You are not alone…
We have all experienced the psychological and emotional discomfort of separation anxiety at some point of our parental lives, however separation for a new mum and her baby can be especially difficult. In this post I will try and offer some insights into what causes separation anxiety and what you and your baby can do to ease the step into day nursery.
Shall we start with prediction? You may be surprised to learn that prediction is partly linked to attachment, the better we can predict the other person’s behaviour towards us – for example are they a threat to our survival or not – the closer we’ll feel to them especially over a prolonged period of time as predictability increases. Attachment to your child is also strongly linked to genetics and the survival of those genes but that’s another post for another time.
Next, let’s look at the big A, anxiety. A simple rule from a neurological point of view is [depression lives in the past, anxiety lives in the future] and the higher the degree of future uncertainty the higher the levels of anxiety. You should see the link with prediction here rather quickly, in fact the optic nerve that runs from your eye to the brain is thicker for signals travelling from the brain to the eye than visa versa suggesting that we spend a lot more energy on predicting our environment than just observing it.
The best cure for uncertainty is routine, disciplined routine. I can not stress the importance of routine for you and your child, but especially your child, in fact high levels of anxiety caused by uncertainty have structural neurological implications with potentially deleterious and long term consequences but that’s for the next post. Routine is the bedrock foundation of what we do at bambooh and we constantly encourage our families to do the same at home. When our children feel safe and secure they are far better primed to play and as a result, learn.
Okay, but what does this have to do with the fact that you will soon need to separate from your precious little baby, this little miracle that has consumed your every moment for the last couple of years. The unease you are feeling is the sacrifice of your present predictable normal (which is painful), the inability to predict the outcome of your baby’s safety and wellbeing in the new environment outside of the home and the perceived loss of control which our brains despises. This neurophysiological pain is real and can not be ignored, but it can be managed which is part of what makes us such incredible organisms, we have intraspection.
A huge barrier to cross though is trust, you have to trust that the people you leave your baby with has nothing but her utmost safety at heart. This can be very difficult to determine in a world where profit is the primary motivator and promises are just that, promises. As professionals caring for babies and children at bambooh it is our duty to present you, the mother (and father) with as much predictable information, tools and characteristics as possible to help you better anticipate a good outcome. Helping you and your baby settle in to your new routine, your new predictable normal, is a family effort.
Here are 5 top tips to help you with the big step into day care:
- Morning Routine, create a morning ritual building up to day nursery time, make it exciting. Our brains seeks out rhythm and patterns so try and maintain a consistent rhythm every morning.
- Make your goodbye quick and positive. Use phrases such as “I’ll be back soon. Mummy can’t wait to come back!” and create a special ritual exclusively for dropping off such as “Bonus cuddles!”, “Tummy Tickles” or “Nose rubs” [verbalise].
- Trinkets can help give your baby or child reassurance in your return so create something together at home and give it to them at drop off to return to you when you get back. This is especially useful in the early stages of separation.
- *Don’t linger, this is super important. It makes it worse for your child. Also the longer you linger the more your mind will start finding reasons to grab your baby and run home as the pressure of anxiety builds. A quick note here: anxiety is a chemical response in your brain that wants you to move, to do something (usually irrationally) in response to a perceived threat. The longer you wait the more the pressure you build, the thicker the soup of agitation chemicals build up in your brain and the harder it will be to leave without your baby.
- Pick up time, make a big deal about it – no, make a HUGE deal about it. Make your child feel like they are the only person in the world and that you’re beyond happy to see them again, because let’s face it, you are!
In the next post I will go a little deeper into the impact of uncertainty and anxiety on the developing brain. Sign up to our newsletter to be kept up to date or follow us on Instagram @bamboohandyou
Thank you for reading and we hope this serves you and your young family well.
About the author, Petré is currently undertaking his Masters in Science in Applied Neuroscience and King’s College London. If you have more questions or just want to share feedback please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org