Separation anxiety is a funny thing.
On the one hand, it may feel good to know that your baby loves you so much that they cannot be apart from you. On the other hand, it can be extremely frustrating when you cannot even go to the toilet without carrying your bub with you. Dealing with separation anxiety starts with understanding why it is happening. So here is a rundown on what separation anxiety is and why your baby is experiencing it.
What is Separation Anxiety?
The heart of separation anxiety comes from the fact that your baby realizes that they are an individual person and not a part of you. For the first six months of their life, they will not have a sense of ‘self’ but rather they will see you and them as the same.
Separation anxiety normally begins around the age of seven months. It is around this time that they realise that they are not attached to you and that you are able to leave them. This can be a great feeling but it can also leave your baby feeling quite anxious.
Separation anxiety means that your child gets upset when you leave them, even for a minute. They may want to be held all the time or they may be happy to be with others or on their own as long as they can see or hear you. You will notice that they are constantly looking for you and becomes anxious if you are not around.
It can be hard to see separation anxiety from your baby’s perspective as you understand independence and have a firm awareness of the self. Your baby does not. As your child gets older, they will start to develop a sense of self and become comfortable and confident with other people. Letting them stay with babysitters and other family members for a short period of time will show them that you always do come back.
In time, your child will identify other people and will begin to remember that when you leave the room, you do come back.
How to Handle Separation Anxiety?
There are a lot of conflicting theories about separation anxiety.
Attachment parenting, for example, focuses on allowing your child to remain as close to you as possible during these first years to help develop comfort and security. It suggests that, to build a sense of confidence, your baby needs to know that you are there from day one.
This means picking them up as soon as they cry, feeding them when they want it and communicating with them with smiles. When they do have separation anxiety and you must leave them, always tell them you are coming back with lots of smiles and cuddles.
Let them know you are going rather than sneaking away and try to remain calm. They can sense your anxiety about leaving, which can make it even harder for them.
However, other theories suggest letting your child explore the world on their own from day one. Some theories suggest that letting your baby cry for a short period of time will help them in the long run. How you choose to handle separation anxiety will depend entirely on your parenting style and what you feel comfortable with.
The good news is that separation anxiety will eventually stop.
As your child develops independence and self-awareness, they will be happier to explore the world without you and will want to do things on their own.
However, it is important that you provide them with a comfortable and safe environment to explore to help them feel confident to do things without you. Allow them to know that you are always there but that it is okay to explore on their own.