How to Ease Separation Anxiety for Infants

Babies naturally feel more comfortable around certain people like mom, dad, siblings or close friends, and being left with anyone unfamiliar may create extreme anxiety for them. Handing off a child to unfamiliar arms, and then abruptly leaving may cause an unexpected and terrified reaction in your baby called separation anxiety.

When my daughter was 6 months old I found a new babysitter who came highly recommended. My baby had never experienced separation anxiety before, so it didn’t concern me now. Unfortunately, the first time she was fine, but when I tried to pass her off the 2nd day, she clung to me with all her might and screamed so hard she couldn’t catch her breath, and literally passed out. This reaction continued a couple of more times until we finally found a new sitter. I’ll never know why she had such a violent reaction, and the possibilities really scare me. That experience taught me how important it is as parents for us to become familiar with who will be taking care of our precious children, as well as letting the child adapt to the new environment before dropping them off for the first time.

When a baby feels safe and secure at home, the chances of him being well-adjusted outside the home are greater. I stress “usually” because sometimes, no matter what we do, some infants just prefer mom or dad. I used to feel bad because my children loved strangers. They would go to anyone, sometimes actually preferring someone else to me. Back then I made that mean that my kids weren’t as attached to me as the kids who clung to their parents for dear life when they were about to be passed off. I now understand that that’s not necessarily the case.

Here are a few tips that really work for helping reduce the amount of anxiety your little one has when left in the care of someone other than you:

1. If it can be helped, never just make the hand-off and leave. Take some time for your child to feel comfortable, then kiss them, and assure them you will be back, even though at that age they may not know what that means.
2. If they won’t be in your home, take some of their favorite familiar items to help them feel more at home.
3. Try to spend time around the person you will be leaving your baby with ahead of time so their face and mannerisms become familiar to baby.
4. Sometimes a baby feels separation anxiety when one parent leaves and he’s left with the other usual caregiver or parent. If this happens, share with them what tricks work for you in calming your baby down. Otherwise a conflict may be formed that’s difficult to overcome later.

Nurture your baby and let them know how much you love them. The more adjusted a child is, the less anxiety he’ll usually experience when you’re not around. But like I said earlier, that’s not always the case. So take time to prepare in advance for leaving your child with someone else. And if the baby never adjusts to the new situation, then investigate why and consider making a change. This will reduce the anxiety that both you and your little one will feel.