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Our baby is almost 6 months old, and we have a week-long vacation booked for 2 days from now. Suddenly, my mom got really scared because a friend told her that a baby left alone at this age (6-18 months) can be scarred for life.

So I'd like some advice, mainly two questions:

  1. Is it true that leaving such a young baby with his grandparents could create long-term trauma? I'd appreciate links to professional articles that both agree or disagree with this claim.
  2. Since the baby is not actually 6 months yet (she will be 6 the day we plan to return) - does it change anything?

Update
Wanted to let you know that we ended up taking the trip, and except for the day we got back, the baby seemed to behave exactly the same as she did before we left her. The first day she cried more than usual, I think it was more due to the emotional atmosphere of both my wife being so excited to have her back, and my parent's having a hard time letting her go :)

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    I'm traveling so not able to grab any official stats, but no, people have been doing this sort of thing for hundreds of years. The important thing is that the baby gets love, affection, care and attention. Grandparents are often better at this than new parents, as they will have been through this before. Don't panic, let your parents look after baby, and have a good holiday. – Rory Alsop Sep 4 '16 at 11:11
  • Did the friend perhaps mean permanently left (e.g. a parent dies)? – Acire Sep 4 '16 at 19:02
  • I don't think that's so, because they hardly remember their childhood. Just like that way you can't remember what happened when you were that old. My husband and I went for our vacation when he was 6 month's. We went to Florida for a week and surely brought him along to play with the sand. It was amazing. That's us though. – Madona Syombua Sep 4 '16 at 20:33
  • From my experience, babies can recognize their parents at this age, so they might actually realize something is different but then they also adapt quickly to others as long as they get love and good care. However, being separated from your kid at this age means probably you'll check the phone quite often yourself. Hard medical evidence... that will be difficult. – Trilarion Sep 6 '16 at 17:18
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    Thanks for adding your experiences after the trip! It's always good to hear back from someone who asked a question. – sleske Jun 23 '17 at 7:42
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Is it true that leaving such a young baby with his grandparents could create long-term trauma?

Unfortunately, I don't think there is any scientific evidence one way or another. I could not find any study that deals specifically with babies being in non-parental care for a week or more.

However, serious trauma seems very unlikely to me.

  • First, there is quite a bit of research into non-parental day care (i.e. care for a day at a time), and the general consensus is that on balance the effect is mostly positive, and at any rate other factors (relationship to parents, contact to other children) are more important. See for example this article: Is Non-Parental Daycare Bad for Children?, and the study The long term effects of
    non-parental care on children
    . While your case is a bit different, this does not point at likely harm. In particular, small babies live very much in the "here and now", so it's unclear whether several consecutive days vs. single days makes much difference.
  • Secondly, small children are very adaptable, and while they will know that it's not their parents looking after them, as long as they are well looked after (both physically and emotionally), they will be fine. Note that for example in many families one parent (usually the father) is only really present during the weekend - still even small children will accept them as a father, despite them only being present a few days a week. So children can definitely accept someone as a caregiver who they do not see every day.

The most important point, I think, is to make sure that the baby knows the grandparents before being left with them for a week - and equally important the grandparents know the baby, and their peculiarities.

Spend a few afternoons together first (if that has not happened already), then try leaving your baby with granny and grandpa for a night. This gives both sides time to get used to each other. And finally, if your baby should really suffer from being with your grandparents, you will know - you are the parents, after all. Most probably you will get back a happy baby that had a nice time away from home.

Have a good trip! And don't worry too much - typically these kinds of separation are much harder on the parents than on the child.

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I'm currently researching this exact same question, and managed to find one study so far, which does find negative correlations with later child behaviour at age 3 and 5, but its not experimental and so doesn't rule out that this correlation is driven by omitted factors:

Multiple regression models revealed that, controlling for baseline family and maternal characteristics and indicators of family instability, the occurrence of a mother-child separation of a week or longer within the first two years of life was related to higher levels of child negativity (at age 3) and aggression (at ages 3 and 5). The effect of separation on child aggression at age 5 was mediated by aggression at age 3, suggesting that the effects of separation on children’s aggressive behavior are early and persistent. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3115616)

  • this is very useful! thank you. should be taken with a grain of salt though due to obvious (and stated) selection bias in the study. – Reed Mar 2 '17 at 8:49
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There is research. See Bowlsby. It's not okay. Permanent damage to brain development. It is a trauma you are inflicting to leave a young baby for days. I think at 11 days babies grieve the loss of their mom as if she had died. You need to read books not internet.

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    Hi and welcome to Parenting.SE! Can you be a bit more specific about that research? – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Feb 5 at 20:56

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