How to curb baby clinginess

Separation anxiety can be stressful for you and your baby. Check out our dos and don'ts to help you break the barrier


Do start small

“If you baby’s happily engaged with a toy, leave the room but keep singing or talking so he knows you’re close by. And if he crawls after a toy, don’t follow, so he’ll learn he’s safe even though you’re not beside him,” says Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution.

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Do stay calm

“No matter how drained you are by your baby’s inability to let anyone else care for him, try to stay in control. Separation anxiety is typically a short-lived phase,” says Dr Richard Woolfson, child psychologist.

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Do be cheerful

“He’s very sensitive to your presence and as a result, your baby reacts the moment you disappear from vision. When you tell him you’ll be back in a moment, say it with a smile so he’ll begin to feel trust,” advises Dr Woolfson.

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Do trust your childcare

“It’s important to have confidence in your childcare provider. Remember, they’ll be well qualified and practised in making babies feel happy,” explains Sue Atkins, parenting coach.

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Do persevere

“If you avoid temporary separations because of your baby’s clinginess, you’ll never have any time on your own. He may crawl after you and appear at your ankles; it’s his way of telling you, ‘You’re not going anywhere without me’. He needs your encouragement to let go,” says Dr Woolfson.


Don’t sneak away

“Tiptoeing away when he’s asleep or distracted will only make him worry. Always wave goodbye so your baby knows you’re going. Try putting your baby on the floor with some toys so you can say goodbye to him without a physical separation,” says Elizabeth.

Put your baby over your shoulder, supporting his bottom with your arm, and use your free hand to rub and pat his back.

Don’t prolong things when you are leaving

“Sometimes it only takes a step towards a door to set off tears. Keep separations brief – drop your little one off at childcare and give him a quick hug. Calm him when you come back and reassure him,” suggests Dr Woolfson.

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Don’t overwhelm him with new people

“Your baby’s likely to feel tense in groups, so don’t pass him around. Let people talk to him in the safety of your embrace and he’ll be more accepting of strangers,” advises Elizabeth.

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Don’t fear the worse

“Clinginess doesn’t mean your child will have emotional difficulties later on. One study found children who take time to settle with carers are more alert, curious and assertive once they feel at ease,” explains Dr Woolfson.

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Don’t worry all day

Ok, so this one is easier said than done, but chances are your baby won’t be worrying. “Call around 15 to 20 minutes after you leave. By that time, most babies will have calmed down and should be playing happily,” says Sue.

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