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How to deal with baby separation anxiety in parents

Baby separation anxiety is very real. It can come on suddenly and take you by surprise but rest assured it’s a normal development phase for a baby and should lessen as they get older. But what about your separation anxiety?

You may have been prepared for your baby’s anxieties but what not your own. It’s not just babies who get separation anxiety. Parents suffer from separation anxiety when being parted from their child too.

If you suspect you’re suffering from separation anxiety in relation to your baby then see this definition of anxiety to learn more about the symptoms.

Baby separation anxiety: Anxieties triggered by birth Having a baby in itself can bring to the surface anxieties in parents. I had one patient who, after having her son, began to suffer from panic attacks. She had a traumatic birth which triggered feelings of vulnerability. She began to have concerns about her health. With every ache and pain she began to fear that she had a terminal disease and then became distressed about what would happen to her son if she died.

I see many patients with these kinds of issues. In this case the birth caused my patient to lose her sense of control. Plus she had never thought how important her son would be to her. Feeling a lack of control makes anyone feel extremely vulnerable.

Baby separation anxiety: Leaving your baby The thought of leaving your baby can be horrendous. This is completely natural. Since your baby was born you’ve been responsible for his care 24/7. How can anyone look after him the way you can? Will they know that he’s hungry or that he needs his dummy? You know how that particular cry sounds. You worry about his safety. What if something happens when you’re not there? What if he misses you? What if he cries and no one else can console him?

These anxieties can be triggered by planning to leave your baby with another caregiver for a couple of hours or by planning to return to work and contemplating longer term care.

Baby separation anxiety: Returning to work Angela started feeling anxious about leaving her baby and returning to work just weeks after her baby was born. Such anxieties are normal. They happen because of the attachment you have to your baby but they can spoil the quality of your life and make it hard to function.

Angela and her husband had planned to send her daughter to nursery when she was nine months old so Angela could return to work at the hospital as a nurse.

As time went on Angela became less and less keen about the prospect of sending her daughter to nursery. She discussed it with her husband who was adamant that they needed her salary. She suggested moving to a smaller house, getting rid of a car and looked for ways to make extra money. Angela’s baby was a poor sleeper and although she wanted to start her own business she just didn’t have the energy to put in to it which increased her worry and stress.

Baby separation anxiety: Other caregivers Angela approached her mother about looking after the baby. Her mother had poor health and didn’t feel she could commit to more than half a day a week. At first Angela was happy that her mother, whom she trusted, would be able to care for her daughter even for some of the time. They had a trial run but Angela’s anxiety was bad. She kept calling her mother to remind her to feed her daughter at certain times and how to make the milk and to remind her that she needed her muslin to fall asleep. She imagined something had happened to her baby. They persevered but she didn’t feel any better about it.

When the time came for Angela’s baby to start nursery she was a wreck. The thought of handing her baby over to a stranger was making her physically ill. Her daughter cried when she passed her to the caregiver at the nursery but Angela managed to steal herself to leave. She looked in the window from the car park and saw her daughter happily playing.

Baby separation anxiety: Angela’s solution However, Angela still struggled to concentrate at work and felt resentful that someone else was looking after her daughter when she wanted to be. She couldn’t convince herself that her baby was OK and frequently burst in to tears at the hospital. Colleagues and friends told her that it would get easier but Angela didn’t find it to be the case. So she sold her car and got a new part time job on a ward where she could work a couple of night shifts and one day on the weekend.

Angela is now pregnant with her second child and worried about being separated from her baby all over again.

This type of anxiety is natural but there are things you can do to help you cope.

Baby separation anxiety: How to cope Guilt is an emotion that parents suffer from although it’s not very helpful. Admit that you feel guilty but remind yourself that, for example, going to work is in your child’s interest so that you can keep a roof over their head, feed and clothe them.

Remind yourself that if you feel anxious about being separated from your child then you have a healthy attachment to your child. You wouldn’t want this to not exist. The key is to manage it so it doesn’t consume your life.

If you’re anxious about leaving your child with another caregiver remind yourself that everyone does things differently and differently isn’t necessarily worse.

Baby separation anxiety: CBT therapy If your anxiety is ruining the quality of your life than you might want to think about CBT therapy to treat your baby separation anxiety. Left untreated anxiety can cause depression so it’s best to deal with it.

CBT therapy can help correct your brain processes and faulty thinking. You can do this with a therapist or on your own at home. There are programs that you can work through on your computer at home and also that you can use to get started.

If you’re prepared to put in the effort you too can overcome your anxiety.

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