Article by Lynette at Serene Sleep Solutions
Dealing with separation anxiety can be exhausting. Naps and night-time sleep can get completely thrown off. Now not only are you dealing with an anxious baby that sounds like an old-fashioned alarm clock as soon as you leave the room but is also overtired and cranky from the lack of sleep they’ve been getting.
First of all, if your baby is going through separation anxiety, it is normal! No there isn’t anything wrong with your baby. And you are not the only one going through this so reach out to other moms for support and definitely reach out to your significant other or someone you can trust to help you catch a little break if needed.
BUT here’s something to keep in mind when it gets tough and you’re tired of the long days of having a clingy baby on your side: SEPARATION ANXIETY IS ACTUALLY A GOOD THING! I know what you’re thinking HOW can something so exhausting be so good? Well here’s why: It means your baby is starting to tell the difference between you and other adults. It means your baby is learning that you are their mom or dad. It means your baby is creating a special bond with you. It means your baby is growing and learning more about their world.
Here are 5 things you can do to help your baby cope with separation anxiety. Doing these things may not help completely but it might help them get over it a little bit sooner and help them stay a little calmer.
#1. Extra Comfort
It would only make sense that your baby would need some extra comfort during this time. A few extra cuddles at bedtime, some extra one on one playtime during the day, or perhaps maybe just mom or dad sitting next to them while they explore a new environment. If they are needing some extra comfort at bedtime or nap time, be careful not to create a new habit that will make their sleep worse or carry on after they have gotten through the separation anxiety. What I mean by this is to be careful that they don’t start depending on you in order to fall asleep.
#2. Bedtime Routine
Create a consistent and relaxing bedtime routine. This can help bring them comfort because they are familiar with what’s about to happen. Make sure there aren’t any surprises. Be boring and repetitive. Your child will appreciate it.
#3. Build Trust
Don’t try to sneak away after your child’s asleep, or when they’re just about asleep. Don’t try to sneak out the door at daycare or the babysitters. Let your child know that you’re leaving and that you will be back but be careful not to hang around, even though it’s never easy leaving your child. If you leave when your child is almost sleeping or asleep, they will wake up frantic because they expected you to be there. It may even cause them to have a harder time going to sleep because they will start to get anxious knowing that you are going to leave when they do fall asleep.
#4. Stay Calm
I must be crazy right?? How do you stay calm during a phase like this??
The worst thing you can do is let yourself get worked up about this phase. Your child will feed off of your feelings. Whether it be you’re anxious about leaving them, frustrated they won’t sleep, or impatient because you need to get something done. You aren’t a bad parent for doing that because I’m sure most of us have. Try to relax as much as you can, be patient and just enjoy spending some extra time with your child through this phase. Remember no phase will last forever!
A really fun thing you can do, especially for young babies, is to play peekaboo with them. Starting at a young age such as 6 months with just covering your face with your hands. Then as they get older, tucking behind a piece of furniture, then eventually a wall. Each stage is teaching them that you’re gone and now you have returned. This game helps build trust without it being scary for them, but instead fun and exciting.
If you’re still struggling with separation anxiety after trying these 5 things, you can schedule a FREE 20-minute sleep consultation to see if there is something else contributing to this phase.
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About the Author
I am a baby and toddler sleep consultant and have been doing it for almost 4 years! My blog is all about sleep and motherhood. I started my business because I was a sleepless and desperate Mom with postpartum depression related to sleep deprivation shortly after my first was born. After I took the leap to learn how to help our daughter sleep better, I couldn’t believe the changes in my life and my postpartum depression soon disappeared. I see this all the time with Moms I help now and I can’t imagine not doing what I do and helping other families out.