When baby is tiny, in the first few months of life, this is a very common thought amongst the vast majority of parents. The obvious reason for this is that your baby is indeed very fragile and they are dependent upon you to keep them alive. They cannot yet regulate their body temperature, are of course immobile, have a rudimentary digestion system and poor vision. Without you to feed them and keep them safe and warm, your baby will die. This is an overwhelming truth and an enormous responsibility. Cot death, or SIDS is an added worry, which is more likely to occur in babies under six months, but it must be noted this is a rare occurrence, but can add to your anxiety. The emotional weight is often carried more by one parent and can lead to very disrupted sleep, even more so than would be naturally expected for a parent of a newborn. This is because, not only are you woken by your little one when they need to feed, it can be hard to allow yourself to relax sufficiently to fall asleep when your baby does.

As your baby grows and becomes more robust, for many parents, the anxiety about baby surviving begins to ease. Some element of worry about your child will likely continue in some form even as they become adults, spiking at certain times, but the constant worry of the first few months is unlikely to re-occur, unless in exceptional circumstances. However, you might find that you continue to worry, or even that these feelings become even more intensified. You might experience a resultant distance or feeling of detachment from your baby, as if your fear to lose them somehow keeps you away from them, from being able to be with and enjoy time with them. Part of the reason this happens may be connected to how you have learnt to think about yourself and your relationships from your own childhood. What you experience with your baby is almost always going to be along some kind of similar lines to how you have experienced other relationships. So if you have an idea about yourself in some ways as not being wanted, or rejected, then you are probably going to experience some aspect of this in relation to your baby. A persistent worry about losing them, may signify an underlying belief that this is an inevitably, so it is almost as if you are preparing for their loss through your worry. It also serves to keep you a little distant from them, so as if you are protecting yourself from the pain of the anticipated loss by keeping away. It must be stressed, these are often unconscious processes, that you are not deliberately choosing to feel and act in this way. It is routed in the templates you have formed about yourself and others from your own early experience (See ‘why is it so hard to cope when my baby cries’).

An additional process that may contribute to your persistent worry, could be how you unconsciously manage other types of difficult emotion, particularly anger and frustration. Anger and frustration are an ordinary part of our feelings in relation to other people, but if we grew up in an environment where anger or its expression was considered unacceptable, or even dangerous, then it is probable that we will struggle to notice this emotion within ourselves and most certainly to voice it. It may be that anger is imagined to be solely destructive and therefore it must be suppressed.  This can mean that it feels terribly hard to feel ordinary frustration with your baby, to feel annoyed and angry with them. This is because of your worry that these feelings may take over, or that by simply feeling or thinking such thoughts, you are causing harm, which might induce feelings of guilt and shame for you. One way that your mind can unconsciously find a way around this, is to convert these feelings into something else, which is your worry. The worry is then persistent and unabating, as it is actually a way to mask the emotion that causes you more distress, i.e., anger.

Fortunately, therapy can provide an avenue to explore the ways you relate to your baby and to yourself. This aids understanding and can bring relief and a greater freedom. This will help you to feel more secure within yourself and so in turn with your baby, enabling you to enjoy time with them.

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