Going on Vacation Without your Baby: Should I Worry About Unhealthy Attachment?

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Graeme and I are leaving Madi for 6 days to go to Hawaii for our friends wedding. After I booked our flights to Hawaii I immediately started panicking. I have left Madi before for 2 nights in the past for a medical conference and a bachelorette party. I have never been away from her for 5 nights! This was my first time going on vacation without my baby! Will Madi will feel abandoned? Will her attachment (the bond between a baby and mother) to me with fade over the 5 nights?  After all, those are that I won’t be playing with her, cuddling with her and putting her to sleep.  In the past when I have left Madi in the care of her babysitter or Nanny I have also wondered “will my baby become attached to the nanny.”  This time I was leaving Madi with her grandparents, but I still wondered if her attachment to me would fade.

 

When does attachment develop?

Attachment develops beginning at birth when your baby begins to respond to your voice and follow your movements with their eyes. Experiences you have with your child over the next years will help form the foundation of your child’s attachment to you.

 

Who will your child become attached to?

The medical literature on childhood attachment also indicates that children can develop healthy secure attachments with multiple caregivers. This is provided that you leave your child in the care of someone they trust.

My parents are very supportive and love to take care of Madi. Madi enjoys her “Gung Gung” and “Poh Poh”.  They are able to soothe Madi when she is fussy and upset.  When Graeme and I decided to go to Hawaii I was confident that her grandparents could help Madi feel cared for while we were away.

 

When and how can an unhealthy insecure attachment develop?

Unhealthy insecure attachment usually develops from a mother being inattentive and unresponsive to their child’s needs, or leaving for them very long periods of time (often over 3 months). An unhealthy insecure attachment doesn’t usually develop simply because the mother went away for 5 days.

 

How do I form a healthy secure attachment with my baby?

A mother who is able to sensitively respond to their infants needs such as crying, hunger, and physical discomfort helps to form a healthy secure attachment. When Madi was little I remember her getting startled when I accidentally dropped a glass and it made a loud noise. Madi immediately started crying. I ran over to her and picked her up and cuddled her, reassuring everything was OK. The mother’s ability to relieve infant’s distress is fundamental to the growth of attachment in the infant.

 

What if my child is more fussy than other children?

Some children have different temperaments and are more difficult to soothe, but the process of attending and supporting your child when they are startled, injured, hungry, or upset, is what is important to develop a health secure attachment.

 

Will my baby become attached to the Nanny or her grandparents if I leave for vacation?

The good news is that if your baby is responding positively to being in the care of a Nanny or grandparents that this is a GOOD thing!  After all, you want your little one to be loved and cared for while you are away at work, school, or for a quick vacation to rest and rejuvenate.  Children can develop healthy attachments to more than one caregiver, and so long as you return from your trip and continue to respond sensitively to your child needs then everything should be find.

 

I am leaving this weekend to Hawaii and I know I will miss Madi like crazy. Going on vacation without your baby can be anxiety provoking.  I also realize that I need to use this opportunity to connect with my husband and recharge (self care mamas). One of my mom friends told me that vacationing away from her sons actually make her a better mom when she gets home, because she is rested emotionally and physically.  Self-care is very important in parenting, and can make you enjoy more the time you do have with your family.

Madi is in the “terrible two’s,” so when she is fussy I always do my best to snuggle and comfort her because I want her to feel loved and supported. Madi loves her Gung Gung and Poh Poh, so I feel confident she will feel supported.  Madi trusts my parents, so therefore she will likely not develop an unhealthy insecure attachment while I am away.

It also wasn’t my first time time travelling away from my baby Madi, so I had a few tricks up my sleeve to prepare. My husband and I are blessed to have family that we trust to look after Madi. Although Madi will miss us I know she will have a great time with my parents.

 

 

Learn more on topics from Dr. Mom

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Mom guilt and self-care

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The importance Vitamin D in infants

Mom wellness

 

 

References:

Sadock, Benjamin J., Virginia A. Sadock, and Pedro Ruiz. Kaplan & Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry: Behavioral Sciences/clinical Psychiatry. Eleventh edition. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer, 2015.

 

 

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