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Separation Anxiety

One of the most difficult stages I have gone through with my babies was separation anxiety.  I always felt so guilty leaving my babies at home, especially when they were screaming or clingy on to me like I was leaving them forever.  I didn’t know whether it was better to leave them without them knowing or kissing them and hugging them goodbye because it was part of my ritual.  Either way, I would always feel horrible.

Separation anxiety is very common and usually peaks around the 9-10 month old mark.  Before they hit the 7 month mark, they happily go to anyone.  All they want is food and some cuddles and it doesn’t matter who is there to offer it to them.  However, as they get closer to the 7-9 month mark they understand object prominence, meaning your baby knows something exists even when it’s not in sight.  For example, baby may wake up in the middle of the night wanting you because they miss you. “When you add these two developmental advances together, you’ve got the perfect equation for separation anxiety,” says Jude Cassidy, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, about separation anxiety and object prominence.

At the peak of separation anxiety, which is 9-10 months of age like I noted above, it may be hard for your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep.  You may notice this transpire when you come home from a big function, such as a wedding or a birthday party.  If your baby was around unfamiliar faces all day/evening, they may be nervous to separate from you.

My biggest piece of advice during separation anxiety is to offer as much one on one time as you can.  You may be giving a ton of cuddles and love to your baby already, but the one on one time is crucial.  If baby is waking up in the middle of the night and you think its due to separation anxiety, you may want to think about offering some gentle to intermediate sleep conditioning techniques and methods.

Below are some tips that you can try before implementing any sleep strategies that may also help you and your baby get through separation anxiety:

  1. Peek-A-Boo

Playing peek-a-boo with your child will help them understand that even when they can’t see you, you will return.  You can even use a stuffed animal they like to play this game.

  1. Give them time to familiarize themselves with others

If you have someone coming over to watch them, help them get comfortable by making the transition with them.  You can give your baby their favourite security object to hold onto, but staying with them for a bit before you physically leave will make the transition easier.

  1. Make it a short goodbye ritual

My husband would always tell me not to make a big deal when I leave the house because it makes my kids more upset, which in end also makes it harder for him.  Now my goodbye ritual is short and quick…I give them a quick hug and kiss and I leave them no time to fuss or cry when I am there.  Also, once you leave, don’t go back!  That’s a big tease for them and it will make things so much harder.  I learned the hard way.

  1. Happy return

When you arrive back home, make your return a happy one.  Give your baby a big hug and kiss.  Offer some one on one time and sit down and interact with them.  This will help your baby understand that although it was sad when you left, having you return is great!

If you have any questions regarding day and night confusion, do not hesitate to contact me.

Anita Patel
Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant
(416) 885-2235

May 9, 2018




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