boy with her father

Don’t Leave Me Mom – A Guide to Separation Anxiety

April 3, 2024 General /Family

When your baby screams every time you leave the room, wakes frequently at night, or now cries when grandma holds them, it’s called separation anxiety. It can be stressful, exhausting, and embarrassing, but it’s also a normal stage of development. So why does this happen?

Children do not understand yet that when we leave, we will come back, which is called object permanence. They also do not have a sense of time but are more aware of their surroundings and of the people most common in their lives. This is why when they are faced with new situations or separated from you, they often become more fearful and anxious.

Separation anxiety can be seen as early as 4-6 months, but typically is seen around 9 months and peaks between 10-18 months, usually going away by age 3. For some children separation anxiety is mild and does not last long, but for others it can be very intense and last a long time.

Signs of separation anxiety May include:

While there is nothing to prevent or quickly stop separation anxiety, there are things you can do to help. You and your baby will learn to work through it as they develop skills to cope with you leaving and other new situations more easily.

Babies and children feel safe with routines. The more frequently you repeat these behaviors and the more consistent you are, the better it is to help your child learn the routine:

Girl with her father
Girl with her mom

Remember, crying or even screaming when you leave is normal and most babies and young children will calm down quickly after you are gone. Ask your childcare provider about how your child behaves after you leave; this can help ease your worries to hear they do well while you are away. With that said, if your child continues to be extremely upset or panic, is having nightmares, or expresses fear towards or refuses to be left with a specific person, DO NOT IGNORE their behavior. These may be cues or signs that you need more information. Talk to the childcare provider and your baby’s healthcare provider.

Separation anxiety is a normal developmental stage. Remind yourself that you have the tools to help your child learn how to cope with new situations, new people, and with being separated from you.

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Side Lying Hold

Side-Lying Hold

  1. For the right breast, lie on your right side with your baby facing you.
  2. Pull your baby close. Your baby’s mouth should be level with your nipple.
  3. In this position, you can cradle your baby’s back with your left arm and support yourself with your right arm and/or pillows.
  4. Keep loose clothing and bedding away from your baby.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:

Cross Cradle Hold

Cross-Cradle Hold

  1. For the right breast, use your left arm to hold your baby’s head at your right breast and baby’s body toward your left side. A pillow across your lap can help support your left arm.
  2. Gently place your left hand behind your baby’s ears and neck, with your thumb and index finger behind each ear and your palm between baby’s shoulder blades. Turn your baby’s body toward yours so your tummies are touching.
  3. Hold your breast as if you are squeezing a sandwich. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Instead, bring your baby to you.
  4. As your baby’s mouth opens, push gently with your left palm on baby’s head to help them latch on. Make sure you keep your fingers out of the way.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:

Football Hold

Clutch or “Football” Hold

  1. For the right breast, hold your baby level, facing up, at your right side.
  2. Put your baby’s head near your right nipple and support their back and legs under your right arm.
  3. Hold the base of your baby’s head with your right palm. A pillow underneath your right arm can help support your baby’s weight.
  4. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Bring baby to you instead.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:

Breastfeeding Holds

Cradle Hold

  1. For the right breast, cradle your baby with your right arm. Your baby will be on their left side across your lap, facing you at nipple level.
  2. Your baby’s head will rest on your right forearm with your baby’s back along your inner arm and palm.
  3. Turn your baby’s tummy toward your tummy. Your left hand is free to support your breast, if needed. Pillows can help support your arm and elbow.
  4. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Instead, bring your baby to you.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:

Breastfeeding Holds

Laid-Back Hold

  1. Lean back on a pillow with your baby’s tummy touching yours and their head at breast level. Some moms find that sitting up nearly straight works well. Others prefer to lean back and lie almost flat.
  2. You can place your baby’s cheek near your breast, or you may want to use one hand to hold your breast near your baby. It’s up to you and what you think feels best.
  3. Your baby will naturally find your nipple, latch, and begin to suckle.

This hold is useful when: