Babies don’t have a concept of death and won’t understand what’s going on. However, they are definitely aware of being separated from their mother and other changes to their routine. They live in the “now” without a sense of time. Separations are frightening because they can’t understand that they are temporary.
Infants in particular who are separated from their primary caregiver(s) are at risk of developing insecure attachment. When children have multiple caregivers in different environments and they receive less attention and stimulation than they’re used to, they can lose a sense of security, safety and trust. Children can become fearful, clingy, irritable and their sleep and eating patterns may be interrupted.
How to help:
- Encourage parents to maintain routines as much as they can, with calm, consistent, familiar caregivers who can offer physical and emotional comfort.
- Keep providing opportunities for sensory and motor development without overstimulating the child. A mom recovering from surgery or with limited mobility can still stay in close proximity so the baby can hear her voice. If she can hold the baby with assistance, she should do it as much as she can. If not, physical proximity offers reassurance.