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Separating from Baby for the First Time
Since Birth

QUESTION: I am a young mother of a four-month-old girl. I have not gone out without her since her birth because I am nursing. Family and friends are starting to tell me that staying with her all the time is not healthy for her or me, yet I feel no need to leave her. I will be starting university in the fall and think I will have a hard time leaving her, but I don't think it will be overwhelming, since I really trust the baby-sitter. Is it really so unhealthy to be with her all day?

Being with your baby at this age is not only completely natural, but definitely healthy! You are enjoying it and you are aware that you will be separating from her in the not too distant future in order to finish your education. This represents a natural evolution of your mother-infant relationship. You will separate from her as is necessary for your development, while taking care to place her with someone you trust.

There really are no hard and fast rules about when it is healthy or unhealthy to separate from your baby for the first time. It is all a matter of the individual mother-child fit. There is no reason to artificially force a separation. If you are happy to be with her, she is best off with you!

The entire first year of a child's life is a crucial period. It is during this time that your daughter forms the foundation for establishing basic trust. This will be the early blueprint for all other relationships. In fact, her ability to form lasting and rewarding relationships depends on the amount of emotional security she has established in her primary relationship with you. The more you intuit and meet her needs now, the more secure she will be in the future. Being with her assures the best possibility for secure attachment. Your time with her is precious and valuable to your bonding and future mother-daughter relationship. You acquire knowledge about her- what she likes, dislikes, what scares her or makes her laugh!

You are sharing a very special time of bonding with your daughter at this age. The more time you feel comfortable and happy spending with her, the more you will get to know who this little being really is! Do not let others interfere with your very healthy maternal instinct. Trust your feelings. You know your baby better than anyone.

And remember that as your daughter's mother, you are someone who cares deeply about her and is committed to her best interests. This sets you apart from others who will care for her. It is through your watchful eye that others are hired to caretake her because you know her needs and because you are the one who will oversee her development for the next 18 years. The more you can be with her now, the better! Do not feel guilty for your attachment. Let your instincts and feelings be your guide. You are in the best position to know what is right for your child.

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Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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