Infant Separation Anxiety

Infant  Separation Anxiety begins  around 6-8 months when infants suddenly become fully aware that their parents exist apart from them.  They understand that their parents can leave,  but they don’t,  however,  fully understand that they are coming back.  This can last several weeks to several months.   Infants eventually realize  that their parents are not disappearing forever, but just going to the bathroom!  And they will come back.

In our ” Mommy and Me ” Program,  we “practice ” parents going away and coming back every time we play peek-a-boo and every time  we use our colored scarves while singing the  song,  “Someone is Hiding” .   This helps infants to understand and to manage their separation anxiety.  For toddler separation anxiety we also recommend  listening  to one of our favorite songs on our Hap Palmer CD entitled   “My Mommy Comes Back”.  This song is so reassuring to young children.  “My mommy comes back,  she always comes back,  she never will forget me.”

Here are 8 Tips for Handing Infant Separation Anxiety

1. Play “peek-a-boo”  several times a day. This activity is a way for babies to “practice” their understanding of going away and coming back.

2. Tell your baby you are going away into the other room and then say a big “I’m back” when you come back.

3. Introduce your baby to other regular caregivers such as grandparents or a trusted babysitter during infancy for short periods of time.  These experiences can minimize anxiety later on.

4. Keep your “good-byes” short.  Prolonging your departure can give your baby the idea there is something to fear.

5. Match your body language with your words.

6. Flash a smile and give a cheerful wave.  Your baby can sense your confidence as you walk out the door.

7. Avoid sneaking off.  This interferes with trust and increases anxiety.

8.  Instruct caregivers to redirect baby’s attention directly after you leave.  Make sure that your baby’s transitional object or “blankie” is available so that the caregiver can use it to provide extra comfort for your baby while you are gone.

Watch for tips on handling toddler separation anxiety and  stranger anxiety next week.

Ariko Yoshizawa MA and Marilee Hartling RN, MFT