Tips for Handling Separation Anxiety in Babies and Toddlers During the Pandemic
Separation anxiety is tough on both mom and baby (and older children). It’s going on a year that we’ve been in pandemic mode. During that time, many of you have had new babies or are home with your existing little ones.
Whatever the case may be, we are creatures of habit, and after periods of of being isolated with only your immediate family, many of you may be getting back to work and adapting to this... new way of life... and your little one is just not having it.
I’ve heard the term “Velcro babies” be used for this generation of newly born pandemic babies. I, myself, have mastered the art of one-handed tasks with a 9-month-old on my hip. I have cooked, typed, used the bathroom, helped my other child... really the list is endless, all with a little itty baby hanging onto my A-cups. So, it’s totally normal for your baby to express signs of that Velcro cling.
Clinginess is an instinctual response to perceived danger and anxiety. Throughout the ages, offspring - of all species - are more likely to survive if they stay close to their parents for protection when threat is near. Babies (& children) have this encoded into their biology.
Separation anxiety is extremely normal. While separation anxiety can begin as early as 4 or 5 months, it’s most common at about 9 months. It’s also very common when your baby becomes a toddler (12-15 months).
So, I know you have a lot of things to do, which may not allow you to have your baby on your hip. I recently had to leave my 9-month-old exclusively breastfed / used to nursing to sleep baby for a 24-hour birth. It was tough for everyone but we made it. Dad did so well that now the baby only wants him for bedtime sometimes now!
Here are some tips on handing separation anxiety:
- Keep a safe and stable home atmosphere with routines for baby that include siblings/dad
- Build up the length of time you’re gone gradually. For example, leave the room while baby is playing with another family member
- Call out when you’re in the other room if they’re upset so they know you’re still there and come back quickly so they see that you don’t go for long
- Leave quickly and calmly to avoid making them cry
- Do not leave for long times without saying goodbye as that can cause more anxiety. You’re disappearing without warning
- Have caregivers use distractions and games so they have a good time while you’re gone
- Talk to older babies and toddlers about your “plan for later” so they know that you’re returning. “Mommy will come out you to bed later, ok baby.”
- Leave them with something familiar if they’re not home (a toy, a piece of clothing with your scent, a blanket)
- Don’t cry in front of them. Babies are experts at picking up on emotions!
- DON’T FEEL GUILTY. It’s a sign that your baby is developing and has a healthy relationship with you. Think of it as a normal step to independence
- Know that you haven’t spoiled your baby. Look up the Bell & Ainsworth attachment studies.
- Help your baby learn that bye bye is ok. Wave bye bye at things. Play peek-a-boo to help introduce baby to the concept of being gone
- Carried babies cry less. It’s good to show other family members how to baby wear, an excellent tool to have for inconsolable little ones
Have any of you had to go through this? What did you do? Leave some tips for others ✨
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