safe motherhood


Separation anxiety

During the first few months, you and your baby are almost one person. You have to do their thinking for them and work out what they need. Your baby will take this for granted, assuming you are part of them.

Gradually, somewhere in the middle of the first 12 months, your baby will begin to understand that you are a separate being and not always there. They will start to worry about losing you.

Separation anxiety starts somewhere between six and 10 months and comes in varying degrees, depending on the child.

"With my elder daughter I had to resign myself for a number of months to cooking dinner with her clamped to my leg like a young koala, while group visits to the loo were commonplace for more than two years," remembers Anne, mother of two girls.

What can you do to make your baby less anxious?

• Build up your baby's trust. Reassure your baby by showing him or her that you're still there, even when they can't see you. For instance, sing or talk while you're in the next room.

• Help your baby establish a bond with someone reliable who will look after him or her when you are away, such as Grandma or a babysitter. Introduce this person to your baby gradually, over a period of time.

• When you do have to leave your child, establish a short goodbye routine. Don't be tempted to sneak off! If he or she turns around to find you have disappeared without warning, they'll lose some of the trust they have put in you, making it more likely that they'll be fearful and clingy the next time.

• Recognise your child's limits and don't push them too far, too quickly.

• Comfort your baby now and you will ensure that they'll grow confident enough later to explore their world from a secure base.

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