Separation anxiety is a standard stage of your baby's emotional development. This stage is frequently associated with the realization that people and things exist even when your baby cannot see them. It can occur whenever you leave the room, and bedtime is the most challenging part. We know how hard this can be for both parents and babies, so we gathered some valuable tricks to make this journey easier. Read on to find out what it is, when it occurs, and how to manage separation anxiety in babies at night.
What is separation anxiety in babies & when does it occur?
It may not seem normal for your baby to scream almost every night so hard they turn purple, but don't worry - it is. It's actually a good sign! Let's elaborate.
As we already said, separation anxiety is frequently associated with the realization that people and things exist even when your infant cannot see them. This is known more precisely as object permanence. As a result, when you leave the room, your infant understands that you are still present somewhere else and that you can return. In this sense, separation anxiety is a good thing since it tells us, parents, that our kid understands object permanence.
Separation anxiety begins in the infant stage - sometime between 6 and 10 months and peaks between 10 and 18 months. You may find that your baby clings to you and screams before you leave her with a babysitter and during naps and bedtime. Separation anxiety often emerges out of nowhere - your baby may be OK one day and become a clutching, screaming, scared mess the next. Many parents are understandably concerned about this!
However, as we explained, this is just a phase that will pass. In addition, it's a sign of the healthy development of your baby. So, it's a good thing, no matter how challenging and scary it is.
Now that you know what it is let's see how to manage separation anxiety in babies at night!
Consistency in routine is a must
It's easy for babies to get used to certain routines. If you begin to change things up (even if it is unintentionally), this may rapidly become their new expectation. So, if you don't have a nightly ritual, now is the time to start. Now, there is no such thing as a "perfect" routine, but the key is to keep it in the same sequence every night. Perhaps it's taking a bath, putting on pajamas, listening to soothing music, reading bedtime stories, and putting on a sleep sack.
However, we advise against using devices for at least 90 minutes before bed! So, if you want to learn how to manage separation anxiety in babies at night - creating a proper bedtime routine is the first and most crucial step.
Rethink your baby's sleeping schedule
Our children frequently lack an age-appropriate routine. This includes sufficient naps, proper waking hours, and bedtime. If your infant goes to bed too late, their melatonin turns to cortisol (a stress hormone). This is why they sometimes struggle with sleep. An overtired infant combined with separation anxiety is a recipe for disaster. If they aren't sleepy enough, they may object to being put down because they aren't ready for bed.
Getting that schedule down is critical because it removes the guessing. When you put your child to bed, you should be confident that it is the appropriate time. Unfortunately, having the right schedule does not ensure that your child will not rebel and display symptoms of separation anxiety. However, it does assist us as parents in understanding that it is not based on a schedule. Therefore, it's one less worry for parents. Moreover, knowing that bedtime is part of their day, something recurring, will give your baby a feeling that you'll come back at one point, which means they won't feel as anxious.
If any events are coming up that will disrupt this routine - relocation, for example, we suggest you ease into this temporary change. You must create a detailed plan for moving interstate with a newborn and prepare them for this process. The best idea is to slightly alter their sleeping schedule a few days before the move - but don't do anything drastic that will disrupt everything. Just make sure your baby is ready for something a little bit different.
Don't sneak away - say goodbye or goodnight
Always saying goodbye when leaving with a newborn or toddler is essential. This fosters trust and prevents them from becoming perplexed about why you aren't present. If you fail to say goodbye, it adds to your child's anxiety and uncertainty since they now know that if they even glance the other way, you may vanish.
Therefore, before you leave, always announce that you're going - say goodbye warmly and firmly. You can also tell your child that you'll be back soon. They may be infants, but they understand more than you know. Reassuring your child and making them feel safe and calm will calm them down eventually.
Extra support is allowed - but don't go overboard
When separation anxiety appears, developing new and unwanted behaviors is quite simple. We may resort to co-sleeping, rocking to sleep, and other methods. The best advice we can give you is to stay strong and avoid making drastic changes to your response. It's fine to give your baby additional hugs or to check on them every few minutes, but getting them out of the crib sends a confusing message. It is our responsibility as parents to be consistent. This is essential because our children turn to us for security and constancy. They want us to be in charge. They require our leadership.
If we are unsure about bedtime and keep altering our response, we will confuse our babies and prolong the process. So, if you want to manage separation anxiety in babies at night successfully, you need to be consistent!
Going through separation anxiety with the baby is a nightmare for every parent. This challenging period will make you tired and annoyed. However, a few tricks will help you manage separation anxiety in babies at night. Now that you know that consistency and routine are crucial in this period, make sure you set some rules and stick to them. Of course, you can provide extra support but make sure you don't turn this into a habit. It will only make the situation worse. Follow these simple tips, and you'll have more nights of good sleep!
Lily Schwartz is a child psychologist and mommy of two beautiful girls. She dedicated her life to understanding children and helping parents handle every aspect of childhood. Lily enjoys power walking and going to the beach when she's not working or blogging.
Note: Guest blog posts are shared for informational and educational purposes and may not reflect the official policy or position of SlumberPod, our employees and/or contractors.