Why does my baby cry when I leave when they didn’t before? We’ve got answers and some ways you can ease the parting when it comes to separation anxiety in toddlers.

Why does my baby cry when I leave when they didn’t before?

Sure, it’s stressful. But your baby’s grief when you depart shows their mental maturity and strong emotional attachment to you. All good signs! Before now, your baby didn’t understand that the two of you were separate people. When you were out of sight, you were out of mind. Now when they don’t see you, they know you’re there somewhere, and they miss you. At the first sign that you’re leaving without them, they may cry or cling to you for dear life.

Baby behaviour: Object permanence

Distress about separating is part of learning about object permanence, the notion that things still exist even when your little one can’t see them. What’s more, your baby hasn’t developed a good sense of time yet, so their distress may be just as deep when you leave for a minute to use the bathroom or for the day to go to work.

Babies also show separation anxiety at bedtime. As their memory develops, they know that bedtime routine, like a lullaby and being tucked in, mean the next thing that will happen in your absence.

The good news is this distress tends to be short-lived, especially when your baby is left with another familiar person. They’ll quickly become absorbed in a new activity and calm down. And at night, they’ll learn to fall asleep on their own. 

Baby behaviour: Emotional development

Most babies experience some degree of separation anxiety, so don’t worry. As painful as separation tears may be to see as a parent, learning how to separate is an important part of your baby’s emotional development. This phase peaks between 10 and 18 months old and fades by 24 months old. For some children, the feelings can persist off and on for a few years.

Baby behaviour: Separation anxiety

Practice with separation helps your child get used to your coming and going. Make them play or spend time with someone other than you or your husband so they can get used to being away from you for a bit. Making your goodbye quick and cheerful, rather than drawn-out, can help as well.


  1. Data on file