Is your child going through crazy separation anxiety?!
There are actually 3 ages where we can pinpoint when separation anxiety will peak and, you know me!!! I’m not only going to talk about what those ages are and how they impact sleep, but I’m also going to flip the script on how you’re seeing sleep during these separation anxiety times.
Before we get into it, if you are experiencing separation anxiety and sleep has been a nightmare, I have a FREE gift for you! You can download my free course called 4 Steps to Solve Night Wakings and learn how to get your baby to sleep well all night long (starting tonight!!)
And if you’re in one of these separation anxiety peaks, you’re going to listen to what I’m sharing and get excited like Hey!! This is Me!!
My hope is that you’re able to pinpoint and then understand where you are in these peaks and get right back on track with sleep.
Over the years, this is almost on par with the teething conversation!! (Or… My baby’s in a leap!!! Maybe we should do a video on that so you can hear my real thoughts on leaps!?!)
But basically, the whole premise is separation anxiety is the same as the teething conversation. The thing is, as we go through baby & young toddlerhood, there will be many times where separation anxiety peaks and this is GOOD – it’s all about their development! But I want you to detach your thoughts about your child having abstract thoughts about being separated from you and what that means.
Even the term separation anxiety… that’s a pretty strong and emotional phrase!!! It makes you feel like you need to be there and hold your baby all night or have your baby with you in the bed so they don’t have anxiety about being separated from you!!
But we’re going to talk through each of these peaks and WHY they’re going through this developmental phase so that you can understand better and get that good sleep you and your baby/toddler both need!!
You probably have noticed something… You used to be able to have your baby on the playmat, go to the kitchen and grab water, and come back and your baby never knew you left the room.
Then boom!! Somewhere between 6-7 months old, you go get the water and your baby starts fussing like Oh no!! I’m alone!! and you’re like Wait… I just went to get some water!! What’s up with this!?!?
This is a normal developmental stage.
Your baby is starting to understand object permanence!
They’re aware of when something’s leaving and something’s coming back, whether that’s a pet, a person, a thing and this is a normal concept and a normal life skill that we all have to learn and go through!!
But listen to me, this is the heart part of this: A 6 month old cannot have an abstract thought of I don’t love my mommy anymore because she left me.
That’s not happening. You are playing that false script in your head, more than likely, that your baby is crying because you’ve abandoned them… That is NOT true. Don’t listen to those lies! Don’t listen to those scripts in your head.
Your baby is simply learning object permanence!!
Now, listen, I know that if you’re hearing this and you have a 6-7 month old you may be thinking, Okay, if they don’t like it when I leave, then I can’t sleep train! I need to be there for them.
This is actually the PRIME time to sleep train!!!
In my 8 years of being a pediatric sleep consultant, I’ve noticed that there’s a magic window (if you’ve missed it, it’s fine, it’s never too late to work on sleep!!) – Between 6-9 months old has always been a sweet, magical spot. I could tell you story after story where I don’t know why, but it’s almost like the babies were craving and wanting to FINALLY sleep.
This is actually an IDEAL time – they’re already working through the transition that someone is here and now someone is not there. And now you can help them learn the skills of sleeping independently!
This is a true transition period and how they understand where you are in relationship to them.
I know, I know, we just went through this at 6-7 months old… but this one isn’t as “bad”!!
Between 9-10 months old, your baby is picking up on patterns!
They’re recognizing that when we do certain things, certain things happen. Like Okay, when we go to the gym, you drop me off at the nursery… and that’s when clinginess comes in. Their response is going to grow (and there’s a lot of physical development going on too!)
One of the biggest times I see this is at bedtime.
They start to recognize that maybe they had an off night, something is bothering them, and you came in, checked them out, picked them back up, put them down, etc.
Normally they would go back to sleep, but something was wrong so you rocked them to sleep or held them to sleep. Then, maybe this is happening a few nights in a row and now your baby has developed a habit, thinking that this is what we do. (They start to get kind of stubborn in these habits at this age!!)
If this is you, and you’re like YES!!, then I want you to revert back to your sleep training plan, or if you haven’t done this yet, get on board with a sleep training philosophy. We have lots of resources on this!!
(There’s more than one you can choose, but if you’re resonating with what we’re saying then our Sleep Training Programs might be for you!!)
Be very consistent with expectations at this age as they learn cause and effect in these patterns!
For the 12-13 month olds, they’re spiking in their separation anxiety at this age really because of language!
I remember that Hattie could say “baba” for bottle and “dada” for daddy, and eventually “mama” for me. These 1-year olds are understanding things like “night night” means bedtime.
But here’s the frustration – they know what you’re saying but they can’t communicate, so they’re going to whine or cry because this is the only way they know how to communicate right now!!
Instead of getting frustrated about carrying them with you everywhere, this is a great little tip for you: In the first 10 minutes of their morning, put them down, let them play, let them enjoy the playmat or whatever toy they love and try to create some of that separation from you!
It is NORMAL for them to become clingy at this stage because they’re frustrated and trying to communicate, but they just don’t know how!
This also corresponds to the time when you’re transitioning off of bottles, and let’s acknowledge all the change that happens when they turn one! They might be starting to walk, language is bursting, they may be transitioning down to one nap…
So yes, enjoy those cuddles with your 1 year old, but let’s try to not let it impact sleep!
The biggest thing I’m seeing for this age when early morning wake-ups are a thing is because they get cuddles, or are carried around, etc. first thing in the morning, when in fact all of that just needs a little change!
So for that first 10 minutes, let them play independently!
I’d love to know – which peak is your child in right now?? Your child may experience every peak or none at all, so remember that every kid is unique & different, they’re not robots. But please share what your journey has been like, we’d love to hear from you!
And if you’re ready to make progress in your child’s sleep, this is the perfect time to check out our FREE course, 4 Steps to Solve Night Wakings!! You can begin to implement the strategies, routines, and expectations that I teach TONIGHT that will equal a wonderful night of sleep for your whole family!
Sweet dreams!! 💛
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