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by Abigail Van Buren

Baby in Day Care Plays Favorites Among the Staff

DEAR ABBY: I am a child care provider working with infants. Two of us work in the nursery and share responsibilities.

One baby has become extremely attached to me, to the point that I can't take a break or go to lunch without him screaming until I return. I feel guilty taking lunch breaks or even a vacation because I know that whoever substitutes for me will have to deal with the crying.

Other teachers have tried to bond with him to make it easier on everyone, but it doesn't work. It has reached the point that I'm exhausted at the end of the day from the stress of having to be near him all day. Any suggestions? -- MOTHERING IN MISSOURI

DEAR MOTHERING: Yes. You are a caring person who is doing more than your share of trying to make the baby feel secure, so stop feeling guilty. I consulted Faisal Chawla, M.D., a pediatrician in Los Angeles, who explained that separation anxiety normally occurs at around 6 to 9 months, so age may be a factor. The baby may be experiencing separation anxiety from you as others might get it when a parent drops them off at day care. It should not cause you distress since this is expected behavior.

Dr. Chawla kindly offered suggestions for coping with separation anxiety:

Establish a goodbye ritual/routine that's consistent and quick. Comfort the infant and let him/her know you will be back after your break (just as parents would tell their little one they will be back after work). Some parents do a peek-a-boo ritual, which can reduce crying goodbyes to ones with much less drama.

Leave after you say your goodbye and don't come back repeatedly. Coming back is positive reinforcement for the crying ("If I cry harder, they will come back!").

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