is caused by the anxiety they feel. Babies experience this with different levels of intensity (which is why you shouldn’t worry too much about the experience of your Facebook friends), but it’s ultimately a good and natural progression. There is a more severe form of this, known as Separation Anxiety Disorder, but it’s rare, and the anxiety that most children experience is completely normal. That said, there are some ways that you can manage and mitigate the anxiety your child feels when you’re not around.
3 Ways to Help Your Baby Adjust to You Being Away
1) Ease them into time away from you
Going from spending every waking moment with your baby to then being gone for hours at a time will often increase the chance of a baby feeling an acute sense of separation anxiety. Here are a few things that will make the transition easier:
- At first, only be away for a short period of time and gradually increase.
- Leave your baby with someone they’re already familiar with.
- Don’t leave as soon as the babysitter arrives, but spend some time with them and your baby to make your child feel more comfortable.
2) Help them feel more independent
Before you leave your baby with someone for a period of time, try to help them feel more independent throughout the day when you’re there. You can do this by giving them some time alone, without constant supervision, to help them feel more relaxed without you around.
3) Stay consistent with a routine
As with sleeping habits, having a routine can be a powerful way of keeping your baby at ease before and after you leave. So stick around for the same period of time each time you leave, make sure they understand that you’re leaving, and communicate when you’ll be back, in the same way, every time.
Looking for Some Help? Get in Touch!
I talk to too many parents who, instead of trying to manage separation anxiety, simply choose not to leave their babies alone ever. Not only is this not good for your baby, but it can also place an undue burden on you and your significant other. If you’d like to chat with me about helping your baby adapt, don’t hesitate to reach out!