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Growth and Development

Don't Babies Have Separation Anxiety?

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We recently left our 5-month-old daughter with trusted friends overnight. We were so worried about how she'd react, but our friends said she was fine the entire time. Don't babies experience separation anxiety when they're away from their parents?
- Allia and Chris

The first time you leave your baby with a babysitter is likely to be harder on you than it is on your child. As long as their needs are being met, most babies younger than 6 months adapt pretty well to other caregivers.

Most babies start to experience separation anxiety somewhere between 8 months and a year, with it peaking between 1 and 2 years of age. Separation anxiety typically occurs once your child grasps the concept of object permanence — that there's only one of you and when she can't see you, you've gone away. What causes the anxiety is that she doesn't understand when and if you'll come back. Playing games like peek-a-boo can help her learn that you will return after you go away.

Separation anxiety is a common developmental stage, and your baby will probably go through it sooner or later. Until then, be glad that her first time away from you was safe and enjoyable.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: October 2012

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