Babies usually tend to show separation anxiety from a very early age – around 6 to 7 months. Although this may not be the case for all, as some of them may face it at the age of 10 to 12 months, what stays common here is that this usually occurs when you leave the child/infant for long hours at a stretch – for work or any other commitment.
Do all babies go through bouts of separation anxiety?
To an extent, yes, they do. It is a normal sign in a child’s growing up years because it shows that your infant is having a normal emotional development, whereby the child is able to understand the absence of the parent, enough to make him/her feel uneasy about it. The child learns to understand the concept of object permanence.
When do babies get separation anxiety – what to do and how to notice the symptoms
Babies can’t really express themselves in words so, in order to understand whether something is affecting them, you must notice how they react to situations. Keeping this in mind, let us see a few signs which show whether your baby is suffering from separation anxiety.
· Notice whether your baby suffers from interrupted sleep
This is a very noticeable sign for babies who suffer from separation anxiety. They usually wake up multiple times throughout the night looking for his/her mother. This is especially noticeable if the infant usually sleeps uninterrupted. This shows that the baby is looking for reassurance from the primary caregiver – the mother.
· Notice that your infant wakes up earlier than usual
This usually happens when your child is unsure of whether you are around, which is why they wake up almost immediately after falling asleep or within some time and then have a hard time falling back to sleep unless you are around. Although this can seem exhausting, understand that it is a good sign too, because it shows that your infant is close to you and feels your absence.
· Your baby begins to cry and get restless when being left with someone else (a secondary caregiver)
You will notice that when you leave your baby with someone else such as a baby sitter or at a nursery, your child becomes extremely restless and disturbed, although previously he has enjoyed being in their company. This can happen when the baby is left with close family members too – such as his/her father or grandparents.
· Your infant becomes restless and cranky when you leave him/her alone
You will notice that even a small work becomes a huge task because your baby just won’t want to leave you out of sight, for even a minute. Even if you were to visit the washroom, it would become a nightmare, because your baby will assume that you are leaving, which is why he/she will bring the house down!
· Your baby will never want to play alone and will detest it always
You’ll notice that your baby stops playing with his/her favorite toy, all of a sudden. This may be a sign of growing up and getting over toys, but then it can also be a sign of your child suffering from separation anxiety. This is because the child is hoping that you will be playing with her/him. It may become slightly exhausting but then it is suggested that you do as your baby wants, because it will also help him/her find assurance.
When do babies get separation anxiety and how to prevent it?
There isn’t a sure-shot way of actually preventing separation anxiety, because it is what your child feels. However, what you can do is, try to divert your baby’s mind from feeling like you are abandoning him/her. Some ways in which you can successfully handle the question when do babies get separation anxiety are –
- Play a game of peek-a-boo – Every baby loves peek-a-boo. This game usually helps a baby realize that though things may disappear from plain sight, it comes back again.
- Always say what you mean and vice-versa – Babies are very sensitive and can understand exactly what you’re trying to convey. So, when you tell your baby ‘goodbye’, stick to it. Even if your infant cries, don’t walk back into the room as that will only increase dependence. Let someone else like the baby’s father or grandparents calm him/her down.
- Never try to sneak out – No matter what you do, don’t sneak out or vanish all of a sudden as that is bound to make the infant feel anxious and make your absence felt all the more. Let your baby notice you leave so that he/she understands your absence.
- Prepare your baby in advance – This is to suggest that, when you are planning on putting your baby in daycare or a nursery, let the transition be slow and gradual. Start by taking small steps – leave the infant for a while with his father or grandparents, then start by leaving with the nanny.
- This way, your baby will slowly and gradually get accustomed to having a secondary caregiver around and will accept their presence, in your absence. Let your baby practice being in your absence.
To understand when do babies get separation anxiety, you must understand that the whole process although tiring is necessary. Your baby will have to get used to not having you around at all times. And though this may bother him/her if you try to inculcate the idea of having a secondary caregiver around, they’ll understand how to substitute you during your absence. This way, not only will your baby get used to the idea of not having you around for a specific time frame, they’ll know when to expect you too.
Although you can never really predict when and why separation anxiety may happen in your infant, it is best to stay prepared and know how to comfort your little one so that he/she feels safe and secure even when you aren’t around.