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Separation Anxiety in Babies: How To Deal With

If your baby clings to you when you try to leave him/her or refuses to calm down unless you hold them in your arms, they may be going through separation anxiety. If you're experiencing these behaviors with your baby, know that it's completely normal.

Contrary to what some may believe, separation anxiety is actually a sign that you're doing a great job as a parent and that your bond with your child is strong and healthy. So, while it can be tough to deal with at the moment, take comfort in the fact that it's a natural part of your baby's development.

Separation Anxiety in Babies

NHS says: It is common for young children between 6 months and 3 years of age to experience separation anxiety and fear of strangers, which are considered normal aspects of their development, and they typically outgrow these feelings.

Separation anxiety is a normal and common experience for babies, usually starting around 6 to 8 months of age and continuing through toddlerhood (typically begins to manifest around 6 to 8 months of age and peaks around 10 to 18 months of age). It is a normal part of their development as they begin to form attachments to their primary caregivers and learn that they are separate individuals from them.

What Causes Separation Anxiety in Babies

Here are a few reasons your baby may be experiencing separation anxiety:
  • Your child's brain is developing. Babies are smart and will quickly realize their actions impact the people around them. i.e. "If I cry, mommy will pick me up!"
  • Your baby has formed an emotional attachment to you. Babies will quickly associate feelings of love and security with their parents.  

Separation Anxiety in Babies Symptoms

Here are some common symptoms of separation anxiety in babies:
  • Clinginess: Babies with separation anxiety may become clingy and want to be held or stay close to their caregiver at all times.
  • Crying or fussiness: When separated from their caregiver, babies may cry or become fussy, especially if they sense that the caregiver is leaving or out of their sight.
  • Refusal to sleep alone: Babies with separation anxiety may have difficulty sleeping alone and may require the presence of their caregiver to fall asleep.
  • Fear of strangers: Babies may become wary or fearful of unfamiliar people, especially when their primary caregiver is not present.
  • Physical symptoms: Separation anxiety can also cause physical symptoms such as stomachaches, headaches, or even vomiting.
Don't be alarmed if your baby doesn't show signs of separation anxiety; it doesn't mean that something is wrong. Babies have their own unique personalities. But also be aware that separation anxiety could crop up in toddlerhood.

How to Deal with Separation Anxiety in Babies

Here are 4 Tips to Ease Separation Anxiety in Babies:

1. Pay No Attention to Independence Teaching

Lots of parenting advice will teach you to resist the natural urge to hold and comfort your child. After all, babies should learn to be more independent. They should be able to play quietly by themselves and not need constant parental contact. Right?

Well, this is fine for older kids and teenagers, but not so much for babies.

While encouraging independence is necessary, it's more important to let your baby know that you'll be there for them.

If your child cries, go ahead and pick him or her up. Doing this will continue to communicate the language of acceptance and comfort between the both of you.

2. Play Games

Babies who experience separation anxiety feel that their security and safety are being threatened. But games like peek-a-boo help your child better understand that you wouldn't be gone forever and will eventually return.

3. Slowly Introduce your Baby to Other People

There will come a time when you'll have to leave your baby with other people, such as daycare or babysitters. This is especially true if you're a working parent.

Start slowly by introducing your baby to these caregivers.

Begin with short visitation times with you, the child, and the caregiver. Start with 10 minutes, then move up to 15 minutes, half an hour, and 1 hour. If you feel more time is needed to make the transition easier, please do so. Follow your gut.

Use your gut instinct on selecting baby sitter for your child. If someone doesn't connect with your child, or if you're uncomfortable follow your gut. Hire someone else.

4. Say Goodbye with Positivity and Encouragement

The first few goodbyes between you and baby will be very difficult for both of you. Explain to your child that you have to leave, but will be back soon.

This may seem silly because your baby wouldn't be able to understand the words you're saying. Don't let this stop you.

Don't sneak away without saying goodbye. You may think that sneaking out is easier than saying goodbye, but this can increase your baby's anxiety.

The same is true of prolonged goodbyes. The longer you stay around after saying goodbye, the more painful the situation becomes.

Allow your child to begin to understand the connection between the words goodbye and your leaving. But with the assurance that you will return.

What to do if your child is crying when you're about to leave?

Provide positive preparation.

Gently rub your infant's back while saying soothing, positive and encouraging things like:

"Mommy/Daddy loves you."

"I have to leave, but I'll be back soon, I love you.

Kiss your baby, and leave the room with a reassuring smile.

A reassuring smile translates that everything is fine. Kids are very smart. Even at such a young age, babies can pick up on negative emotions.

Separation Anxiety in Babies At Night

At night, separation anxiety can manifest as a baby waking up crying or fussing when they realize that their parents/caregiver is not nearby. This can be particularly challenging for parents, as it can disrupt their sleep and cause them to feel helpless and exhausted.

Signs of Separation Anxiety in Babies at Night

Separation anxiety can manifest differently in babies, but some signs of nighttime separation anxiety may include:
  • Crying and fussiness when put down to sleep
  • Waking up frequently during the night
  • Refusing to sleep in their own bed
  • Clinging and wanting to be held
  • Difficulty calming down

How to Deal With Separation Anxiety in Babies At Night

Separation anxiety in babies at night can be distressing for both parents/caregiver and the baby. There are several strategies that parents can use to help their baby cope with nighttime separation anxiety:
  • Establish a bedtime routine: Having a consistent bedtime routine can help your baby feel more secure and comfortable at night. You can include activities such as a warm bath, story-telling, and cuddling.
  • Provide comfort objects: Giving your baby a special blanket or stuffed animal can provide them with a sense of security and comfort when they are separated from you.
  • Gradually lengthen separation time: Gradually increase the amount of time they spend away from you. This can be done by leaving the room for short periods and gradually increasing the length of time you are away.
  • Respond to your baby's needs: When your baby wakes up crying or fussing at night, respond to their needs promptly. This can help them feel more secure and reduce their anxiety.
  • Practice "gradual extinction" sleep training: Gradually reduce the amount of time you spend comforting your baby when they wake up at night. This can help them learn to self-soothe and fall back asleep on their own.


Separation anxiety can be hard on you and your partner. Fortunately, this is a phase that will pass with time.

The bottom line is this. You are doing the best you can. Don't be too hard on yourself. As I said in the beginning, infant separation anxiety is healthy and shows that there's a strong, loving bond between you and your child.


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