How to deal with your baby’s separation anxiety

Separation anxiety can be stressful for both you and your baby. Here are some do’s and don’ts to make the whole process easier…

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As his mum, you’re everything to your baby and he’d love to have all your attention, all the time. But there are jobs to do, and in a few months you might be heading back to work. So what do you do if your tot can’t bear to be apart from you?

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Separation anxiety affects all children during the first two years,” says Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution. “It starts at 4-6 months old when babies realise there’s a difference between you and other people.” Crying and clinging are the two main signs. “It can be frustrating,” says Elizabeth. “But it’s part of his development and there are plenty of ways to help him through it.”

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Every child develops differently, which is all part of the fun

DO… start small

“If your baby’s happily engaged with a toy, leave the room but keep singing or talking so he knows you’re close by,” says Elizabeth. “And if he crawls after a toy, don’t follow. This way, he’ll learn that he’s safe even though you’re not beside him.” Build on these short separations, eventually leaving your baby with someone else while you go out to post a letter or meet a friend for half an hour. Your baby will begin to understand that however long you’re away, you’ll always come back.

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DO… have a few practice runs

If you’re planning on going back to work, help your baby get used to being away from you. “Start by inviting your childminder round to get to know your baby while you’re at home,” says Elizabeth. “Let them play together and on the second visit go into a different room. Your baby will feel safe because he knows you’re still around.” By gradually increasing the time and distance you’re apart, he’ll happily spend a whole day with his childminder once you start work.”

If your first try-out goes well, repeat the experience within a week, says Elizabeth. Wait too long and your baby will have forgotten how much fun it was and you’ll have to start again.

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Babycare has changed alot over the decades

DO…be cheerful

“Smile and use a cheery voice as you go out,” advises Elizabeth. This way, even if you’re feeling nervous about leaving your baby, he won’t pick up on it. Remember, you’re leaving him with someone you trust and if you’re relaxed and confident about it, he will be too.

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DO… have a game of peek-a-boo

Peek-a-boo is a favourite with babies and teaches them a valuable lesson. “It shows your baby that even if he can’t see you, you still exist and you will come back,” says Elizabeth. “As well as hiding your face behind your hands, try leaving the room and ask, ‘Where’s Mummy?’ before popping back and saying, ‘Peek-a-boo!’”

You could try playing games with objects too. Hide a toy under a blanket, letting your baby feel it so he understands it’s still there and then whisk the blanket away.

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“If I leave the room while Willow’s playing, she gets very upset and I have to keep popping back to reassure her. So I play a game with her, sticking my head round the door every now and then so she knows I’m still around and that does help,” said Anja Abdulla, 20, from Ireland, mum to Willow, 10 months.

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