As a mom, you not only carried your baby in the womb for the better part of a year, but you also were each other’s whole world those first few weeks of life.
With a newborn baby being completely dependent on their caregivers, it is no wonder that a new mom may feel anxious about leaving their baby.
Separation anxiety in mothers is a completely normal feeling that many new moms face.
If you’re worried that you can never leave your baby or if you feel your baby is also starting to have anxiety over being separated from you
there are a few things you should know about this tough part of being a new mom.
This guide will go over common separation anxiety feelings, how to spot the signs, healthy ways to cope, and what you can do to help your baby as well.
- Is maternal separation anxiety normal?
- When it becomes a serious problem?
- Are moms feeling separation anxiety or mom guilt?
- Risk factors
- Signs your baby is feeling anxiety
- How to help your baby with separation anxiety
- How to deal with separation anxiety?
Is Separation Anxiety In Mothers Normal?
The short answer to this question is yes, separation anxiety in mothers is completely normal.
As a new mom, leaving your baby can be tough those first few times. For others, it can be hard a lot of the time.
When you go out for that first date with your spouse post-baby, you might be writing out a list of instructions for grandma or a babysitter that resembles the Declaration of Independence in length.
That first night out, you probably said to dim the lights to 50 percent, rock your baby at a precise 60-degree angle, and insisted that the temperature stays at 70 degrees no matter how many times your father in law says it’s too hot in the house.
Despite the many eye rolls, you press on, read your instructions again, and proceed to text and call three times before you even leave the block.
Know that this is normal and it will get better over time.
When Separation Anxiety Is Serious
If you feel like your anxiety is crippling your ability to actually leave the house, you should speak to your doctor.
Anxiety can be a debilitating and serious condition.
While texting your mom while you run errands without your baby is completely normal and expected, not leaving the house at all without your baby can be a sign of a more serious problem.
If you are suffering from any postpartum depression, this can also affect your anxiety levels and it is best to talk with your healthcare provider about any feelings you may be having.
Separation Anxiety Causes
There are several common causes of separation anxiety in mothers.
Separation anxiety often stems from the deep attachment new moms feel to their baby.
It is only natural for you to worry that someone else will do something differently when they care for your child.
Know that this is almost certainly true. Different caregivers will do things differently but this is OK.
Your child will be just fine and so will you.
Giving bottles when you are nursing or following a bedtime routine without you can all be stressful.
Communication is another big fear that can contribute to separation anxiety.
If you worry you won’t be able to properly communicate what your child needs while you are gone, this can set you into a real panic.
That pesky pregnancy and postpartum hormones can also be sources of anxiety. New moms are riddled with hormonal highs and lows.
Even the most balanced woman normally, can feel completely out of whack emotionally after having a baby.
These strong emotions can even make walking the dog without your little one feel foreign and stressful to you.
Are Moms Feeling Separation Anxiety Or Mom Guilt?
Mom guilt is one of those phrases than gets tossed around quite often. While mom guilt is certainly a valid feeling, anxiety and guilt may overlap in more ways than one.
As a new mom, you can make yourself or let yourself feel guilty about almost anything.
Take comfort in knowing that just the fact that you even feel guilty about some random thing that happened means you care about your little one.
They know it and you know it, so ditch the guilt.
As a mom, you shouldn’t have to feel guilty about taking care of yourself, enjoying your career, or enjoying time with other people or by yourself away from your baby.
Mom guilt can cause anxiety and anxiety can cause mom guilt. Stop the cycle. Your child is so loved and they know this even at a few days old.
Potential Risk Factors
Separation anxiety in mothers is a common and natural feeling but it doesn’t come without risks.
Feeling severely anxious about being away from your baby could be a sign of some underlying issues.
After you have a baby you may not feel like yourself. You may not even recognize yourself sometimes.
If the time has come for you to spend some time with your spouse or friends, separation anxiety may not even be about your baby.
You may be worried about being you without them.
Separation anxiety can put your relationships, self-care, your career, and your health at risk. Go easier on yourself and take it slow.
Your anxiety might trigger other emotions in you that can be stressful to your little one or other children as well.
Signs Your Baby Is Feeling Anxiety When Separated
If you are worried about your baby showing signs of separation anxiety, know that it is also a normal part of human development.
Object permanence is something all of us as humans learn. This is the idea that objects and people will exist even if you can’t see, touch, hear, smell, or sense them.
Your baby will learn this impressive skill surprisingly early on.
While you may think your baby is going to cry the entire time they aren’t with you, eventually your baby will actually learn you are there, they just can’t see you while they are with a nanny, with dad, or at a childcare center.
One of the biggest indicators that your baby may be having separation anxiety is that he or she will cry out when you leave their bedroom at night or during nap time.
All of a sudden your drowsy, happy, baby who used to fall asleep on their own in their crib is suddenly screaming out for you and trying to climb out of their bed to get you.
Know that this is normal and it just means that they are learning what we all know. Humans go to other rooms or to other places and we stay where were are.
How To Help Your Baby With Separation Anxiety
There are several ways you can help your baby cope with separation anxiety. For starters, play with the theory of object permanence.
Start by putting a toy under a blanket and then removing the blanket. Watch your little one’s face as they start to realize the toy is under the blanket.
You can then get your baby comfortable with you, your spouse, or a sibling coming and going or hiding.
Show your baby through play that although you are leaving to go under a blanket, you always come back out.
Each time you play, you can stretch the time length between when you reveal yourself and see how comfortable they are alone. Their independence should help calm you both.
Keep Leaving Light And Comforting
When you do go to leave your baby for real, keep it light. Don’t linger and give them a 20-minute goodbye.
They will feel your stress and emotions and the longer you prolong it, the longer they will be confused by what is happening.
Really young babies especially don’t know if you are leaving to grab a cup of water or leaving for an overnight conference.
If your baby is showing strong signs of separation anxiety, a routine can really help.
As your baby gets older, they will get more and more comfortable at a childcare center for example.
Even young babies will learn that parents come to pick up them up and they go home at the end of the day.
They find comfort in the familiarity of days at the center and with their caregivers and they become excited and comforted in knowing that you come to get them at the end of every day.
How to Cope With Your Own Separation Anxiety
Although separation anxiety can be stressful, there are a few things you can do to help you cope.
From being patient with yourself to choosing the right caregivers, these small steps can help ease your nerves.
1. Start Slow
Coping with your own separation anxiety can be tough but taking small, slow steps can be really helpful.
If you are worried about going back to work from maternity leave, for example, start slow by leaving your child for short periods of time with their caregivers or with your partner.
Take it slow and extend your time as it gets easier. Take a pump with you if you are nursing to help ease any anxiety felt over milk.
You don’t have to go cold turkey and leave for nine hours on the first day you ever leave your baby.
Start by going to the grocery store or out with a friend for coffee as a fun distraction.
If you want to practice leaving your baby for small intervals, do things you used to love before you had your baby.
This can be going for runs, taking your four-legged baby for a walk, or going to one of your favorite places with your partner.
If you start by going somewhere you love for just a short period of time, your anxiety may turn to anticipation.
Especially if you know that you are only going for a short period of time.
2. Choose Caregivers You Trust
If you are worried that your baby or your caregiver will struggle without you, know that although things may be different, they will all be OK.
Choose a caregiver you know and trust if you are feeling anxious. Your partner, your parents, your in-laws, or a trusted friend may be the best people to start with.
If you don’t have a family or friend to help you with childcare, ask around for recommendations.
A neighbor, a person at work, or even your local pediatrician might have someone they can recommend as a babysitter.
Knowing your baby is in good hands, will do wonders to help your anxiety levels.
3. Go out With Other Moms
If you are having anxiety about leaving, you may find it helpful to go out with other moms or parents.
Another mom or parent likely knows how you are feeling and can help you through this hard time.
Schedule a little date with your other mom friends after your baby goes to bed.
You might feel better knowing your baby is sleeping and while you’re out with your friend you guys can talk about your little ones and any anxiety you may be feeling.
Before long, you will both likely talk about other things and you’ll find yourself having fun and feeling more at ease.
4. Seek Professional Help
If your anxiety is starting to affect your ability to leave the house, go to work, interact with other people, or leave your baby with even your partner, it might be time to talk with your healthcare provider.
There is no shame in feeling anxiety and a professional will be able to tell if you are having normal new mom worries or it is something more serious.
You’ve Got This
When it comes to separation anxiety in mothers, remember that you are doing great.
Know that you can leave your little one and even if their bath is nine minutes long while you’re gone instead of twelve, they will be just fine.
Separation anxiety, mom guilt, and all the other worrying that comes with being a new mom are normal.
Your baby is precious and it can be tough to leave them in someone else’s hands.
Remember that you are precious as well. Your health, happiness, and life outside of your baby matter too.
Don’t feel guilty about being a person outside of being a mother.
Help your baby by showing what a confident and strong mom you are. Your baby knows you love them and that you will come back. You’ve got this mama.
For more helpful tips, check out the parenting section for great resources, articles, and guides.