If you’re child is around 7- 8 months or 1.5 - 2 years of age and...
is very clingy and cries when you leave the room or hand them over to someone else.
has suddenly started waking frequently during the night screaming for you.
Refuses to go to sleep if you’re not beside them.
Only falls asleep when co-sleeping.
Firstly, please don’t stress, this is a stage every single child goes through. In fact it’s a healthy sign of their mental development.
SO... why does it happen and what the hell can you do to help get your little bub through it and sleeping better?
You may be surprised to learn that in the first few months of your baby’s life, they really aren’t able to distinguish between adults.
Beginning at around 7/8 months your baby will start being able to tell one adult from another and that’s when they start becoming a lot more attached and clingy to mum and dad.
In this way, separation anxiety is actually a good sign; it indicates that a baby is forming strong, healthy attachments to their parents.
It is at this age that your baby will start developing the concept of object permanence.
What is permanence?
In the early months of life, babies don’t understand object permanence; once an object (or a person) disappears from their line of sight to them it is simply gone. (Now you finally understand why those peek-a-boo games provided such endless hours of fun. You’re essentially the best magician they’ve ever seen. )
At around 7 or 8 months, babies begin to understand that objects and people they can’t see still exist — they develop object permanence.
So when you leave the room, your baby understands that you still exist somewhere, and that you can return.
What Is Separation Anxiety, and Why Does It Happen?
Separation anxiety starts in the infant stage — somewhere between 6-10 months.
You may start to notice that your baby clings to you and cries before you leave her with a babysitter, or at naptime and/or bedtime.
Often, separation anxiety appears out of the blue — your baby is fine one day and is a clinging, sobbing, terrified mess the next.
Separation anxiety seems to rear its head most often when parents are transitioning their babies into childcare, or into the babysitter’s care.
Separation anxiety also affects sleep.
It can do real damage to a baby’s sleep schedule. This makes sense; a baby who’s deep in the throes of separation anxiety certainly won’t want to be left alone to nap, or to sleep all night. Separation anxiety can be one of the major factors involved in the 8/9/10 month sleep regression.
It’s normal for your little one’s separation anxiety to come and go during their toddler years; it may be better at some points and worse at others.
Many parents find that separation anxiety resurfaces in a big way around 18 months (coinciding with the 18 month sleep regression) and again around age 2 (again, coinciding with the 2 year sleep regression).
Some Separation Anxiety sleep tips
Please remember that separation anxiety’s perfectly normal. From a developmental standpoint, it’s actually a good sign! Yes, I hear you……but you’re not getting any sleep and your little one is tired and only making things worse.
Let me start off by offering some basic tips and if that doesn’t work...there is always Glow Dreaming!
- Develop a good, soothing bedtime routine for your baby or toddler. This will help them relax before bed; it will also provide the kind of consistency and predictability that they need to feel safe.
- Try and put on your best happy/calm face. When you put on a worried and anxious face, or when you cry along with your child, you simply reaffirm to your little one that bedtime is, in fact, terrifying and that they have every reason to be afraid. Work to keep things light and calm at bedtime and nap time. If you seem relaxed and confident, it’ll help your baby or toddler feel that way, too.
- Don’t try to sneak away. It may seem easier to simply wait until your baby or toddler is drowsy or distracted and then slip away. But in the long run, it just makes things worse. It adds to your child’s fear and uncertainty, because they’ve learned that if they so much as look the other way, you might literally vanish. Instead, say good-bye (lovingly and firmly) and then let your child see you walk out the door.