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Mamahood asks Meg: Separation Anxiety

Mamahood asks Meg: Separation Anxiety

Question: 

 I understand that a certain amount of Separation Anxiety is normal in babies after 8 months. But in the event that a previously easy going happy child refuses any other contact except for his/her mother, even waking up frequently at night to see if mom is still around, how can one help this child with the current anxiety as well as to avoid it from becoming a more serious problem in the future?

Meg Faure answers:

Separation anxiety is hard to manage as a parent. It is valuable to understand why it happens as this helps us to know how to manage it.

1. Normal milestones

There are specific ages when you can expect separation anxiety to affect sleep

  • At 7-9 months when a baby cognitively realises that their mother (who they previously though of as an extension of them) is a separate person and separates from them. This creates the type of anxiety with separation from mom that you describe.
  • In the toddler years when fears and anxiety become common when the toddler develops autonomy and imagination

2. Sensory sensitive babies

Sensitive babies seek close proximity to mom because she is ‘safe space’ – she is predictable. These babies become unsettled if separated from mom for any period of time.

3. Response to life event

An upheaval such as a the birth of a sibling, mom starting work, a nanny leaving or going to crèche can result in separation anxiety.

The first response is to take the time to identify why your baby has separation anxiety. It sounds like this little one is going through normal 7-10 month separation anxiety. To ensure it progresses swiftly with no log term consequences, take the following measures to decrease the separation anxiety:

  • Play separation games such as hide and seek and peek a boo
  • Encourage a transition object such as a doodoo blanky
  • Do not be tempted to sneak out – always say goodbye and be joyful with reunions
  • Play Watch, Wait and Wonder games to help your baby feel more secure

Be patient with your little one – it is a stage and if managed with empathy, one that will pass.

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