Your baby is a sensory being! His vision is able to focus at just 18cm from his face – that means he can see your expression when you cuddle or feed him. His hearing is tuned to pick up the sound of a human voice more than any other sound in his environment. He’s even sensitive to the smell of your breastmilk. All this adds up to him knowing just who his mummy is – and when you’re close by. It’s not surprising that he realises when you’re not there as much as when you are. And that he gets upset with whoever is still around.
No cause for concern
Many mums find at some point that their previously upbeat young infant suddenly starts to burst into tears whenever she leaves the room. When your baby was younger, this separation didn’t bother him in the least (as you were probably around most of the time!), but now it does. As his already well-tuned senses develop, he’s thinking, “Where are you, mum? I miss you.” He’s got used to the reassured feeling you being nearby gives him and has no concept of where you could have gone.
He’s just maturing
The fact that your baby misses you when he is temporarily separated from you is a normal phase of development that virtually all children go through. It’s a sign of his increasing maturity and growing understanding of the world around him. He is starting to be more aware of his surroundings, more aware of your presence, and so he is more likely to pine for you when he senses you aren’t there, whether by seeing you’ve disappeared from view, or realising he’s not been held by you or heard your voice for a while.
It won’t always be a problem
Don’t panic – this is something that he will get more used to over time. You’ll find that his longing for you during temporary separations fluctuates during the first year. Sometimes he’ll be happy to spend a couple of hours with someone else, while at other times he’ll burst into tears the moment you’re out of sight. It’s up to you to keep calm so he begins to see it as a normal part of his daily life.
If your baby misses you so badly that he virtually screams the place down whenever he is apart from you, help build his resilience by ensuring that he spends time with other babies and their parents while you are still around. This develops his confidence while in the company of people other than you, and you’ll find when you do have to go somewhere without him, he’ll start to cope better than he did before.
Ways to a no-tears separations:
- Stay calm. Visible signs of distress in your face or voice will simply make him even more upset.
- Give reassurance. Soothe him and verbally reassure him that he will be fine and leave the room calmly.
- Keep at it. The more experience he has of missing you and then seeing that you return, the better equipped he will be to cope with short breaks.
- Be brave. If you avoid temporary breaks because you worry that he’ll miss you, he’ll take much longer to develop the skills needed for coping.
- Make a fuss of him when you return. Plenty of cuddles and smiles reassure him you will come back each time.