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Girl Talk: Detaching a Clingy Baby

Q. My 8-month-old daughter shrieks when I put her down. I'm living on cereal bars, crackers, anything I can eat with one hand. Can I undo whatever I did wrong?

A. Who said you did anything wrong? Your baby has enjoyed your warm embrace since she was a newborn, and she has thrived on your love. But now, at 8 months, she really notices when you're not there, and she also has no concept of time. When you put her down saying "Just a minute," you may as well be saying "Just a millennium." So it's no wonder she's loath to let go. But let go she must or she will never get to explore her surroundings, and you will never again eat a decent meal.

Learning to separate from Mom is difficult. I still want my mommy. But this tough lesson doesn't require tough love. It's impossible to simply put your baby down and eat lunch while she's crying so hard she's about to throw up. A better approach is to ease her into independence. Try putting her down repeatedly (but only for a minute or two) throughout the day. Just make sure that during some of these separations you play with her so she doesn't equate her bouncy seat with banishment. (Don't try this when she's hungry or tired.)

Let me warn you that even after she gets used to the idea, she won't love it. That happens after puberty. With any luck, however, she may realize that downtime won't last a lifetime, and that while she's waiting for Mommy to hold her, she's learning to hold her own.