Whether you‘ve had six weeks or six months at home, going back to work can be traumatic for you and your baby. Easing her separation anxiety is an important step for you both.
Most babies won’t experience separation anxiety until they are about six or seven months old. Even babies that have been left with a caregiver for months may suddenly begin to cry and fuss at this age. It can seem as if your baby changed overnight, leaving you both in tears when it is time to go to the sitter’s.
Practice makes perfect
Practice leaving your child with a caregiver. Arrange to spend a half hour or so with the caregiver and stay there with your child. A few days later leave your child alone with the caregiver for a short period of time. Do this a few more times, gradually lengthening the time you stay away. Never drop your child off when she is hungry or tired, and make sure your baby’s diaper is clean. Discomfort can make her more anxious about being apart from you.
Keep it familiar
Babies thrive on routine and do best when they are in familiar surroundings with people they know. Although having a caregiver come to your home is probably the best option, it isn’t financially feasible for many people. Try to maintain a routine, using the same caregiver for the first year or two of your baby’s life, if possible. Be sure to pack favorite toys and loveys to help reassure her. If you must change caregivers for some reason, try not to make the change when baby is being weaned, potty trained or has experienced another major change.
Develop a ritual
It may be tempting to sneak away when baby isn’t looking but it is important that you always tell her goodbye and reassure her that you will be back. Even if your child is too young to understand the words, she will understand the sentiment. Developing a goodbye ritual is reassuring for your child.
Don’t allow yourself to become irritated or angry at your child’s response to separation. Never chide or scold her for her fears. Calling a child a baby because she feels anxious about being away from you is counterproductive.
Don’t look back
Once you say goodbye you should leave without looking back. Your child will sense your hesitancy and react to it, which can make you feel worse. Give your baby a hug and a kiss, say goodbye and leave.
Leaving your child with a caregiver can be stressful for both of you. Give yourself and your child time to work through your emotions and learn to say goodbye without tears.