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How to deal with separation anxiety

little boy in his mom's arms because he has separation anxiety

Key points:
1. Separation anxiety is triggered by object permanence.
2. Introduce caregivers early to ease anxiety.
3. Say goodbye to establish a consistent pattern.
4. Encourage independent play to build confidence.

At some point during your baby’s development, they will experience separation anxiety. This is completely normal, and the good news is that for the vast majority of babies, this fear happens in phases and doesn’t last that long. Here are some tips that may help you and your baby!

Why does my baby have separation anxiety?

Once your baby realizes that objects and people still exist even if they can’t see them (this concept is called object permanence), they might get anxious if you go away. This happens because, once your little one understands the concept of object permanence, they think you decided to leave, and since they don’t know when you’ll be back, separation anxiety is triggered.

Tips for parents

This kind of anxiety is a normal emotional stage of development, however, we know it can be difficult for parents to cope with a baby who gets panicky and upset when they’re not around. So here are some ideas and tips you can try at home!

Introduce strangers early on

It might help if your baby knows everyone early on. You can try introducing the babysitters, relatives, and friends who’ll be caring for them when you’re gone. Between 6 and 8 months, your baby usually likes everyone, so getting them to know their future caretakers could make them more comfortable when separation anxiety strikes.


Say goodbye

Although you may want to spare your baby’s (or your) feelings by leaving without saying goodbye, this might spike their anxiety. What your child needs is to learn a simple pattern: you say goodbye, you leave, and you return later. Explaining to your child what will happen every time you leave might help them. Even if your baby doesn’t understand your words yet, they will very soon! 

Be consistent

Try to do the same routine each time when you leave your baby. Try to leave at the same time each day, so you can avoid unexpected things or setbacks and be back by the time you said you would. This can allow your child to trust you and build their independence. Also, foster their confidence and reassure them that you’ll be back, returning by the time you promised so they can build this trust. 

Encourage independent play

Teaching your child to play by themself will allow them to grow out of the separation anxiety phase as they develop the confidence and patience to be alone for a while. It’s important to note that independent play is a learned skill that you can teach your baby. Just remember, it won’t be accomplished overnight.

First, you can try to turn your attention to a book while sitting next to your baby. A few days later, move a few feet away during playtime; then, across the room; then, try standing up; and, eventually, leave the room for a minute or two. With time, your baby will get used to you leaving and coming back.

Create quick goodbye rituals

Rituals and routines are important. They give your baby the structure and security to know what will happen next. Having a special “goodbye handshake” at night will help them learn that you may be leaving for a while, but you’ll be coming back in the morning. You can try special hand movements, give them lots of kisses, or provide a special blanket or toy as you leave. Remember to keep the goodbye short and sweet. If you delay, the transition time does too and the anxiety kicks in.

Hope these tips help! Let us know in the comment section what are some of the things you do to help your baby with their anxiety.

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10 Responses

  1. I have a 5 month (corrected age: 5 months minus 6 weeks) old who starts crying in the evening after I have put him to bed and leave the room and smiles instantly when I enter a room. Is this separation anxiety already? How to manage this situation without teaching the child that he just needs to cry and I will return?

    1. Hi Merle, your baby is still young. It is normal that he prefers you over any other sensory experience in this new world outside your womb. For your little one to form a secure attachment, keep responding with love, warmth, and care when he needs you. This way you’ll become a trusted person, and he’ll feel safe to play, learn, and explore since he’ll know that he can count on you as a source of safety and comfort. Your baby is beginning to grasp object permanence, which is the ability to understand that a person or object still exists, even when it’s out of sight. Encourage this new skill of object permanence by playing peekaboo and hide-and-seek games often, either with people or objects. Not only does your baby love them, but they’re good for her cognitive development. And they can also eventually get him to understand that you will be coming back when you leave, which can be a comfort during the tough separation anxiety phases. You can follow some of the other tips in this article, and say goodbye, while leaving for short periods, so he knows you are coming back.

  2. hallo, this is a great article. I am going to start work but been trying to introduce regular milk to my baby but she has failed. She cries for hours not minding getting hungry. I give the care taker to feed her but she cries alot without drinking it.i need advise

    1. Hello Alexandria! Don’t worry, many babies have a hard time when it comes to bottle-feeding. Here are some tips you can apply to help your little one through this stage. Try different people to give her the bottle, try offering when she isn’t very hungry, this will help your baby learn this new skill with more patience. You can also try feeding your baby in different positions, like walking around the room. Change the temperature of the milk and try using different bottle nipples.

  3. Hi I need help urgently I have a 2 and half year old boy and a 11 month old boy who just to have steps but I don’t y my elder one push him every time , not sharing toy with him if we something separate to younger son he snatched that too, even show tantrum to me and other family members too, gets angry too fast but comes back to normal too.

    1. Hi, because your 2-year-old son’s brain is still developing, it’s normal for him to get very excited, frustrated, sad, or angry about something and react accordingly. Since he has limited verbal skills, when he has a tantrum, he is actually communicating that he is struggling with an intense feeling or that he can’t solve a problem that seems unsurmountable. You can try to be a calm and reassuring model, think ahead because children are more tantrum-prone if they become very tired or hungry, have clear feeding schedules, rests, and quiet times, give him some minutes of warning before changing activity, acknowledge emotions as they appear and put them into words to avoid them escalating into actions, try to understand the reason behind the meltdown, create a safe space where your child can explore relationships and emotions while resting assured you still love him, when he has calmed down, tell the story of what happened during the tantrum. Emphasize the emotion that arose and why, and remind him of the fact that you stayed there. When he’s ready, give her a big hug and ask her if she feels better. These are some of the techniques that you can use, for more information, you can consult with a professional too or write to us at 🙂

  4. That’s great advice. Thanks
    I will try playing peek a boo. To be fair, my baby is not too bad and can cope if I leave the room and if I’m focused on something else, but only if all of his needs have been met. If he is tired he hates being separated.

  5. My comment is about I want some tips how to help my baby to eat by himself, he doesn’t want to to eat anything by his hands just get upset when he try to eat!! Thank you!!

    1. Hi! First of all, you need to make sure that your baby is not rejecting solids because he isn’t ready yet. Remember that some indicators that your little one is ready for weaning are that he can sit without support, controls his head, opens his mouth, and leans forward when food is offered. If you have doubts about your baby’s readiness for solid introduction, we recommend asking your pediatrician. Now, if your baby is rejecting a food in particular, don’t worry. The fact that he didn’t accept it the first time doesn’t mean that he won’t want to eat it ever again. Sometimes you’ll need to offer something 10-15 times before your baby eats it and enjoys it! You can try offering this food on different days and in different presentations so that your little one doesn’t get annoyed by insisting on just one day. It’s very important to be patient during this stage. If you need more information, you can search in our blog or write to us at

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