Make Your Clingy Baby Confident
Tips to help mom and dad instill confidence in their babies, and banish infant separation anxiety for good.
Raising a strong, confident, self-sufficient child won't happen in a day, of course, or even in a few months. But forging a strong bond of trust with your baby makes you the perfect coach to ease him through his natural fear of separation. It may seem a bit hard at first, but soon you'll find opportunities every day to help your little one become his own person.
Allow ambivalence In becoming independent, it's normal for babies to regress, even as they make progress. Baby wants and needs to separate, but he's not certain how soon to do this or how far to go. So he constantly tests the waters to find his comfort zone: clinging tightly to you one minute, crawling happily away the next. At this stage, just go with the flow. Hold him when he needs to be held and let go when he wants to be on his own.
Plan ahead It's your first night out in months, and the babysitter arrives promptly at 7 p.m. As she gets down on the floor to greet your little one, baby rushes toward you, crawls up your leg and clings to you like a little koala. To keep this scenario from preventing your ever having a night to yourself, try a new approach. Prepare the sitter in advance that baby is going through some stranger anxiety. When she arrives, greet her with your best "happy to see you" face so that baby is reassured that you're okay with this person and there's no need to be anxious. But don't rush out the door immediately! Spend some time with baby and the sitter before you leave, so that baby no longer sees the sitter as a total stranger barging into his personal space, but as someone you -- and he -- can relate to and trust.
Stay positive When I see a new baby in my office, I notice that the baby's reaction to me mirrors the mother's. A fearful mother anxiously whispering "He won't hurt you," reinforces any apprehension the baby might have, causing him to cling tighter. But the mom who relaxes her grip and starts an easy conversation with me gives baby the message that I'm "mom-approved," helping him feel more comfortable and be more cooperative.
Don't take it personally Some babies are more sensitive to separation than others; it's a matter of temperament. Laid-back babies seem to play alone more easily and warm up to strangers more quickly, while babies with more intense personalities seem to cling longer and separate more slowly. Both are absolutely normal. All you can do is pay attention to how your baby reacts to new situations and respond appropriately. Just don't confuse the treatment for the condition: You're holding him because he's slow to warm up to strangers; he's not slow to warm up because you hold him.A strong attachment figure, whether it's a parent or a familiar trusted caregiver, can give baby the confidence to explore further. As soon as she becomes comfortable on one level, she moves to the next. Step by step she'll climb each rung toward independence -- checking to be sure that you're right there, holding the ladder.