All babies like one-to-one human contact and attention. However, some young children refuse to be separated from their parents at all. Let’s have a look at why your baby is clingy and how to deal with separation anxiety.
Why Is my Baby so Clingy
Most babies will experience a degree of clinginess at some point; indeed, it’s both normal and highly desirable for babies to cling to their mothers. Newborns are dependent on close contact to help them adapt to the world. The mother’s heartbeat, rhythmic movements, and respiration help to balance the baby’s irregular waking, sleeping and feeding rhythms, and the rhythm of her voice can help to regulate a new baby’s early un-coordinated body movements. Carrying can also help a baby to regulate his developing nervous and hormonal systems, and can promote day waking and night sleeping.
At what age does separation anxiety typically peak in infants
Clinginess is particularly marked at around eight or nine months, when the vast majority of infants will start to experience separation anxiety. At this age, a babies start to notice if their main carers goes away, and they will become clingy and want to follow them. Until around two, a children has no concept of constancy: if the parent is not immediately visible, they simply doesn’t exist – hence the child’s distress if the parent leaves the room even for a brief period. Separation anxiety is part of normal childhood development, and shows that the baby has developed a healthy attachment to their parents.
High Needs Babies
Separation anxiety is very different from true clinginess. A clingy child will become distraught if his parent tries to put him down even for a matter of minutes. Parents may wonder if their parenting skills are responsible, but it appears that some babies are born more clingy than others. These “high needs” babies experience real distress if their need for physical attachment to their parents is not met.
Parenting a Clingy Baby
The aim of all healthy child and parent relationships is to enable the baby to form a secure attachment and to use this as the basis for ultimate independence. With this in mind, parents need to ensure that they are not unwittingly encouraging their baby to be clingy because they enjoy feeling needed and wanted.
Parents of clingy children need to be especially sensitive and thoughtful. If the child is due to start daycare or nursery, make sure your baby has a special cuddle blanket or toy to take with him. Even the clingiest child will settle after the parents have left, and he will be pleased to be reunited with their parents at the end of the day. Changes and separations must be handled very gradually and with love. Goodbye and hello rituals can help to reassure a clingy baby that their parents will come back. Parents should also remember that reaching particular developmental milestones – physical, emotional and neurological – can make the world feel quite confusing to a baby or toddler, which means that he will cling to the person who makes him feel most secure.
Separation anxiety is a normal developmental stage. Excessive clinginess, however, is often part of a child’s particular personality. Treated with understanding and sensitivity, clinginess will abate as the child develops. In due course, the child will use this secure attachment as the basis for independence.