Your Brilliant Baby in Week 43: Demystifying Separation Anxiety
What your infant learns this week
Baby’s Brain in Week 43
Your baby’s regular childcare provider has the flu, so instead of bringing him to the familiar home he knows, you’re dropping him off at a new drop-in center instead. As you reluctantly pass your child off to a stranger (who looks perfectly safe and kind to you), your child screams with fear.
You’re torn. Should you leave him? Will he scream the entire day—or worse, be traumatized by your abandoning him?
What the Research Shows
During a research study (called, appropriately, “the strange situation”), one parent-child pair after another was brought into a room equipped with toys. Most children were observed primarily playing with the toys alone, but from time to time each baby checked in with his or her mother. Then the situation changed: A stranger entered the room, and Mom left.
Across the board, all the babies exhibited some level of discomfort and distress when their mothers left. Some cried uncontrollably, others only whimpered. Once the crying subsided, however, the babies looked to the stranger for interaction. When the mothers returned, the babies showed a mix of emotions: anger because the moms had ever left and joy because they had returned.
Week 43 Brain Booster
This fear that your baby begins to exhibit between seven and nine months—which you’ll continue to witness through at least month 12—is referred to as separation anxiety, and it illustrates that he has a secure attachment to you. The irony of the situation is that because a child is well attached to his mommy, he’s learned to expect love, trust, care, and protection from others, as well. Once your child is over the insult that you left him, he’ll calm down and show an interest in the new folks around him. Depending on your child’s temperament (whether slow or quick to warm to others), he’ll eventually adjust to new people and situations—and you don’t need to fear that your baby will feel abandoned because he trusts that you’ll return. (And if for some unforeseen reason you don’t, he trusts and expects that another person will care for and love him as you have.)
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