Your baby sud­denly re­fuses to go to strangers. This is to­tally nor­mal, and even healthy

Your Baby & Toddler - - Front Page - BY YOLANDI NORTH

B efore you learn to in­te­grate your other roles back into your life af­ter hav­ing had a baby, you are 100% a mom. Your very first “sep­a­ra­tion” from your brand new baby is the state of be­ing asleep. Ini­tially this state of be­ing sep­a­rate from your new­born cre­ates anx­i­ety for mom, ex­plains Meg Faure of baby­, who is an oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pist and child­care ex­pert. That is why many moms choose to have their baby sleep in her bed. And if par­ents feel stress in be­ing away from their ba­bies, why not the other way around? “If we as adults suf­fer anx­i­ety over sep­a­rat­ing from our ba­bies for sleep times, it is un­der­stand­able that at some stage in the first few years, your baby or tod­dler too will suf­fer some anx­i­ety when sep­a­rat­ing from the per­son she de­pends on so com­pletely,” says Meg.



At birth, a baby does not yet know that she is sep­a­rate from her mother, or pri­mary care­giver. She is to­tally de­pen­dent. When some­one else tries to com­fort her, she might cry be­cause the per­son is sim­ply not sooth­ing her in the same way as Mom. How­ever, this is not sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety.

The “mem­ory” part of a baby’s brain only de­vel­ops in the sec­ond half of her first year, so she sees and recog­nises you from a very young age, but does not have a mem­ory of when you are around or not, ex­plains Meg. The con­cept of time and space is also not real for baby be­fore six months, mean­ing that she will not know for how long you are away when you do dis­ap­pear. When a toy is moved out of her sight, as far as your baby is con­cerned, it no longer ex­ists.


Around this time she also re­alises that she is her own per­son with a body and feel­ings. You will no­tice that she re­spond more to your voice, cud­dles and at­ten­tion. Hence, your baby can learn that she can ex­press her dis­plea­sure by cry­ing and reach­ing for you. Get­ting up­set if you leave her – even if it’s just for a very short pe­riod – is ab­so­lutely nor­mal.

Re­al­is­ing that you are in­deed two sep­a­rate peo­ple is an im­por­tant mile­stone. It should be cel­e­brated, and it should “All this bliss­ful ig­no­rance dis­ap­pears at around six to eight months of age, when your baby de­vel­ops ob­ject per­ma­nence,” says Meg. This sim­ply means that she learns that things and peo­ple ex­ist even when they are out of sight. This re­al­i­sa­tion can be deeply dis­tress­ing. Baby feels safest when you are around – she loves and trusts you!

cer­tainly never be re­garded as “naughty”. Your baby is still too young to un­der­stand that you will in­deed re­turn, so you need to teach her this over time.


De­vel­op­ing in­de­pen­dence and trust takes time, and it is im­por­tant to do it so that your baby starts to be able to cope with your ab­sences. She might not com­pre­hend fully what it means when you greet her, but it is still im­por­tant to do so. Never sneak out with­out say­ing good­bye, as this will just make her more anx­ious the next time you are out of sight. Al­ways ex­plain that you will be back. Even­tu­ally she will learn that sep­a­ra­tions are fol­lowed by happy re­u­nions.

Over time she will be­come more con­fi­dent and re­alise that the sep­a­ra­tion from you is only tem­po­rary. Stay­ing with a rel­a­tive, at crèche or with the nanny will be­come eas­ier for her.

Ease into leav­ing her. Try to in­tro­duce times that you are away from for short pe­ri­ods by leav­ing her with a re­spon­si­ble care­giver for 20 min­utes, then for an hour and later on for three hours. Leav­ing her with a new per­son is sure to leave her dis­tressed at first – and pos­si­bly you as well! Some ba­bies may even de­velop sleep is­sues due to their fear that Mommy will leave. Be pa­tient with both of you as you learn his new sep­a­rate­ness. Give your baby a com­fort item (like her cud­dle blan­ket or soft toy) or a piece of cloth­ing that you have worn. The fa­mil­iar smell could help her feel calmer.


Find­ing the bal­ance be­tween re­spond­ing to your baby with em­pa­thy and care, while re­mind­ing your­self that this phase will pass, is key. “But while it lasts, to avoid longterm bad habits de­vel­op­ing, be firm about not fall­ing into the trap of feed­ing or rock­ing your baby to sleep, or co-sleep­ing, if these are habits you do not wish to en­cour­age,” says Meg.

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