5 ways to handle clingy babies and toddlers

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It’s really frustrating when you are trying to get your household chores completed, and your baby keeps screaming for you.

Much as you want your little one to love you and enjoy your company, you don’t want her clinging to you every moment of the day. You want her to have enough confidence to be on her own for at least a few minutes.

There are many possible explanations as to why she’s so clingy. It could be because the emotional connection between you and your little one is now firmly established, and the strength of this bond makes her want to be with you all the time.

There will be times when she experiences anxiety at the prospect of separating from you. For instance, when she is left in the care of an unfamiliar adult. 

And while you know you’ll only be in the next room for a couple of seconds – and you understand how fast this takes – your baby doesn’t understand this. She feels vulnerable when she’s alone.

However, sometimes, she clings to you out of habit rather than any deep-rooted psychological needs. This is what psychologists describe as “learned helplessness”.

In other words, consider the possibility that she has learnt that by clinging to you, you will fuss over her and give her all the attention. 

Here’s what you should do to help your clingy baby become more independent and confident.

Be determined

Make up your mind that your baby will become more independent. Remind yourself that she won’t come to any psychological harm from playing on her own for five or 10 minutes.

Provide lots of toys

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She is likely to be happy for longer without you if she is surrounded by a variety of toys that are well within her reach.

Once she is actively engaged in play, tell her that you’ll be in the next room and that you’ll be back in a minute.

Delay your response time

When you hear your precious one cry out the moment you leave her to go into the next room, don’t immediately rush to her.

You’ll find this easier to manage if you can still see her in the other room. Wait as long as you can.

Return with a smiling face

If she continues to cry, and you do eventually go to comfort her, make sure you have a big grin on your face.

This reassures her and lets her see that you are not upset by her behaviour. Stay for a few seconds and then return to the other room.

Persist, no matter what

Your baby may be furious when she realises that you no longer stay with her the moment the first tear falls.

But persist with this course of action despite her protests. You’ll find that, within a few weeks, she is much less clingy.

This article was first published in Young Parents.