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9-month Old Uncontrollably Crying at Gym Daycare. Concern?
September 12, 2012 12:56 PM   Subscribe

9-month Old Uncontrollably Crying at Gym Daycare. Concern?

Our 9-month old daughter has generally been a highly energetic, somewhat fussy, but usually happy baby. She spends most of her time with mom at home and loves being out in public/interacting with others. When mom is busy with her part-time, work-from-home job, the baby usually goes to her grandmother's or occassionally another relative's house and maintains the same demeanor. The baby is also fine when she spends time alone with me (dad).

Mom recently decided to try to go back to the gym, which offers a very nice daycare service. Both times the baby was fine when mom left to work out but started to cry uncontrollably after a few minutes (the first time about 20 minutes, the second time about 5 minutes) and mom was buzzed to come get the baby.

We are a bit concerned that these are the first signs of greater than normal seperation anxiety. I am somewhat sensitive to this as I recall having seperation anxiety at a pretty high level as a child and I wish it was something that I did not have. My questions are how much of a concern should our baby's behavior be and is there anything that we can and should do now to make this less of a problem as our baby grows up?

Anecdotes about similar experiences always appreciated.
posted by Run.Faster to Human Relations (23 answers total)
 
As I recall 9 months is the age when separation anxiety really hits. Don't stress out about it. As she gets older, talk to her about grown ups always coming back (the new Daniel Tiger show has a whole episode about this.)

My kid, FWIW, wasn't separation anxious at all as a baby, but was big time as a toddler, and now as a preschooler is fine.
posted by k8t at 12:59 PM on September 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think this is a really normal thing at 9 months. I'm pretty sure my kid would have done the same thing - she is very social, loves being with her grandma, but would not have wanted to be left with strangers. I would check again in a few months.
posted by thirteenkiller at 12:59 PM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


That is about the age when babies start to freak out about being in unfamiliar places without mom. In other words, it's a developmental stage.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:59 PM on September 12, 2012


One thing you might do is to hang out in the gym daycare for a bit until your daughter is feeling more secure about the environment.

Nine months is too young to interact with other kids all that much, but if she sees mom hanging with Miss Julie, she might begin to feel more comfortable about the environment.

It can be a drawback if the folks in the gym daycare change around, then she's always being left with a stranger.

Let her get to know people a bit, or at least go about 10 minutes early to hang out so that the baby knows that Mom knows that everyone is fine and nothing bad is going to happen.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:04 PM on September 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


When my kids were between 9 months and one year, they both went through bouts of separation anxiety when they would cry getting dropped off at their regular all day daycare they had attended since 3 months old.

My son had it early around 9 months. My daughter, who is a year next week, had it hit about a month ago.

They grow out of it with familiarity.
posted by zizzle at 1:07 PM on September 12, 2012


My son did that too. Like others have said, it's a developmental phase and not something that would cause concern in the absence of other behavioral issues.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:20 PM on September 12, 2012


Can she see mom from where the daycare is located?
posted by juliplease at 1:25 PM on September 12, 2012


I would like to know more about the time she was crying after 20 minutes. Was she fussing and unhappy the whole time? Or did she do okay for a while and then start crying?

If your daughter was okay when your wife left but then got really upset 20 minutes later, I feel like the crying might be about something else. I could be wrong, and would welcome anyone who has experience with 9-month-olds who are like this, but my first guess would be a problem with the daycare, and not separation anxiety. For example, maybe your daughter is overstimulated by the new environment, the sitters at the gym don't know how to comfort/distract her, the toys at the daycare aren't age-appropriate and there are a lot of things she's not allowed, it's a bad time of day and she needs a nap/snack, another child is startling her...

Also, not to slander the gym daycare, but they tend to be staffed with relatively inexperienced caregivers.

My suggestion to your wife is to make 100% sure your daughter is fed and happy, take her to the daycare, and spend some time watching the staff interact with your daughter and watching your daughter interact with the toys/space/other kids and see if there's anything that stands out as likely to cause consternation with your daughter.

This might not be obvious at first if it's something you're used to about your daughter's needs and personality. As an example of a situation like this, my son hates hates hates being held. I had one sitter who would not listen to me about this and he HATED her. If I left him with her, he'd get hysterical because she reacted to his normal separation anxiety or fussing by picking him up and then OH NO LIFE OVER RED ALERT BABY EMERGENCY BEING HELD WTF HELP.

If it is separation anxiety, it's best for the parent to be firm, cheerful, and have a routine that indicates exactly when they're leaving. This can be as short as saying "Bye Bye" and giving a kiss. Immediately after they should leave and let the caregiver handle it. Coming back while the kid is still upset runs the risk of teaching the child that there is something to be feared and/or that crying is what made mommy come back (true, but not a great thing for them to learn).

Things that tend to make it worse are:

1. Yo-yoing back and forth (start to leave, kid cries, you don't leave, start to leave again, kid cries, you don't leave...really stressful for the kid)
2. Acting super anxious, upset, sad, or apologetic about leaving (they learn what is dangerous and what is safe from watching the adults around them, at least in part)
3. Never letting the kid leave your side
4. New caregivers and situations all the time; conversely, predictable routines and well-known caregivers reduce anxiety
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:26 PM on September 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh and it's worth mentioning that kids come pre-packaged with their own temperaments and personalities. Some kids are super stubborn, some are intense, some are easygoing, some like new people, some take a long time to warm up, some tend to be fearful of new situations. There's a limit to how much you can do.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:30 PM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sounds totally normal to me. I have a twelve-month-old who has improved a great deal since a peak of separation anxiety around 9-11 months. That was also a period of really bad sleep for her. Both things improved somewhat. Looking forward to the next separation anxiety peak which I've heard happens around 18 months. It's still really amazing to me how these brains develop roughly according to schedule (for the most part). So, I'd say wait it out, maybe forgo the gym thing for a little while if it's too stressful.

And ditto what the young rope-rider says about temperament.
posted by bennett being thrown at 1:34 PM on September 12, 2012


This is likely an age-related thing (around this age, my son would become distraught if I so much as went to the bathroom), but do some checking on the thing the young rope-rider mentioned.

Also, it isn't too early to talk to her about what's going to happen so she knows what to expect. Things like: we are going to the gym. You're going to play with the other babies for a while and Mama is going to work out.

just giving her a set of expectations may help.
posted by linettasky at 1:35 PM on September 12, 2012


My son is the same age and sounds like a similar personality. He too has a great time with Nan and loves to chat with strangers. He would not be cool with a situation like the one you describe - I don't think it's seperation anxiety exactly because it's not happening when mom leaves, but for my son it would be that he does need (mostly invisible and unspoken) support and reassurance from a familiar person and can't be soothed by a stranger.

I really don't think you should worry, when you think about it it's quite a lot to ask from such a small and dependent person and I think it's very normal, many babies won't let mom leave at all without flipping out.
posted by crabintheocean at 1:48 PM on September 12, 2012


Is the gym daycare really busy? It sounds like the time your baby is "out in the world", she's in a safe, serene environment and those gym daycares can get crazy hectic. I found that just after lunch (around 1pm), my gym daycare was nearly empty, and when I dropped my daughter off at that time everything went very smoothly. Good luck!
posted by apparently at 1:50 PM on September 12, 2012


Absolutely not unusual for that age. Yay?
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:01 PM on September 12, 2012


My kids have all gone through this with the nursery at our church. Around 9 months, we put them in there because they become disruptive during the worship service. My youngest is 10 months old, so we're going through it now.

Sometimes she cries the entire time I'm gone. Sometimes she is good for ten minutes, then cries. And sometimes - if I can sneak out of the room without her noticing - she is good the entire time.

In other words: completely normal.
posted by tacodave at 3:12 PM on September 12, 2012


I would try to acclimate your baby to the gym daycare by going along a couple of times and having you stay with the baby while baby's mum does her gym thing.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:13 PM on September 12, 2012


Yes, if she just dropped the baby off and left to do her workout, she left no option for the baby to adjust to the new situation. I imagine that would be scary for the baby. Have the mom take the baby in for a bit at a time, maybe even volunteer to help out with the other kids so baby can see what is going on and get used to the situation. Then have mom walk out the door for just a few minutes at a time. Have her work up to going on one exercise machine and coming back. Then two, three, etc. Allow baby to learn, adjust and acclimate.

I don't have a kid, but that situation would scare the bejeezus out of me if I was a kid.
posted by Vaike at 3:59 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


is there anything that we can and should do now to make this less of a problem as our baby grows up?

Respond when the baby cries or otherwise seems distressed. Do not try to "toughen her up" by being unresponsive or leaving her in situations that distress her. This has the opposite effect of making the baby more clingy and needy, not less. I have 3 kids over the age of yours; I have never left them in a completely unfamiliar environment when they were too young to understand the situation and the time frame involved. I now have the kind of kids who couldn't care less when I leave them with less familiar caretakers, because they trust absolutely, through their entire short lifetimes of experience, that I will always be there when they need me. When you trust someone, you do not need to have a bead on them at all times.

The shortening time period is worrisome -- first 20 minutes, then 5. Your baby is now conditioned to be scared of the gym day care. That isn't going to work for now; for your wife, working out in the early morning or the evening, when you're there to care for the baby, are the best solutions in terms of getting her workout in without compromising the security of your daughter's attachments.
posted by palliser at 6:05 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


My oldest is faceblind and has a long list of other issues. I could not leave him in public daycare with strangers at that age. He cried inconsolably the entire time. The first time, they told me just go, it will be fine. After the second time, they advised me to make other arrangements as they could not handle this. I had to arrange a private sitter and go visit a few times over the course of a couple of weeks and let him become familiar with her, the home and the other kids before I could leave him without tears. It got a bit easier as he got older but I continued to work at making sure he knew the provider, he was comfortable in the setting, etc.

I share that to suggest it may not be "separation anxiety". It may just be that the child is being left suddenly with strangers in an unfamiliar setting and not being given adequate support for transitioning comfortably. Your description implies that prior to this, all care has been provided by relatives. Presumably, this is the first time the child has been left with strangers in unfamiliar surroundings. I imagine that would be pretty stressful to a little person who is used to much more gradual transitions of getting to know trusted relatives before being left alone with them in presumably somewhat familiar settings.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 6:18 PM on September 12, 2012


This is normal for the age, and will likely get better as the next few months pass.
posted by markblasco at 8:08 PM on September 12, 2012


Looks normal to me too BUT keep on trying the same thing making it sure that there is no kid that is bullying her there. Plus, the daycare service folks are nice to her. IF this continues for 3 more months, contact early intervention folks in your county.

DS started in similar fashion and at age 2, it turned out that he has (mild) Autism (but serious speech impairment).
posted by zaxour at 3:48 AM on September 13, 2012


...the first signs of greater than normal seperation anxiety

As others said, rather 'the first signs of a new developmental stage coming along'. Don't push it, and she'll be fine. Separation issues need to be rehearsed, not fought about. If she cries at that place, and cannot be consoled, it's too early for her to be there.
posted by Namlit at 6:18 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is super normal and is part of healthy development of a kid's bonding relationship with their mom. I have my own kids who went through this stage at about this time, and having worked in church nurseries and babysat kids all through my teen years, it's pretty normal for a kid to get busy playing or distracted for the first 5-15 minutes of their time in a new place but then somewhere along the line they look around at all the Not Mom people and Not Home stuff and run to the door wailing because they just realized that mom is not present. This is not an easy part of parenting but it's actually an awesome, tangible part of your bond together - all the early months it seems like baby just needs you to be fed and changed and sometimes (it seemed to me) I was just the dispensary. When they hit that attachment stage, all of a sudden they really need the emotional presence and comfort of their mom. Pretty cool. Good work, mom, your kid loves and needs you on an emotional level! You are doing all the right things!

Keep putting her in the daycare, set her up with some toys and stay with her for a couple of minutes, and then don't linger or always try to sneak out when she isnt looking. Might take a bit for her to not fuss but sometimes if babies see you leave and where you went, they fuss for a while but it's not like you suddenly disappeared when they weren't keeping watch and they are a little easier to console. Just takes a few minutes. Perfectly normal, though!
posted by takoukla at 6:25 AM on September 14, 2012


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