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Is DD's separation anxiety my fault? Have I 'given' it to her? :(

(29 Posts)
emeraldgirl1 Thu 17-Oct-13 09:43:43

DD (7m) has never been the kind of baby you can easily put down... and now at 7m she is starting to show signs of real separation anxiety, crying when I leave the room, not letting DH feed her if I am there as an option etc... It is hard but I have been assuming it is a little bit just her personality at the moment and a little bit of proper separation anxiety kicking in at this age.

FWIW she is INCREDIBLY smiley and engaged with my friends and complete strangers alike, she is happy and interested in people AS LONG AS I AM THERE and (preferably) holding her...

So I hadn't really thought it was a problem.

But clearly lots of my friends and acquaintances do!!!

I have an ante-natal group of 11 other mums, ALL of whom can happily leave their babies/pass their babies around when we have meet-ups... so the mums can have a few minutes break/chat while someone else holds the baby or (now that they are getting bigger) pop the baby down on a rug to stare at play with the other babies for a while.

I can't do this. DD tolerates it for about 6 seconds and then the face crumples.

People are commenting that I should just leave her to cry... they haven't heard the way DD can cry!!! Full-throttle, head-back, purple-faced ROAR. Which I don't think is fair on DD, on the person trying to hold her, or on the other babies. So when she starts to cry, I pick her up. Looks are passed amongst the other mums. I get the impression that some of them think I am trying to prevent DD 'mingling'; and what upset me last week was that one of them said I am 'giving' DD separation anxiety sad

I am SO keen for her to be a sociable little thing, which is why I am so thrilled when she beams at people, waves at them and generally interacts - from her safe distance. But I am starting to worry that I should be pushing her out into the world more. We do a couple of baby groups each week and she loves them but I don't take her to play groups where she could 'play' with other babies - should I try this?? I do meet up with other friend who have babies and DD beams happily at the babies; I don't think she is anti-social but I am getting so paranoid sad

A cousin of DH's commented the other day that DD seems a 'mummy's girl' and that she seems 'very dependent' on me... well, she is 7m old!!! I thought they were meant to be dependent?! And I honestly feel as if I have responded to DD's need for personal space. A while ago she was very scared of strangers but I just rode it out, never forced her to interact with anyone, and now she is happy as Larry to beam at strangers in the shops etc. So I think we will ride out this separation anxiety too??

But is it my fault, in a way?

I do endless peekaboo etc...

Is there more I could do?

I feel as if people are judging me (which is fine) and my lovely cheery baby (which is not fine sad as I think babies are all different?)

Any advice?

PrincessYoni Thu 17-Oct-13 17:31:02

Your mothers help idea sounds good. I went with the always telling her I would be back and (although she had no concept of a watch or time) I would be back when I said I would. It took about 3 weeks and then she was fine.

Bumpsadaisie Thu 17-Oct-13 14:16:06

PS I wouldn't leave a baby to cry either. I might leave my DD to cry if she were being a pain, but she is four years old and a mature schoolgirl in reception, with no worries about separation at all.

I wouldn't leave my son and he is nearly two, so much older than your DD - and he's still quite nervous about separation from me.

emeraldgirl1 Thu 17-Oct-13 14:15:27

Thank you bumpsadaisie!

Can I ask advice about childcare in this situation? I have a lovely mothers help starting with me three mornings a week and am hoping that I will be able to leave DD with her for an hour or two a time eventually while I work (upstairs)

I am planning a bit of a lead-in, plenty of occasions where I get the mothers help to join in playing, come with us to the shops etc, so DD gets used to her.

But will it make DD's anxiety worse, do you think, if I try to leave her for short periods?

She is ok with eg my mum now after several weeks of practise!! I think it has to be good for her to have other carers (?) but I am no expert! The last thing I want is to make her even more stressed about me not being there!

I was thinking of just doing 10 mins at first... Then longer...

I desperately don't want to make her more anxious but I do need to get work done!!!

Also, can I ask advice on the whole working-from-home thing... I don't want DD to think I am around but not coming to her IYSWIM. Would it be a good idea to pretend to go out, ie leave by the front door, give a big wave and smile, then creep back in while she is otherwise occupied so she doesn't know I am there?

Or is that just nutty sounding?!?

Bumpsadaisie Thu 17-Oct-13 14:07:20

Goodness, some people are so ignorant of the basic stages of psychological development (i.e. all those people who have told you about rods and backs etc).

This is a totally normal stage, starting at around the age your DD is. In fact she is starting it on the early side, so you could even say she is precocious! grin

It would be more worrying if she DIDN'T have separation anxiety. This would mean she hadn't developed a secure attachment to you, which is a disaster, in psychological development terms.

You can expect it to get worse before it gets better, and to be heightened at times when she is teething or ill. They finally grow out of it somewhere on the other side of three years old, by which time they are mature enough to understand separations and not be fazed by them. Until they can walk, they will cry as soon as you leave the room. When they are walking confidently and understanding more, you will start to find that you can say you are just going downstairs to get your tea and that you will be back "in a minute" - and they might be happy to stay put on their own (for a short time).

The best way to create a confident and secure and sociable child is to be sympathetic to their separation anxiety rather than expecting them to overcome it well before they are ready. Never "sneak off" without saying goodbye - its easier on you as you don't see them cry, but disturbing for the baby, who learns that mum might just disappear without them knowing; you will actually make them more clingy if you do this.

You don't create sociability in an infant or young toddler by thrusting them into social settings. Let them feel secure first, and the sociability follows when they are older toddlers/preschoolers.

Enjoy your DD x

emeraldgirl1 Thu 17-Oct-13 13:07:30

Thanks so much everyone, that really helps!

Wallinson, Pythagoras it is smile smile

I think I just got a bit worn down at being made to feel DD was some kind of difficult madam just because she wouldn't 'join in'... Honestly, all the babies are just... Well... Babies! I don't see it as DD passing judgement on them or their babies, it's not really anything she's doing 'to' or because of them! It's just the way she is, right now.

Thank you I feel bette!! , I have a tendency to doubt my instincts...

GingerDoodle Thu 17-Oct-13 12:23:31

I have always made a point of 'plonking' DD down to play and giving her to other people she 'knew' to hold however she has never been keen on being played pass the baby with and once she hit 9 /10 months has got decidedly more so! We had a few weeks, before she learnt to crawl of screaming if I left the room. Shes actively weary of her Granddad as he has grown and beard and give Grandma a cuddle at her 1st birthday after not seeing them for a while? no chance!

DD, like you LO, loves to beam at people, wave and giggle - i've just come to the conclusion she likes to get a good measure of people before going near them!!

It has, for now at least got better, if she is happy and interested in stuff I can leave the room, leave her with a friend in her buggy while I nip to the loo etc. BUT if she is unsettled, like last week when I had builders in, she would not calm down unless she was sat on me!!

FrightFlea Thu 17-Oct-13 11:17:11

I love Wallinson's retort!

Another one here with velcro babies. They started earlier than others and DD2 is only just coming out of it at 20 months. One SIL got pissed off with me for not letting her hold the baby. But she once wouldn't give a crying DD1 back to me when i asked so I had to just take the baby. With Dd2, whenever I knew SIL was around I'd keep dd in a sling to prevent any 'incidents'.

DD1, 3.6 years, will go to anyone now, scarily so. She thinks everyone is her friend.

Carly3869 Thu 17-Oct-13 11:00:14

I think we all agree. She is realising you are separate people and just wants you close. My son was the same and i remember someone saying 'think of it from their point of view, inside their head, where's mum gone, I can't see her, is she coming back etc' all she can do ATM is cry so you hopefully come back. If anything, the love and attention will help her along the way so please believe you're doing the best for her. And haha about the inadequate most of the time, we all feel like we should do more, constant guilt trips etc, but let go and enjoy her for who she is! If we were all the same it would be very boring xx

Damnautocorrect Thu 17-Oct-13 10:44:50

I think you have to follow YOUR instincts, if yours are saying pick up the baby pick her up. She will get there in her own time, in my opinion forcing separation when they aren't ready makes anxiety worse.

Wallison Thu 17-Oct-13 10:41:28

I like the 'high intelligence' theory! My son has been on the gifted and talented register since he was in y1 so that's what all of that crying was about - he was obviously a frigging genius; just say to the eye-rollers, "Oh, hasn't your baby reached that stage yet? Well, I guess we can't all be Pythagoras."


Lavenderhoney Thu 17-Oct-13 10:41:26

She sounds perfectly normal to me. She is supposed to want you there, holding her whist she sees and learns all the new things going on around her. She is still a helpless baby, cant walk, talk, and sit up really, and ignoring her crying will only distress her more, and make her even more clingy as now she knows you can't be trusted.

Carry on as you are IMO, as she gets more confident she will do things of her own accord. Forcing her will slow her down. All babies are differentsmile

Mine were like that. I didnt mind. Yes some other people said the same, but they did things at their own pace with confidence. I did lessen the time I spent with people though, if they were too interfering.

Buglugs Thu 17-Oct-13 10:38:05

And I have a db who was a nightmare cling on to my mum until he was about 3 or 4. She used to have to walk round with him hanging on to her leg.

But as an adult you couldn't meet a more socially adept and gregarious chap.

pippop1 Thu 17-Oct-13 10:35:10

I agree with spiderlight.

I also think it's a sign of hig intelligence in that they need to know where you are as you look after them. Maybe don't say that to the other Mum's though.

FWIW DS1 and DS2 were both v v clingy at that age and both have First class degrees from good Universities and good jobs.

Apileofballyhoo Thu 17-Oct-13 10:35:09

Sounds to me like you are a fantastic Mum doing a great job.

FaddyPeony Thu 17-Oct-13 10:34:09

Oh for God's sake. The other mums passed looks to each other?
Smug superior crap. Find people who are normal otherwise this will wear you down (even though you know they are full of crap).

My DD was exactly the same as yours. Smiley and interacty but wasn't interested in going to anyone that wasn't me or DH or the CM (who she started going to for a few hrs a week at 4 months and became really attached to straight away - probably because the CM is the type to cuddle as much as needed and not leave to cry). Honestly DD wouldn't even go to Granny.

She is little miss sociable now at 21 months. Really. Just ignore the silly people. Don't get into a conversation about it at all - if they do a catsbum mouth pointedly start a conversation that has nothing to do with babies or parenting!

LadyBigtoes Thu 17-Oct-13 10:32:34

Yes, babies are all different and it's horrible feeling that yours is standing out like a sore thumb, and you must be doing something wrong. But I don't think you are – it's her personality and given time and space she will blossom in her own way.

I've had 2 cling-on children, leading me to often think it must be my fault, something I'm doing to make them anxious or insecure. But I look around and I can't see that I'm parenting that differently from people I know. They're now 3 and 8 and have gradually become more independent, but even my 8yo is still very shy, hangs back in social situations and likes to be close to us.

On the plus side I am grateful that my DC are both empathetic, caring and kind - that is lovely. Personalities come with lots of facets and you'll see more and more of who your lovely DD is as she grows.

spiderlight Thu 17-Oct-13 10:30:28

My DS was exactly like this - total, total velcro baby. 7-8 months is prime separation anxiety time and I literally couldn't step out of sight for a second without total hysteria from him even if he was with DH. It soon passed though and he became the most confident, sociable little chappie you could ever wish for - everybody commented on it as he went through toddlerhood and he flew through the transition to nursery and then big school. Don't worry - this too shall pass!

Liveinthepresent Thu 17-Oct-13 10:25:47

Ah I agree sod the critics!
My DD 2.5 is super confident - been at nursery since 6 months and always been happy to be left etc. comes across as very gregarious out and about - befriends people in shops etc.
But it has always been on her terms - even now if she isn't happy about going somewhere she is incredibly clingy.
I take her to a local dance class ( using the term loosely - it is chaos!) and one of the mums asked me if she had ever been to nursery as she was clinging on to me demanding cuddles. I still don't see it as a problem on occasions like that as she is just working out what she feels comfortable with.
And yes I will admit I still like knowing that I am her safest haven in the whole wide world!

TantrumsAndBalloons Thu 17-Oct-13 10:20:58

Everyone told me I was making a rod for my own back with ds1 who was exactly the same as your dd. I didnt see any value in letting him scream when I knew he wanted to be picked up.

He is 14 now. and no, he does not scream whenever I leave the room now. grin
He isnt spoiled or manipulative, he is just a normal 14 year old boy

emeraldgirl1 Thu 17-Oct-13 10:17:30

Carly, that's so nice!! I don't think I am anything like a super mum!! I feel fairly inadequate most of the time. But I am just trying to do what I think DD wants, I think it is so hard for them before they can express themselves verbally and I am just trying to meet her needs as best as I can. If she cries for me, I think I should go to her... but have been worrying that this is 'making' the problem worse... if indeed it is a problem!!! (thing is it's not a problem for me, yes I would like a less aching back and a few mins to myself, don't get me wrong, but it's not actually a huge problem if DD wants a cuddle)

emeraldgirl1 Thu 17-Oct-13 10:14:50

Buglugs... yes, I have been accused of making many many rods... smile

I hate the sense that some people are giving me that DD is a problem that needs to be fixed.

She'll only be this little for a little while!!!!

Carly3869 Thu 17-Oct-13 10:13:51

Enjoy the cuddles whilst they last! If that's how she's most happy then have her with you at all times. She will grow and then develop more independence and won't depend on you so much! It must be because you are so kind and such a super mum that she doesn't want to be with those other mums playing pass the baby! Seriously, ignore them, they are probably jealous inside!

Wallison Thu 17-Oct-13 10:13:50

Aw, thank you - it was a magical moment, actually. And from what you've said, there's no reason to think it won't happen for you and your daughter. It might take a long time (as it did with us), but it I'm sure it will happen. In the meantime, I would say just support her as she's going through her curve. If she wants to sit on your knee, I'd say let her (that's what the HV and all the staff at the Sure Start groups I went to said). You can't really do much else anyway, can you, if she's really crying and getting upset? And well done on being such a good mum that she feels confident enough to let her feelings out, safe in the knowledge that you will respond to her.

Buglugs Thu 17-Oct-13 10:09:54

She'll be fine honestly! DD was a baby I couldn't put down and I had all the 'rod for your own back' comments. She also went through phases of worse separation anxiety at some times more than others - all normal developmental stuff.

Now she is 5, very confident and independent. I've just been to a parent evening and the teacher commented on how good she is socially.

emeraldgirl1 Thu 17-Oct-13 10:04:20

Wallison - your post made me a bit tearful smile That is such a lovely image of your DS pottering off without you - that is all I want for DD... whenever she is ready.

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