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How-To-Manage-Separation-Anxiety-At-Bedtime

How To Manage Separation Anxiety At Bedtime

Between the ages of 7-9 months, babies start to develop separation anxiety. This is a normal developmental process, and can range from mild to severe distress if you leave your baby.

The reason your baby becomes more anxious when you leave, is because your baby has not yet developed awareness of 'object permanence.' i.e. That the object still exists, even when your baby can no longer see the object.

So during this developmental stage, your baby fears if you leave you will not return. Your baby may react by crying inconsolably and want to be in your arms if you try to leave.

It is very common for separation anxiety to get worse between 8-9 months, and only really resolves when your baby develops awareness of object permanence.

Read Next: Why Is My Baby Waking Up At Night?

Separation anxiety can impact negatively on night waking and result in extreme distress for your baby when he wakes during the night, and you are not there.

How to help your baby through this process

The best way to help your baby through this process is to spend quality time with your baby during the day:

  • Hold your baby, talk to your baby, cuddle and reassure your baby.
  • When you put your baby down, continue to talk to your baby so he knows you are still there.
  • Whenever you need to leave your baby, always say goodbye; never just sneak out.
  • When you need to go to another room in the house, continue to talk to your baby, so he hears you even though he can’t see you.
  • When you come back into the room, give lots of cuddles and greet your baby happily.
  • You can also play games with your baby such as ‘hide and seek’, ‘peek a boo’ during the day, to help your baby grasp the concept of you existing even if he baby can’t see you

Read Next: 13 Things Every Mom Should Know About Good Sleeping Habits

When your baby wakes during the night and is experiencing separation anxiety, it is important to give lots of comfort and reassurance. And remember this phase won’t last forever.

Due to 'sleep regression' sometimes these issues may reappear in slightly older children. To find out more, read Help! My Toddler Keeps Waking During The Night.


About the Author

Fiona O’Farrell is a Paediatric Occupational Therapist, specialising in baby development, premature babies and is an experienced sleep consultant, validated by the department of health. For information on workshops and sleep consultations visit fionaofarrell.ie or Facebook. Call Fiona on 0879144323

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