Why does my baby cry when I leave when they didn’t before?
Sure, it’s stressful. But your baby’s grief when you depart shows their mental maturity and strong emotional attachment to you. All good signs! Before now, your baby didn’t understand that the two of you were separate people. When you were out of sight, you were out of mind. Now when they don’t see you, they know you’re there somewhere, and they miss you. At the first sign that you’re leaving without them, they may cry or cling to you for dear life.
Baby behavior: Object permanence
Distress about separating is part of learning about object permanence, the notion that things still exist even when your little one can’t see them. What’s more, your baby hasn’t developed a good sense of time yet, so their distress may be just as deep when you leave for a minute to use the bathroom or for the day to go to work.
Babies also show separation anxiety at bedtime. As their memory develops, they know that bedtime routines, like a lullaby and being tucked in, mean the next thing that will happen is your absence.
The good news is this distress tends to be short-lived, especially when your kiddo is left with another familiar person. They’ll quickly become absorbed in a new activity and calm down. And at night, they’ll learn to fall asleep on their own.
Baby behavior: Emotional development
Most babies experience some degree of separation anxiety, so don’t worry. As painful as separation tears may be to see as a parent, learning how to separate is an important part of your baby’s emotional development. This phase peaks between 10 and 18 months old and fades by 24 months old. For some children, the feelings can persist off and on for a few years.
Baby behavior: Separation anxiety
Practice with separation helps your child get used to your coming and going. Have a sitter arrive 15 minutes early to give your baby time to adjust. Or get a new caregiver involved in an activity that doesn’t include you. Making your goodbye quick and cheerful, rather than drawn out, can help as well.
Now you know, separation anxiety in toddlers is all about growth. And love! Learn more about your child’s behaviors and developments.