Is this separation anxiety or something else?


Old 09-19-05, 07:27 PM
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Unhappy Is this separation anxiety or something else?

Hi everyone, my husband and I are fast running out of ideas with our almost 7 month old son and his latest behaviour and we are starting to get really concerned about it.

About 4 weeks ago, he began fussing whenever my husband or I were not holding him or sat right next to him. Last week he had a really nasty cold and we assumed it was probably because of this that he was being fussy.

He is now over his cold and back to normal but this separation anxiety remains, and it is getting worse. Instead of fussing, he now screams to the point of hyperventilation until you pick him up (once you do pick him up, he coo's and gurgles and laughs) and even if I am standing in front of him, he continues to cry and scream until he is physically in my arms.

My husband and I decided the best course of action would be to let him cry it out, which does not seem to be working and on Saturday night, he screamed and cried for just under 2 hours before he fell asleep. He is also now waking up in the middle of the night (he had been sleeping through for several weeks with no problem) and will only stop crying if I nurse him back to sleep, and even then if I put him back in his own bed he starts to cry again.

We are at our wits end with him, my husband is concerned that this is the beginning of something more serious, such as autism or hyperactivity or ADHD, but I am trying to be optimistic and think it is a phase. It is starting to cause a few arguements between us because we are both frazzled.

Can anyone give us any advice? Has anyone been through this with their babies? I really don't know who to turn to - my girlfriends have not experienced this with their children and I have no faith in our current pediatrician and am actively trying to find a new one.

Thank you so much,
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Old 09-20-05, 08:29 AM
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Your son is at the right age for separation anxiety to occur. While not easy, it can be helped. The key is in the name, 'anxiety.' Your child is upset because he is afraid to be away from you. Every child is different, but the goal is to make them more secure.

The easiest place to start is to find a way to distract him. When you want to put him down, make sure you have something immediately available to capture his attention.

Your child is old enough to get through the night without food, so the nursing at night is calming him because it's you, not because he's hungry. First rule of thumb is to not take him out of the crib if at all possible. Stand there with him and rub his back, even hold him with both arms if he can stand against the crib railing. Try not to speak to him, either. The goal is to get him back to sleep and talking to him or picking him up makes that less likely. Keep in mind that no one sleeps through the night, everybody wakes up at least a couple times. Those who seem to sleep through the night are simply good at putting themselves back to sleep. To that end, you always want to put your son in bed while he is still awake. If he's used to falling asleep in your presence, you have to be present for him to fall back asleep in the middle of the night as well.

You and your husband also have to be on the same page with your approach. If you're each trying something different, neither of you will succeed. It's going to take a while and be very painful for you to listen and watch your child screaming, but you can get past this. Obviously, you have figured out that a good pediatrician is an important asset to you, good luck in your search for a new one.
Old 09-29-05, 04:06 AM
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Had that with mine too.

Your son grasps *object and person permanence*, that is, a toy or parent still exists in his mind after vanished from view. Which could be reassuring to him but is probably more maddening than anything else.

He's also discovered that he can do things to get your attention. What happens when he screams on purpose? You come to him. He'll hone those particular noises that yank you best - whatever works *on you*. Of course if you don't answer it escalates, he loses what little control he had. And he'll find out new ways to make you react. This is the beginning of communication.

He's bored. Right now his appetite for stimulation is way greater than his means to get it. You wouldn't know that, looking at him, but for the 7-month-old it's a growing itch and he *must* demand more of the world or - this is scary: those brain cells that don't get stimulated within the next 2-4 years atrophy, die, and are lost forever. Crying and getting coddled is a poor substitute for rich experience, but it's something and he's found out how to get it.

I don't think your son has separation anxiety, Mel, not more than is normal and healthy. I think he's just anxious. That's a new trait for him he doesn't know how to apply positively yet.

How much stimulation does your son need? It's a lot more than a few months ago, for sure. What you'll find, I think, is that he has a sort of daily quota, and, failing that, he'll fall back on you in the way he knows best. Give him too much stimulation, he'll just fall asleep.

I found that having the radio on helped. Also monologuing, whistling, or singing while in another room. Careful with the TV, it's *too* easy. Anything and everything's a toy. At this age, a limited collection of plastic and fluffy toys aren't really to the point. Anything and everything's a toy. Grandma's earrings and grandpa's nose are good. Other babies too. These aren't merely distractions for buying time; a seven-month-old needs them just as much as calcium, and is right to raise hell if his growing appetite isn't met.
Old 09-29-05, 10:32 PM
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Separation anxiety is normal. It can occur in infants as young as 6-7 months. It is normal to become anxious if separated from someone to whom one is bonded. Snuggle and cuddle before putting infant to bed while still awake. Comfort and reassure child if upset after being placed in the bed. Do not remove the child from the bed. Pet, cuddle, and coo. Do not remain at the bed until child falls asleep. The idea is to have a child who can fall asleep without your being present. If child is well, fed, and clean, then there should be no reason for you to be distressed. Of course, you want your child to be happy and content. But, ignore the crying if you want a child who falls asleep on its own. As indicated, transitional objects, such as blankets or stuffed animals, are healthy ways to minimize separation anxiety.

Separation/return games for practice can help prepare children for separation. Peek-a-boo games can be fun and educational. While baby is lying on back, cover your face with his or her feet in order to hide. Then, open babie's legs to reveal your face. Baby will soon learn that he can open the legs themselves to find you.

Where's Baby is another fun game. Place dry wash cloth or diaper over babie's head and say, "Where's the baby?" Remove and say, "There you are!" Baby will soon learn to pull off the cloth and giggle with delight at being discovered. You can also cover your own head and say, "Where's Mommy?" Remove and say, "Here I am." Baby will soon learn to pull the cloth off your head. Once baby becomes mobile you can step around the corner or behind a chair and say, "Where's Mommy?" Step back around the corner so baby can see you. Practice separations.

Even though baby won't understand your words, you can tell baby that you are going into another room and will be back soon. If baby cries, reassure with words, "I'll be back soon. Bye. Bye." You can also wave bye. Pop right back into the room and say, "Hello." Then pop back in smiling and say, “Hello”. Baby will soon learn to play the game and will become reassured that you will return if you leave a room. Baby will also learn the words hello and bye. Gradually make your practice separations longer and longer. Baby will learn that it's o.k. for you to be gone for a little time.

Always make good-byes brief, affectionate, and make it clear that you will be back. If leaving the child with a sitter, have the sitter distract child with a toy to make the separation easier.

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