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Guide To Dealing With The Separation Anxiety Phase

As much as we’d all love to have an on-demand button for giggles and grins, the reality is that keeping your baby entertained can sometimes feel like trying to juggle a thousand balls at once (challenging, to say the least!). Whether you’re a rookie or a seasoned pro at this whole baby-taming business, we’re here to help you navigate the tricky waters of keeping your little explorer amused.

In this guide we’ll be covering:

  • Why does my baby cry when I leave the room?
  • Tips on dealing with separation anxiety
  • How to encourage independent play

Why Does My Baby Cry When I Leave The Room?

Ah, the classic “where did mummy/daddy go?” meltdown. This is caused by separation anxiety. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Babies are hardwired to be attached to their caregivers, so when you suddenly disappear, it’s like the grand finale of a magic trick gone wrong (ta-daa… oh wait, where did you go?). 

So, why does this happen? At around 8 months, babies start to realise that objects (yes, including mom and dad) still exist even if they can’t see them – an ability known as object permanence. This newfound awareness, while adorable, triggers a “what if they never come back?” panic in their pint-sized hearts. The good news is that separation anxiety is just a phase – it might feel difficult at the time, but it’ll eventually pass.

Tips On Dealing With Separation Anxiety

Here are a few tricks up our sleeves to help you and your little one through this tearful phase. Think of it as your very own survival guide for those “I need you every second” moments.

  • Practice makes perfect: Start with short absences. Sneak off to the bathroom like a ninja and return before your baby realises you’ve been gone. Gradually increase the time so your tiny human learns that your vanishing acts are only temporary.
  • Familiarity is key: Leave behind an item of clothing that smells like you – it’s like a snuggly security blanket infused with your scent. Your baby might not fully grasp the concept, but they’ll definitely appreciate the soothing scent of their favourite person (that’s you, by the way).
  • Say bye-bye in style: Make goodbyes quick and cheerful. Don’t make a dramatic exit worthy of a tear-jerking movie scene. Instead, slip away with a smile and a wave, leaving your baby with the impression that you’re just off to fetch more milk for their endless supply of baby bottles.

Encourage Independent Play Among Babies

Here’s a pro trip – encouraging independent play could be your secret weapon when dealing with separation anxiety. By fostering your little one’s confidence in playing on their own, you’re not only nurturing their sense of adventure but also easing those “I don’t want you to leave” tantrums. 

According to Parents.com, a baby is happy playing all by themselves for about 5 minutes when they are 6 months old. Jump ahead to 12 months, and they can usually keep themselves occupied for around 15 minutes when playing solo. As they hit 18 months, that solo playtime could stretch to 15 or even 20 minutes. And by the time they hit 2 years old, you can expect them to hold on to that solo play for a solid 30 minutes!

Here are tried and true tips in teaching your child to play independently:

  • Toy treasure trove: Surround your baby with a variety of toys. This would allow them to embark on exciting quests involving squeaky rubber duckies and plush unicorns. Having choices encourages curiosity and keeps boredom at bay.
  • Solo playdates: Set aside regular times for solo play. This helps your baby get used to the idea of playing on their own without relying on you or others for entertainment.
  • Messy masterpieces: Embrace controlled messiness. Provide safe materials like soft blocks or non-toxic finger paints and let your baby dive into the world of creative chaos. Sure, it might require some cleanup, but their happiness will be worth the hassle.

Remember, parenting is like trying to fold a fitted sheet – it’s a bit messy, but you eventually figure it out, or at least develop your own unique style. As your tiny tot grows, so will their interests and abilities, and you’ll keep adapting and learning right alongside them. So, roll out the playmat, bring out the toys, and let your baby embark on their own adventure (while you enjoy a hot cup of coffee – or a nap!)

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Take a look at our Grow with Me development toy boxes. Rather than worrying about their developmental progress after they’re born, leave that to us. We provide a monthly research-based sensory subscription for developing cognitive & motor skills through play in 0-24 month olds, leaving you to focus on spending quality time with your new family addition!