It should be easy to know how our babies feel about us –shouldn’t it? We breastfeed them, wash them, clothe them, play with them, take them out, go to them when they cry, soothe them, talk to them, but how do I know my baby loves me?
Breastfeeding is one of the ways in which you and your baby have attached and continuing to provide breast milk to your baby for as long as you both want will only build on the attachment you have had from the moment baby was put into your arms.
Keeping baby close to you is another way to know that your baby is attached to you. Your baby needs to know that you will respond to their needs. When baby is crying there is something we need to do for them but it is also a late feeding cue.
When you return to work you worry that your baby will forget who you are – no chance mum! You are their mum forever and they will never forget you.
If you are going to express your breastmilk and a caregiver is going to feed your baby you can use the paced response feeding technique. This technique helps your baby to feel they are continuing to breastfeed. Explain to the baby’s caregiver to hold your baby in loving arms maintaining eye contact. This will enable the caregiver to respond to your baby’s cues and to know when baby has finished feeding; explain to the caregiver that all your breast milk may not be drunk. You can also provide your caregiver with a copy of our Paced Response Feeding advice article.
If you carry your baby in a sling then you could ask your caregiver to continue with this method and this will help your baby to remain attached to you.
You will also know your baby is securely attached to you because your smart breastfed baby knows when you are not around and will not want you to leave them; they may wake in the night and want you to comfort them; this is a very normal and a very healthy part of your baby’s development.
Your baby’s separation anxiety:
- is a positive and healthy sign that your baby is starting to remember when you are not with them
- will lessen and pass as your baby starts to remember that not only are you not there but also that you do come back to them
- means your baby is securely attached to you because your smart baby knows that ‘if I cry mum comes to me’
So how do I make separation anxiety easier for my baby? You give them lots of love and cuddles; your baby will remember that when you come back to them that you are going to respond positively; this makes them secure and they learn to trust that you will return to them.
Before leaving your baby you can introduce the concept to leaving and returning through playing peek-a-boo; you could introduce a toy or blanket or something that your baby can attach to whilst you are gone. Get your baby involved with a caregiver whilst you are around; do things together before you leave your baby with the caregiver for the first time and don’t prolong saying goodbye – a short happy, positive and confident goodbye with a kiss and cuddle signals to your baby that you are leaving.
You may want to listen at the door when you leave and this is ok, but really do try not to go back into your baby especially if they are still upset (and they will be) as it will be harder for you to leave the next time. Your baby needs time to learn that you go and you come back and that this is ok to happen.
Be brave; leave your baby with the caregiver; this is a very healthy stage of development your baby needs to go through. You have breastfed your baby, you have kept them close and you have responded to your baby – you and your baby are attached – now your baby is learning that you go and come back – it is a normal stage of development for your baby and you have made it easier just by being attached to each other. Now you need to help your baby learn the next step of developing – knowing that you go away and then you come back.