Separation Anxiety and Sleep

Around the time you're used to a good night's sleep, a fun little development occurs: your baby learns about object permanence.



At 7 or 8 months (or even earlier) babies start to understand that objects (people) still exist when they can't see them. And because of this, they can develop something called 'separation anxiety.' This basically means they cry when they can't see you because they KNOW you exist, you just aren't right next to them. Toddlers have a second bout of separation anxiety around 18 months and then around 2years old.


This isn't the case for every baby- my two kiddos have quite frankly never really cared whether I'm in their room or their great aunt is playing with them all that much... but if your kiddo is going through separation anxiety- it can be REALLY rough. Especially for sleep. So what can you do to make sleep happen when baby is going through this? Be Consistent -- Make sure you have a GREAT bedtime routine starting TODAY so that they have positive associations with bedtime and they can go to sleep feeling loved. (If you want help with bedtime routines you can buy my ebook!) A loving and consistent bedtime routine not only helps baby get ready to go to sleep, it prepares them for the night ahead.

Be Happy -- When you are sleep deprived and anxious about bedtime the last thing you want to do is smile... but it's what baby needs most at this time! Baby needs to know that everything is ok- that even when you leave things are good. Your mood will help them know how to feel. Be Transparent - don't try to sneak off at bedtime. Make sure baby knows you are leaving- and that you will see them in the morning. Trying to trick a baby is never a good idea because it messes with what they understand. If all of a sudden they can't see you, they cannot know that you will be back. So, as I always recommend, talk to your baby! Tell them that they can sleep on their own without you and that when they really need you you'll be right outside the door... and you'll see them in the morning for more fun! Be patient-- Separation anxiety is rough, but it DOES end eventually. This won't sound good if you're in the thick of it... but it usually can last up to a couple (or more) months. So work patiently to help baby feel comfortable and keep practicing leaving and coming back.


Be Peek-a-Booy -- Play Peek-a-Boo a lot! And versions of it! When you play peek-a-boo you are practicing 'returning,' and this helps baby know that you DO come back even when you aren't there. Be Comforting-- if you know baby ABSOLUTELY needs you, then go in when they're crying. But don't put them to sleep. Try to stick to your good habits because any consistency WILL be comforting to baby as well. If you're dealing with a toddler, avoid going in because they will take advantage of your well meaning intentions and MAY create a game out of getting you to come back once you've left... and you may additional anxiety when they don't know WHEN you WILL come back versus not. Have a strict rule about how many times you can come in, explain it, and stick to it! Are you going through separation anxiety with your baby? Comment below! OR send me a message if you'd like to set up a consultation and we can find a way to work around separation anxiety to get your baby and you more sleep!


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Tel: (650) 862 - 8011

Andrea De La Torre

Sleep Consultant 

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