safe motherhood


Promoting security

Secure relationships tend to be those in which the parents have consistently responded to their baby's needs, so the baby feels appreciated, important and loved. Psychologists call this first relationship an attachment, by which they mean a long-lasting bond between two people - the baby and (usually) the mother.

The bond develops as the mother tunes in to what the baby needs. Some babies need a lot of time to themselves, others crave company, some like a lot of action, others to sit quietly and cuddle, and most need a bit of each, at least some of the time.

Separation anxiety

Your baby's model of the world is based on the idea that even if the two of you are not one and the same, at least the natural state of affairs is togetherness. Therefore when you try to leave your baby alone, he or she will get anxious. This is normal and healthy - and understandable too.

The most helpful thing you can do is to go with it. The fact that he or she is clingy now, doesn't mean that they will be clingy forever. In fact, they are likely to get over the clinging stage of dependency more quickly if you let them have as much of you as they want.

It can be wearing while it lasts, but once your baby understands that even when you disappear you soon come back, they'll re-find their confidence.


Children who are struggling with separation anxiety get very worried about losing their mother. They're also beginning to move off on their own, literally learning to walk, which means all sorts of new possibilities of independence that are quite scary. A solution is to find something to hold on to that can represent security: a blanket or a teddy bear or a thumb to suck that he or she can take with them whenever they're parted from you.

On the whole, the need for a comfort object diminishes when your toddler gets to three or four years old - although thumbs and teddies may still be called upon at times of stress in later life.

Points to remember

• Take separation one step at a time - it's a gradual process and can't be hurried.
• Illness, or a difficult change in some other area of your baby's life, can cause him or her to 'regress' or act in a more babyish, dependent way.
• Just because your baby protests every time you try to leave them, it doesn't mean you should stop trying.
• Don't sneak out without saying goodbye - it's not good for trust.
• Saying goodbye firmly gives your baby confidence that they can survive the parting.

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