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Our Blog: November 28, 2012

Your Clingy Baby: 7 Confidence Boosters for Daycare Success

active baby becomes a clingy babyI’m not psychic, but I have a prediction. If your baby goes to daycare, chances are that one day, you’ll suddenly get a lot of protests and crying at drop-off – right around the time your baby starts to crawl.

How can I be so certain? Scientists who study infants have discovered that a baby on the go tends to become a clingy baby. All that crawling around makes baby scared to lose track of you.

It’s hard to leave a crying baby. But this is a common phase that usually improves over a few weeks or months. And despite the tears, most babies settle down in daycare within five minutes of your leaving.  Babies who are well cared-for don’t suffer as a result.

Daycare is there to help with your work schedule, but it’s also there for “me time.” As long as baby’s daycare is safe and loving, you should take time to exercise, be with your partner and friends, or even take a nap. Doctor’s orders: Taking care of yourself is healthy for you, your baby, and the whole family.

My tips for making it through this clingy stage:

  1. Give baby your one-on-one, focused attention each day. The more you “top off baby’s emotional tank,” the better she’ll be able to handle separations.
  2. Teach baby that “good bye” ALWAYS leads to your return. Play lots of peek-a-boo at home to reinforce this lesson.
  3. Pack baby’s cuddly lovey to take to school, plus a laminated family photo to give comfort throughout the day.
  4. Chat, smile, and connect with the teacher every day, so baby can see you’re a team. Ask for tips on making separations easier – the teacher has been through this before.
  5. Create a goodbye routine in the classroom. Be confident and matter-of-fact. “I’m giving your teacher your bottles and lunch. I’ll be back after nap time. Let’s see what your friends are doing. I love you! See you later!” Support the transition, but don’t linger.
  6. Don’t sneak out – ever. Building trust builds confidence.
  7. Confirm the school’s policy for calling parents if baby is upset. More information means less worry.

And finally, fast-forward in your mind 10 or 15 years from now. When our babies are teens, I bet WE will be the ones clinging to them! So let’s enjoy this time while we can.

What works for YOUR clingy baby? Share your tips!

About the Author

Dr. Heather Wittenberg

Dr. Wittenberg is a psychologist specializing in the development of babies, toddlers, preschoolers — and parents. She offers no-hype, practical parenting advice on her blog BabyShrink — rooted in science, and road tested in her own home as the mother of four young children. She has helped thousands of parents over the years and knows that the most common problems with young children — sleep, feeding, potty training and behavior — can be the most difficult ones to solve.