Rockabye-bye Baby! Dealing with Separation Anxiety in Infants

Infant care is a big milestone for both your child and you. We show you some stepping stones to ease the transition, minus the tears and fears.

As a new mum, one of the greatest and foremost concerns is to ensure that your baby is born healthy and happy. Naturally, the first few months with your newborn would be all about meeting her needs and helping her transition from the safe, comforting confines of the womb into a world of incessant stimuli bustling with life. But when your baby is around four to six months old, every working parent would arrive at the crossroads of whether to return to their careers or allow spending time with your little one to take precedence.

With the cost of living showing no signs of dropping in Singapore, being able to swap office for nursery full-time is a privilege few working mums can afford. Caught between contributing to the family’s finances and not missing the most precious years of your baby’s life can be a tough decision, with the former usually the option of choice. Over the years, infant care has become more of a need and convenience modern parents cannot do without, especially if an extra pair of hands at home is unavailable.

Once you’ve solved the conundrum of picking an infant care centre that best suits your baby’s needs, your next task is to help her ease into this new environment and make the transition as seamless and smooth as possible. By far the biggest obstacle to your tiny tot settling in at her temporary place of residence is separation anxiety. To a newborn, you as a mum are her first and most sound source of security and comfort, and to be away from you and familiar surroundings, even for just a few hours, can be an unnerving experience.

Making The Environment Yours

Unlike separation anxiety disorder, separation anxiety is a normal stage during early infant development that should last till no later than early childhood, according to the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). Most babies show signs of separation anxiety at around six months. This peaks between 10 to 18 months and eases up by two years. That said, a little due diligence can go a long way in ensuring that separation anxiety can be eased for both you and your kiddo.

For starters, introduce your baby to the infant care setting early (preferably when there are less people around) and spend some time there letting baby get used to it. Besides letting baby familiarize with the place and people there, you can also use the opportunity to check out the center yourself.

Next, bring along something from home that your child loves and feels safe with, such as her favourite plush toy, blanket or bolster. Having a slice of home and familiarity with her in a completely new setting can help her settle more gradually and comfortably. As your baby becomes more at ease, you can slowly phase the item out. Having a support system in place is also important to make this big step smaller. Share with the caregivers what works and what doesn’t with your child so that they can provide the same consistent support in your absence.

Finally, always remember that adjusting to infant care takes time and practice, so plenty of encouragement and associating the separation with a positive experience – while reminding her of the reunion to come shortly – will be useful in making this transition easier.

More Planning, Less Panicking

Do both you and your child a favour by allowing yourselves ample time to catch a breath before dropping her off at the infant care center. This involves leaving home slightly earlier to minimize being caught in the morning rush hour (or being late for work). A leisurely commute to the center full of interaction and smiles is always more conducive than a hectic rush packed with frustration and stress. If you find yourself hard pressed for time before work, try getting help from grandma or grandpa, or a fellow parent who is able to offer carpool. Working out an arrangement that allows you to come in a little later with your employer can also be a good idea to preserve your sanity and productivity.

This article was first published in Parents World magazine, Issue 71