Now that your little one’s starting to assert his independence, it seems counterintuitive that he’s also becoming clingier. After being dropped off happily at daycare for a month, he bursts into tears when you say goodbye. Or when grandparents visit, arms outstretched, he grabs onto you and won’t let go. Although Grandma may take it a bit personally, separation anxiety has nothing to do with her —- and everything to do with you and your baby.
Separation anxiety is a normal developmental stage for babies 6 months and up. Your baby’s aware of object permanence, so he can remember people after they’ve gone away, but has no sense of time, so he can’t remember how long they’ve been gone. You’re the most important person in your baby’s life, so, once he realizes you’re going, the tears start. In his mind, you’re leaving him for good! Your baby needs to learn that Mommy always comes back.
Don’t sneak out!
Getting your baby involved in a favorite activity can distract him from getting too upset when you leave. As tempting as it sounds, that doesn’t mean you should just slip out once he’s sidetracked. Though it’s hard to watch your baby’s distress, disappearing will only make matters worse next time. Seeing you leave cheerfully, and return as promised, will teach him that goodbyes aren’t forever.
If this is baby’s first time with a new caregiver, you can prepare by giving him time to get to know her. For the first few encounters, help him get comfortable by staying for half an hour, so he realizes this is someone you trust. In the case of a familiar caregiver, you’ll need to work together to get through this phase. One smart mom found a place, like a porch or back window, where she could watch her baby calm down without being seen. It made her feel much better to see him stop crying in a matter of minutes!
Friends and Grandparents
Last visit, your baby played happily with Grandma for hours while you went shopping. This time, though, he cries as soon as you nip out to the bathroom. Babies’ memories are short, and that visit three weeks ago is long forgotten. Give your baby time to get accustomed to Grandma all over again, especially if they haven’t seen each other for a while. As baby grows, he’ll start to remember her for longer periods. Then Grandma can look forward to big smiles —- and open arms.