Separation Anxiety in Babies and Parents

Let’s talk about separation anxiety. There is so much research on this topic concerning babies, but few discuss how parents can also have separation anxiety.

Parents Can Get Separation Anxiety Too

Personally, this is something I struggle with and I wish there was more information out there, but here is what I have learned and found helpful.

Most often separation anxiety is found in people who have a previous history of anxieties. This could stem from their own childhood or maybe a traumatic event in their life.

Separation anxiety can also be triggered by becoming a parent! It’s more likely to be found in mothers; especially mothers who breastfeed or who have had a difficult pregnancy.

For me it wasn’t so much the pregnancy but what happened immediately after delivery. My delivery was not normal and got scary really fast when I hemorrhaged immediately after my daughter made her debut appearance into the world. I believe this is the triggering moment that caused all my insecurities.

Right away I started experiencing feelings I had never felt before. Mostly wonderful feelings of experiencing a new kind of love I had never felt, but along with that, I was having feelings that I knew couldn’t be normal.

I felt ridiculous and kept the feelings bottled up inside. It was several months later before I realized these feelings are associated with having separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety is not very common in a parent but it is a very real thing. Honestly, I believe it’s probably more common then expressed. So many people are unaware of it and don’t talk about it when they are feeling it.

It’s silly that we don’t talk about it because talking about it and realizing it to be real and true has been what’s helped me cope the most.

Separation Anxiety Symptoms in Adults

If you have separation anxiety these are some of the things you may be experiencing:

  • Jealousy or fear when someone else is holding your baby.
  • Fear that something terrible will happen to your child.
  • Hesitancy to leave. (Even when you know your baby is in loving, capable hands.)
  • Difficulty sleeping when you are away from your child.
  • Never wanting to be alone.
  • Nightmares themed around being separated from your loved ones.
  • Headaches, nausea, and/or palpitations.

What You Can Do To Help With Your Separation Anxiety.

First and foremost, you have to address that you do in fact have separation anxiety. Then you can complete these steps.

  • Address your fears.
  • Find someone who will listen. Your partner, a close friend, or maybe even a professional.
  • Focus on the present.

It is so important to realize and understand your feelings so that you can have control over them and not pass your own fears and anxieties onto your own children.

Kids pick up on what someone is feeling and will mimic the emotion, so be careful about how you react and remember to always stay calm.

Also remember it is okay to breakdown. Sometimes a good cry is what you need to move forward and feel better.

Try to save the breakdowns for when your baby isn’t around, and at the same time know that you should never be afraid to express how you are feeling with someone.

Separation Anxiety in Babies

Almost every child will experience separation anxiety at some level, and believe it or not this is a good thing!

Separation anxiety is an important milestone in your child’s life. It means that they understand object permanence and they understand and feel connected to you. So connected that when you leave the room they become sad.

Your little ones will most likely begin experiencing these feelings around 6 months of age. Sometimes this phase is skipped at infancy and will begin to appear shortly after their first birthday.

If your child is still experiencing feelings of separation anxiety at 3 years of age I would advise talking with a professional to make sure your little one doesn’t have a separation anxiety disorder. There is a difference between just having anxiety and having an anxiety disorder.

How to Tell If My Baby Has Separation Anxiety

  • Your baby is clinging to you like Cheeto dust clings to your fingers.
  • They begin crying as soon as you try to take 2 minutes for yourself to go pee, or anytime you’re out of sight.
  • When you put your baby down they think it’s the end of the world.
  • They want only you, which is both flattering and exhausting.
  • Bedtime turns into several short naps throughout the night, and no one is getting a good night’s rest.

How to Help Your Baby through Separation Anxiety

There are several ways to help your baby cope with this particularly difficult milestone, and if you’re lucky it will only last 2 – 3 weeks.

  • Play lots of peek-a-boo and other games that will help them develop an understanding of what disappears comes back.
  • Have a lovie that smells like you. Sleep with it for a couple of nights to capture your scent. Maybe have two to alternate between.
  • Make the crib a happy place for a smoother bedtime. It’s okay to play in the crib too.
  • Keep a consistent bedtime routine.
  • Don’t sneak out of a room. This will only cause confusion when they open their eyes and suddenly you are gone.
  • Always stay calm.
  • If you are in a new place take a moment to show your baby the new surroundings.
  • If you are leaving your baby with a new person make sure your child is comfortable with them before leaving.
  • When you leave your baby with grandma or at daycare have a quick goodbye ritual.

How to Help Your Toddler through Separation Anxiety

The above tips are great for toddlers as well, but in addition to those here are some more great tips for helping your toddler.

  • Give your full, undivided attention when saying goodbye.
  • Give a specific timeline and speak in terms your child will understand. For example, “I will pick you up after lunch but before nap time.”
  • Mean what you say and keep any promises made.

Even with these expert tips, this will all take time and practice. Practice, practice, practice!

So whether your experiencing separation anxiety, your child is, or maybe you both are, remain strong and know that you will get through this!

Never be afraid to express your emotions or let your child express theirs.

If you find yourself struggling with this anxiety yourself or struggling to get through this with your little one, please reach out!

separation anxiety in parents and babies
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