I’m Convinced My Baby Has Autism
I have been having a pretty paralyzing time lately with fear that my baby has autism. He is 5 and a half months old and has really bad eye contact, especially close range, and especially with parents. He will look at new people a little more (still typically briefly), and does do social smiles, though often turns his head away after. He doesn’t do the “staring a faces” thing I’ve been told babies love to do. He is much more engaged with toys (thought no repetitive behavior or preference for certain toys yet). He doesn’t care if my husband or I come or go or enter or exit a room.
I know you are not going to diagnose my baby with autism over the internet, but the anxiety I am feeling over this has become paralyzing. I’m *sure* that that’s what it is, even though I know it is quite early. I feel utterly devastated and panicked all the time. I love him TONS and am not engaging with him any differently, but I have been to therapy before for anxiety and never found it to be helpful, so I don’t know what to do. I also feel guilty, because in the back of my mind I am sure I’m right, but also tend to be catastrophic. I feel guilty because this is not the path I wanted and I’m scared for my husband and myself for the future.
Is there any chance a baby with bad eye contact and who doesn’t care about his parents approaching six months will turn out to be normal? And if not, how do I cope with the next year or so before I can get a diagnosis?
Sad and scared,
Not for your baby, but for you. Your anxiety is what’s not okay here, and is what’s raising a MILLION SCREAMING RED FLAGS for me.
Your baby is behaving like a baby
Five and a half months old is too young to diagnose autism. Full stop. I know you’re Googling and finding lots of shaky articles that tell you otherwise, and reading other scary things about eye contact and eye tracking that are “confirming” your worst fears. But five and a half months old is far, far too young to make that kind of diagnosis, because your baby has SO MUCH developing left to do!
And I say that as a mother who had one autistic baby, followed by two neurotypical babies. They ALL seemed pretty “autistic” when they were that young, with the eye contact and their blah reaction to noises/people. They ALL preferred toys or pieces of trash or chewing on books to…well, just about everything that wasn’t a boob.
At five and a half months old, eye gaze and eye contact tends to be very short, because he’s simply taking in so much of the world around him. Your faces are the most familiar, and you register very very quickly for him as his parents and source of food/comfort/etc. It makes sense that he’ll quickly move on to looking at something more “interesting.” Believe me, he cares about you. He depends on you. And the level of anxiety you’re describing to me is ABSOLUTELY capable of distorting your reality and your ability to see your baby as he is. Which is: Most likely totally fine, probably just kinda on the chill side.
Postpartum anxiety affects 1 in 7 mothers
Five and a half months postpartum, on the other hand, is exactly the right time for diagnosing a postpartum mood disorder. It’s not just PPD. Many women struggle with postpartum/perinatal anxiety or even OCD. Your history with anxiety puts you at much higher risk of perinatal anxiety or panic.
I know you’re likely arguing with me in your head about every word I’ve written here, because you *know* you’re right about this diagnosis and all the doom and gloom that comes with it. You *know* you have every right to be as anxious and worried as you are right now.
I hate posting this article because it’s very upsetting.
But I need you to read it, and then tell someone — your husband, your doctor, a helpline — TODAY that you need to get help before this gets any worse. Before the devastation and hopelessness and fear start to cloud your decision making. You mentioned finding therapy not helpful, but PPD/PPA can absolutely be successfully treated (usually with medication).
You’ve done nothing wrong here. This is not a failing on your part as a woman or a mother. This is just something that happens, and it happens to so, so many people. (One in seven mothers and one in 10 fathers, in fact!) And there IS help, and you WILL be well. You won’t feel paralyzed with fear. Your anxiety will stop screaming at you, and will melt away into the furthest background noise. You’ll be able to look at your baby’s face and feel love and peace and wonderment about his future. You’ll be able to focus on those little drooly smiles instead of obsessing over how he plays with toys.
Call 1-800-944-4773 or text 503-894-9453. You can search for local resources here as well.
Photo source: Depositphotos/Maksymiv