The Best Ways to Handle Separation Anxiety in Babies


My son had been attending—and loving—his daycare since I returned to work when he was 3 months outdated. However, someday round 7 months, he began going by means of phases the place drop-off turned a nightmare. He’d cry, scream, and cling to me.

What occurred to my candy, joyful youngster? Why did he appear to have a difficulty with me leaving him when he by no means exhibited that habits earlier than?

Ah, separation nervousness.

It will probably begin anytime between 6 and 24 months, although it often peaks at about 12 months, and begins to ease up by concerning the 2-year mark. Whereas most infants expertise it sooner or later in their younger lives, it might be much less intense for some and far tougher for others. The phrase “Each youngster is totally different” completely applies right here.

Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP

In medical apply, I generally hear mother issues about “not having the ability to put the child down” with out her or him crying. Many resort to placing their toddler in a Bjorn or different provider simply to “get issues performed with out the child crying.” This isn’t solely impractical, however typically unsafe for some family duties (i.e. cooking). I additionally hear many variations of a narrative the place the child cries when mother or dad depart the room. This will happen throughout bedtime or daytime actions.

One other phenomenon that happens together with separation nervousness is “stranger nervousness.” Stranger nervousness is seen when an toddler is round individuals she or he doesn’t see frequently, ensuing in crying and clinging to the guardian or different acquainted caregiver. It might happen when grandparents or different prolonged kinfolk go to, throughout group gatherings (together with the primary celebration), and at routine pediatrician visits.

Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP

Relaxation assured, although, that this part (or phases, as was the case with my son) is totally regular for a child’s emotional improvement. Additionally: it gained’t final endlessly. (Phew!)

I can attest to the truth that this developmental milestone isn’t straightforward. However listed below are some issues you’ll be able to strive to make it extra manageable in the meantime.

When does it happen?

Most frequently, your youngster can have separation nervousness once you depart her or him with one other caregiver, whether or not it’s to run an errand, go to work, or have a date evening. However, it could additionally rear its ugly head once you put your youngster to mattress—or in case you depart the room for any motive and your youngster can not see you.

Why does it happen?

Within the first 4 to 6 months of your toddler’s life, you can most likely depart your candy child with a caregiver with out a lot of a response, if any in any respect. That’s as a result of your new child fully forgot you existed as quickly as you have been out of sight.

Round 7 to 8 months of age (although it might be earlier or later relying in your youngster), your teen abruptly understands that you just exist even once they can’t see you—they usually don’t like that.

When you’re going by means of this part with a toddler, it’s a bit totally different. They’re much extra established in their independence and wish to have some management over what occurs in their life. In a article, Sara Abbot, the affiliate director of the Household Useful resource Counseling Middle in Los Angeles, explains it this manner:

They know by now that you just’re coming again, however they would favor that you just stick round. And since in addition they know that wailing will often get a response, they offer it their finest shot.

Nemours Hospital discusses separation anxiety in extra element, and the way it can current in a different way in infants and toddlers.

What are you able to do to assist your youngster by means of this part?

When my son began crying each time I left the room or dropped him off at daycare, I made the error of making an attempt to sneak out when he wasn’t wanting. In accordance to the consultants, nonetheless, that’s not really useful. I can attest to the truth that it didn’t work.

Whereas my son solely took a minute or two to settle down after my departure, the issue stored ocurring each morning. As soon as I found a few of these methods beneath, particularly taking part in peek-a-boo often and establishing a ritual, my son’s temperament round my departure beganto slowly change.

However first, let’s check out what you don’t need to do.

What to Keep away from

Sneaking away once they aren’t wanting. Your youngster might battle to belief you in the event that they really feel such as you’re tricking them each time you allow. Finally, this gained’t assist them recover from your absence any simpler.

Prolonging the goodbye. I perceive that the very last thing you need to do is depart. All I needed to do was maintain and luxury my son for a couple of extra minutes (or an hour). However taking a very long time to achieve this solely makes it tougher for everyone—your self, the caregiver making an attempt to consolation your youngster once you depart, and your youngster. You’ll see useful ideas beneath for the way to create a short however comforting goodbye routine.

Coming again to verify on them. I needed to do that so many instances, however this additionally makes it harder on your youngster and the caregiver. It leads your youngster to consider that his response is warranted and encourages him to maintain reacting each time you allow him. His tears are merely his approach of making an attempt to persuade you to keep.

What to Do.

Observe leaving your youngster with others, presumably someone they already know. Retaining your youngster with you always and never giving them an opportunity to apply being separated from you’ll solely encourage their habits. They want to apply being cared for by a babysitter or member of the family, even when for brief durations of time.

Do a trial run with a brand new caregiver while you’re round. If switching to a brand new caregiver that your child is unfamiliar with, it may be useful to have your toddler spend time with the brand new nanny, sitter, or daycare while you’re current. Beginning with a brief time frame and rising it every time may also be useful.

Observe peek-a-boo. House is a child’s secure place, so this makes the perfect setting for training. For some infants, like my son, taking part in peek-a-boo with a small, skinny blanket or fabric is a good place to begin. When you don’t really feel comfy doing that, you can all the time put it over your face as a substitute. To make this extra superior, you can strive strolling across the nook and play peek-a-boo that approach. Or let your youngster crawl into one other room, assuming it’s a secure place for her to be unsupervised for a short time frame, and wait a couple of minutes earlier than following her.

Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP

To interrupt the behavior of your toddler “being hooked up to the hip on a regular basis” at dwelling, I like to recommend that oldsters place a playpen in a separate room however nonetheless in view of wherever the guardian is doing a family process. The toddler is in a secure play space however can nonetheless see the guardian, educating her or him that separation is okay.

Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP

Plan departures for after a nap or meal when doable. A drained and hungry child is not going to set you up for the very best consequence.

Hold your goodbye transient (and do the identical factor each time). Babies discover consolation in routine. So in case you make it a behavior of claiming and doing the identical issues each time you allow, you’ll create a way of normalcy that they will depend on. Examples: a hug and a promise to return for them later at present, or a kiss and a high-five. Additionally bear in mind to maintain it transient as a result of drawing out your goodbye will be tougher in the long term.

Be cheerful. You might really feel something however joyful and calm once you depart your youngster with someone else. However, that is the place the phrase “pretend it ’til you make it” comes in useful. Your child shall be comforted by your physique language and comprehend it’s okay to be other than you.

Remind your youngster that you just all the time return. That is often useful for older youngsters who perceive what you’re saying. erbalizing this fact for them helps them perceive that you just maintain your guarantees. Finally, they’ll be taught to depend on that.

Instruct the caregiver to distract your youngster after you allow. It may be useful to have the babysitter, nanny, daycare instructor, or member of the family distract your child with a favourite toy or, in the event that they’re older, a particular process to make them really feel useful. One article I learn advised having them shut the door behind you.

Be affected person. It would take time on your child to be taught that it’s okay to be other than you and that you’ll come again for her.

The AAP has some additional tips that may be useful.

Coping with Nighttime Separation Anxiety.

For folks coping with youngsters who battle with nighttime separation nervousness, there are a number of issues you’ll be able to strive.

Additional playtime with you earlier than mattress. Give her or him undivided consideration and snuggles in the hours main up to bedtime.

Set up a routine that you just comply with each evening. As talked about above, routines typically make youngsters really feel secure and could be a useful approach to calm their fears of being separated from you.

Don’t cave for the trail of least resistance. Many instances, exhaustion and frustration will lead us to “do nearly something” to get our youngster to sleep, like resorting to the pacifier or permitting them to sleep in mattress with us. However creating these new habits (or re-introducing former ones) demonstrates to your youngster that there’s something scary that they want further consolation to deal with. By resisting these items, you’ll present your youngster that there isn’t something to be afraid of once you depart the room.

Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP

I’ve many mother and father who permit their toddler or toddler to go to sleep with them in the guardian’s mattress or different location of the house. As soon as asleep, the guardian transfers the toddler to his/her personal mattress. Waking in a unique location from the place she or he fell asleep is startling at this developmental age and might exacerbate separation nervousness.

Nemour’s Hospital has some additional recommendations.

Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP

Coping strategies for folks.

When my son was affected by separation nervousness, I felt plenty of feelings. On the one hand, I used to be secretly relieved to know I used to be his most popular particular person. That made me really feel so cherished! However I used to be typically overwhelmed and annoyed by his clinginess.

I fearful about him all the time we have been aside. I felt responsible about going to work or on a date evening with my husband. Usually, I used to be overwhelmed and annoyed by his actions.  These are very common feelings amongst many mothers. From one emotional mama to one other, know that it’s fully regular to expertise a mix of emotions. Don’t strive to battle these emotions or ignore them.

As an alternative, encompass your self with an amazing assist staff. I discovered it useful to journal or inform my husband or my finest pal what I used to be feeling.

I additionally had to maintain telling myself that this may cross and that my son was most likely already taking part in fortunately by the point I acquired to my automotive (and in accordance to his daycare lecturers, that was 100% true).

So bear in mind: this part is regular and short-term. Thank goodness!

I’ve tried all these items, and nothing is working! What ought to I do?

Assess your state of affairs. In accordance to the Mayo Clinic, a child’s signs might typically be triggered by stress over a brand new childcare state of affairs or caregiver, the current arrival of a sibling, transferring to a brand new dwelling, or rigidity throughout the household. Sadly, a few of these conditions are unavoidable, so giving your youngster time to alter to a brand new state of affairs and training the recommendation above ought to assist.

Belief your intestine. In case your youngster solely reacts to a selected daycare instructor or babysitter, or if they’re having different unexplained signs like sleeping bother or modifications in temper or urge for food, go together with your instincts and reevaluate their caregivers.

Change up your goodbye ritual. Reevaluate to be sure you aren’t taking too lengthy to say goodbye. Verify your physique language to see in case you’re coming throughout as anxious or fearful. You could possibly additionally strive establishing a unique ritual. With my son, he hated being placed on the ground proper after I kissed him goodbye. However, if I put him on the desk with a teething wafer or some crackers, he would pleasantly wave goodbye to me once I left. I feel he preferred having one thing to do (like eat a snack) as a substitute of simply being placed on the mat and anticipated to play.

Seek the advice of your physician. As all the time, in case your youngster’s intense or extended habits issues you, schedule a go to together with your physician.

The excellent news about separation nervousness: there’s no assure that your youngster will expertise it. However, in case your child or toddler does battle with it, relaxation assured in the truth that it’s only a part.

Tell us in the feedback if any of the following pointers labored for you and your toddler!


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