by Health Tip

The first time you leave your baby with a caregiver, you might worry about how your baby will handle it, but it’s likely to be harder on you than it is on baby. Don’t worry, we can help.

Here’s everything you need to know about coping with separation anxiety—for you and baby.

When does separation anxiety occur?

As long as their needs are being met, most babies younger than six months adapt pretty well to other caregivers. Symptoms of separation anxiety will really start to sink in for baby when he/she is eight to 12 months, peaking between one to two years of age. Every baby is different, but remember that separation anxiety is a normal part of development that your baby will go through sooner or later.

What are the signs of separation anxiety?

Usual signs of separation anxiety include crying, fussing and fretting. However, call baby’s pediatrician right away if baby shows signs of:

  • Panic (nausea, vomiting or difficulty breathing)
  • Nightmares about separation
  • Fear of sleeping alone
  • Excessive worry about being lost or kidnapped

Find a Pediatrician

How do you mitigate the symptoms of separation anxiety?

Here are some ways you can make your time apart easier on yourself and on baby:

  • Timing
    • If it’s possible for you and your family, try to wait to start daycare or childcare until baby is eight months to one year old.
    • Try not to leave baby when he/she is tired, hungry or restless.
    • When you do leave baby, aim for leaving after baby’s naps or mealtimes.
  • Practice
    • Don’t leave baby with unfamiliar people. Let new babysitters or caregivers visit while you are there to get baby acquainted and comfortable.
    • Don’t leave baby in unfamiliar places, take him/her for visits first when you can be there with baby too.
    • Try leaving baby for shorter periods of time at first.
  • Be consistent
    • Create a goodbye ritual and a hello ritual and use them every time you leave and come back. Use firm, loving language and don’t come back if you hear baby cry or get upset, that will only make things worse for baby.
    • Return when you say you will so that your child can develop confidence in you.
    • Give the caregiver tips to help distract baby after you leave – favorite toys or foods to make baby relax.

Remember, this phase will pass. However, if intense separation anxiety lasts into preschool, elementary school or beyond, if it interferes with daily activities or if you have other concerns discuss it with your baby’s pediatrician.