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  • Taylor Scott-Wood

Understanding and Managing Separation Anxiety in Babies

Let’s chat about something that every parent experiences, separation anxiety in your little one. It’s a topic that many parents encounter and can tug on your heart strings but there are ways to help both you and your baby through it.

Is your baby struggling with separation anxiety?  It is a normal part of development as babies begin to understand object permanence - the concept that objects (or people) continue to exist even when they are out of sight.

Separation anxiety can start as early as 6 months and typically peaks around the 14-18 month mark. It’s a sign that your baby has formed a strong attachment to you, which is a good thing!

Common signs you may notice with separation anxiety:

Child having separation anxiety with mom
Mom comforting baby
  • Clinginess

  • Bedtime resistance

  • Night wakings

  • Crying when being left with someone that isn’t their primary caregiver

  • Crying when you leave the room or are out of sight

While this is a completely normal stage of development, it can be tough (and a little heart breaking) to handle.

Here are some things you can do to help separation anxiety:

Keep a Consistent Bedtime Routine: This is simple but so effective because it gives your baby a sense of predictability and security. The repetitive set of actions in a bedtime routine lets them know whats coming and allows their body wind down to prepare for bed.

If your child is over 9 months, offer a lovey or stuffed animal: The idea of a lovey is to become their comfort item when they're sleeping and you are no longer in their room, it's a great option to replace a pacifier.  This is a parents choice because the AAP does recommend an empty crib, but once a baby is able to move their head and body on their own, it becomes a much safer option.

Encourage Independent Play: During the day, try to encourage independent play to build your baby's confidence, you can even start with them playing by themselves while you’re just a couple feet away, baby steps! 

Practice Brief Periods of Separation: During the day, practice short increments of time away from your baby. Start with a trusted caregiver for short amounts of time and slowly add more time, it’ll get easier for them and you as they become more comfortable. Practicing the short periods will help them learn that even if you leave, you will always return.

Understanding separation anxiety in babies is a common challenge for parents, but it's important to remember that it's a natural and temporary phase of development. By recognizing the signs, providing reassurance, and gradually exposing your baby to periods of separations, you can help them build resilience and confidence over time. Remember to be patient with both yourself and your little one. With love, patience, and understanding, you can help your baby overcome separation anxiety and thrive as they grow.


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