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Formerly the Welcome Baby Newsletter
This feature article offers some helpful tips for dealing with separation anxiety - the tears and drama that can happen when your baby realizes that you're about to walk out the door.
When Goodbye Brings Tears
Although your baby may have cheerfully greeted a babysitter in the past, chances are that this is about to change. As babies learn about object permanence – that people and things exist even when they can’t be seen – they also recognize that their parents are unique individuals.
Within the next few months, your baby will probably begin to feel worried when you leave him, perhaps even when you tell him goodnight. Your departure may bring tears, even when he’s left with people he previously enjoyed.
Separation anxiety is one of the first emotional milestones of childhood, but it doesn’t last forever – though it may seem to. Typically this phase peaks between 10 and 18 months, then fades before age two. While it can be a trying time, it’s helpful to realize that your baby’s anxiety is normal and a sign of her healthy attachment to you. Don’t worry that she’s spoiled or that she won’t stop crying after you leave. Most likely her tears will dry quickly, and she’ll soon settle in and enjoy herself.
To ease good-byes for both of you, try to be consistent about routines, both at bedtime and when going out:
Develop a parting ritual. This can involve giving her a favorite blanket or stuffed toy and a special kiss. You might blow her a kiss as you leave, or give her a kiss on each cheek or hand. One mother puts a kiss in each of her toddler’s hands and pockets for her to “save” for later.
Always say good-bye. Although it may seem easier, resist the temptation to slip out. If you’re leaving your baby at daycare, try to allow a little extra time to help her settle in before you go.
Make a cheerful exit. Be firm and upbeat, saying “I’ll be back later. You’ll have fun with Grandma (or whomever). By-bye.” Smile as you wave and walk out of the room or door.
Be honest with your friends and family about how tough this time is for you. No one likes to leave a crying baby. But remember that in most cases babies stop crying within just a few minutes.
Some parents ask their caregiver to call them if the crying continues beyond a certain time. You can decide whether this is 10 minutes or an hour.
Chances are the phone won’t ring and you’ll be reassured that your baby’s fine while you are doing the things you need to do.
Reprinted with permission from Welcome Words, a publication of the Welcome Baby Program of Durham County, NC, Cooperative Extension.
By now you've probably realized that "play" is really a code word for a teaching-learning opportunity for you and your baby! This featured article is all about simple games you can play to help your 9-month-old learn and develop new skills.
Babies at this age are learning that objects (and people) continue to exist even when they can’t be seen. This makes peek-a-boo a great game: Dad is there, then behind a blanket or dish towel, then there again – amazing! You can also try covering up a toy while baby is watching and see if he will try to uncover it.
Babies in the second half of the first year are interested in cause and effect: put a toy out of reach on a blanket or cloth and show your baby how to pull the cloth to bring the toy within reach. Once she’s mastered it, she’ll want to do it again and again.
Toys with a short string can work the same way (make sure the string is not long enough to go around the baby’s neck or it could be a strangulation hazard!) A jack- in-the-box or similar toy is also great fun at this age. Though babies can’t run it themselves, they love to watch you do it!
The sound a wooden spoon makes on an upside-down pot will also interest babies this age – they love to see you do something and then try to imitate it. In the beginning she may hit the pot accidentally but soon enough she will be able to "bang the drum" on purpose!
Another good activity is putting objects into others and taking them out. There are toys available that are see-through and contain others, but using plastic kitchen storage containers and small toys you already have works just as well. Put some toys in a plastic box without the lid and help your baby figure out how to get them out. Putting them back in will be fun, too.
As always, you are your baby’s favorite plaything. Take time to get down on the floor with your baby to play. Play copy-cat with her by letting her imitate things you do with your face, mouth, and hands.
Read books, especially ones with rhyming words or pages with things to touch and feel on them. Sing, dance, and go for walks holding your baby or wearing him in a sling or front-pack so you are both seeing the same things. Start to point to simple objects and name them. You can even make a little book with pictures from magazines to “read” to your baby – point to each object and name it. Soon, your baby will be doing the pointing!