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How To Help Baby With Separation Anxiety

Panic Attacks At Bedtime: How To Handle It

How can I help my baby overcome separation anxiety?

Your child’s fear of being separated from you during the night is quite real for them. To help calm them, try to make the hours that lead up to their bedtime as peaceful, fun, and nurturing as possible. You can spend extra time with your child before going to bed, snuggling, reading, and singing together.

If your child cries for you after you’ve put them to their bed, it’s okay to go to them. This reassures them that your baby is fine. However, keep your visits boring and short so that your baby learns to return to sleep without needing much assistance from you.

One way to handle fear around bedtime is to comfort your baby when they are scared. You can stay with your child in their bed, hold them, and remind them that they are safe.

You can also encourage your child to look to a favorite toy or blanket for comfort. They can keep this object with them in their bed, and it may help them feel more relaxed at night.

You can also ease worries around bedtime by teaching your baby relaxation techniques. An excellent one is to practice replacing frightening thoughts with images of safety and happiness. If your child feels scared during the night, have them close their eyes and imagine a calming scene. You can tell them a story related to the image, and after some time, you may notice they’ve drifted off to sleep.

Dont Worry Separation Anxiety Is Normal

It might not seem normal for your baby or toddler to cling to your legs, spider-monkey style, and scream until they turn purple, but dont worry its very normal indeed!

In the first few months of your babys life, hes really not able to distinguish between adults one caregiver looks and feels much like another. Thats why most newborns and young infants are content to be passed around between adults. Beginning around 7 or 8 months, however, your baby will start being able to tell one adult from another shell also start to become more attached to mom and dad. In this way, separation anxiety is actually a good sign it indicates that a baby is forming strong, healthy attachments to her parents.

Whats more, at this age, your babys starting to develop the concept of object permanence. In the early months of life, babies dont understand object permanence once an object disappears from their line of sight, its simply gone, in their minds. But around 7 or 8 months, babies begin to understand that objects and people they cant see still exist they develop object permanence. So when you leave the room, your baby understands that you still exist somewhere and that you can return. Again, in this sense, separation anxiety is actually a positive sign it lets parents know that their baby understands object permanence.

Some Facts About The Babys Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a normal stage of child development. But it can become a problem when the child becomes overly anxious about being away from their parent. Separation anxiety can begin anywhere from late infancy to early childhood and might just be a temporary phase.

However, Academic research institutions have found that some children with separation anxiety develop into teens who are afraid of being alone. For better understanding, separation anxiety in babies or childs parents should need to know the following facts according to their stages.


In context of infants, the 9 month separation anxiety is the typical age range to begin. The peak time of onset is between 9 month old separation anxiety to 18 month old separation anxiety. Some babies as young as 5 months might start showing signs of anxiety. Due to events like the first day at child care or a brief hospital stay. In 10 month old separation anxiety, the onset of the babys separation anxiety tends to decrease.



At this stage of life, separation anxiety becomes more problematic. Especially if the fear of being away from mom or dad is affecting school or socializing with friends. However, separation anxiety in adolescence might also be seen as an expression of something else like depression or drugs going away on their own. It is necessary to see a doctor and maybe a psychiatrist if an anxiety disorder is persisting and disruptive in many areas of your childs life.

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What Can I Do About My Babys Separation Anxiety

The first thing to do is remember that separation anxiety is very normal. You cant do anything to fix it because essentially, nothing is broken! One of the reassuring things about separation anxiety is that it is seen by health care professionals who work with children as a mark of quality care.

Babies who love their parents and who are emotionally engaged with them do show separation anxiety. They have learned that their parents will provide them with what they need to grow and thrive. To a babys way of thinking, there is no one else but their parents in their world and more importantly, there is no need for anyone else either which is why they become so upset when a stranger comes near them. This is why babies with separation anxiety react as they do and in the only way they know how.

When you need to move out of your babys sight such as when you go into another room, call out to your baby, sing to them and just reassure them with your voice that youve not gone far. Although this may not entirely stop them from crying, they arent as likely to get quite as upset.

*Please note that the published date may not be the same as the date that the content was created and that information above may have changed since.

What Are Some Signs That My Child May Have Separation Anxiety

Separation Anxiety In Babies: When Do They Get It And How To Handle It

Its usually easy to spot: Do you get lots of tears at daycare drop off? Thats one sign. Some others include:

  • Becoming more clingy when you leave them
  • Crying or clinging in new situations
  • Refusing to go to sleep without you or another caregiver nearby
  • Beginning to cry at night after being able to sleep through the night

Keep in mind that it is completely natural for your baby or toddler to feel anxious without you by their side. Make sure to treat them gently and with compassion.

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Use Routines To Help Set Expectations

Children feel more secure when they know what to expect. Following a morning routine helps them through the transition from home to childcare.

It helps them remember what’s coming next, which is you leaving for the day. Try not to skip any part of the routine so your child doesnt feel rushed and stressed.

Strategy Two: Give The Parent Some Simple Pointers

This is far from rocket science, but when you are close to a child it can be hard to have the clarity of mind to act in ways that best serve them.

After talking with Sally about how she acted towards Gloria when leaving her, and helping her manage her own feelings around that, Sally and I devised a behavioural plan. I asked her to:

These were just a few practical ideas, and certainly Sally had been trying some of them already. But now she was even more determined to stick to them. We even had her role-play what shed say and how she would say it to Gloria, and I helped her hypnotically rehearse feeling strong and calm in these times of farewell.

But we still needed to help Gloria directly so she could start feeling calm and relaxed about her burgeoning independence .

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How To Ease Normal Separation Anxiety

For children with normal separation anxiety, there are steps you can take to make the process of separation anxiety easier.

Practice separation. Leave your child with a caregiver for brief periods and short distances at first. As your child gets used to separation, you can gradually leave for longer and travel further.

Schedule separations after naps or feedings. Babies are more susceptible to separation anxiety when theyre tired or hungry.

Develop a quick goodbye ritual. Rituals are reassuring and can be as simple as a special wave through the window or a goodbye kiss. Keep things quick, though, so you can:

Leave without fanfare. Tell your child you are leaving and that you will return, then godont stall or make it a bigger deal than it is.

Follow through on promises. For your child to develop the confidence that they can handle separation, its important you return at the time you promised.

Keep familiar surroundings when possible and make new surroundings familiar. Have the sitter come to your house. When your child is away from home, encourage them to bring a familiar object.

Have a consistent primary caregiver. If you hire a caregiver, try to keep them on the job long term to avoid inconsistency in your childs life.

Minimize scary television. Your child is less likely to be fearful if the shows you watch are not frightening.

How To Deal With Separation Anxiety In Babies

Baby’s Separation Anxiety: Learning How to Cope

Heres what you need to know about this emotional milestone and how to handle your babys separation anxiety.

When Katherine Dolan took her three-month-old daughter, Ella-Anne, for a workplace visit during her mat leave, she started to fuss and cry whenever someone else held her and Dolan was briefly out of sight. This reaction persisted until Ella-Anne was around 14 months old and began to gradually ease off.Whenever she was physically away from me, she would be uncomfortable and upset and cry, she says. It was so difficult for her and for me to see her in distress. It was frustrating for my husband because he wanted to give me a break and she just wouldnt settle. This is separation anxiety, which is likely your babys first emotional milestone.

You wont be reaching for your phone to capture the moment, though. Separation anxiety often features full-on sobbing, epic fussing and difficulty consoling your baby when youre out of sight. While its gut-wrenching to see your little one upset, its actually a sign of a secure attachment, says Sarah Rosensweet, a parenting coach in Toronto. Its healthy, good and normal, she says. Babies are wired for connection with a caregiver. It shows that your baby recognizes you and feels secure with you. Still, that doesnt make coping with the fallout any easier for you or your babe. Heres what you need to know and how to deal with separation anxiety.

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Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety Disorder

Kids with separation anxiety disorder feel constantly worried or fearful about separation. Many kids are overwhelmed with symptoms such as:

Fear that something terrible will happen to a loved one. The most common fear a child with separation anxiety disorder experiences is the worry that harm will come to a loved one in the childs absence. For example, the child may constantly worry about a parent becoming sick or getting hurt.

Worry that an unpredicted event will lead to permanent separation. Your child may fear that once separated from you, something will happen to maintain the separation. For example, they may worry about being kidnapped or getting lost.

Refusal to go to school. A child with separation anxiety disorder may have an unreasonable fear of school, and will do almost anything to stay home.

Reluctance to go to sleep. Separation anxiety disorder can make children insomniacs, either because of the fear of being alone or due to nightmares about separation.

Physical sickness like a headache or stomach pain. At the time of separation, or before, children with separation anxiety problems often complain they feel ill.

Clinging to the caregiver. Your child may shadow you around the house or cling to your arm or leg if you attempt to step out.

Give Them A Stuffed Animal/blanket

It is common for babies to become attached to a certain blanket or stuffed animal that they have. This can be an item that they feel very safe with and bring with them everywhere they go. So when you need to leave them with a sitter a fantastic way to deal with their separation anxiety is it to give your baby their stuffed animal/blanket before you leave.

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Learn How To Swaddle Properly

Swaddling refers to wrapping your baby up in a blanket nice and tight. This is a way to help sooth your baby and get them comfortable for bed and acts as a way of easing your babys anxiety. They will sleep better when more comfortable. They will also be nice and snug, preventing them from waking themselves up by moving. It also helps regulate their temperature before thier own body is able to do it for them. There are a number of ways to swaddle. Its a good idea to practice before the baby arrives. Not all babies enjoy swaddling as much as others. If you baby seems to struggle, look for other ways to sooth them.

Tips For Separation Anxiety In Babies

In This Article

While your baby’s cries might tempt you to cancel your plans, giving in will only make matters worse the next time you need to leave. Here’s what you can do to comfort your child.

Practice separation: To make separation less of a shock, play peekaboo to reinforce the notion that youll always return. You can also send stuffed animals or dolls on little “journeys” and then reunite them with your child. Finally, try leaving him for a few short periods of timea half hour to an hourwith someone he knows and trusts. Once he sees that you always return , try out a babysitter.

Create a goodbye ritual: Routine is especially important for younger babies, notes Donna Holloran, owner of Babygroup, Inc. in Santa Monica, California. Try creating a goodbye ritual that will soothe both of you and prepare Baby for the separation. Sing a little song, give a hug and kiss, or wave to your little one right before you walk out the door. Find whatever works for you and stick to it.

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A Look At Your Toddlers Separation Anxiety And How It Affects Sleep

Its normal for your little ones separation anxiety to wax and wanes during his toddler years it may be better at some points and worse at others. Many parents find that separation anxiety resurfaces in a big way around 18 months and again around age 2 .

Just as it did in infancy, separation anxiety can really wreck your toddlers sleep and sleep training your toddler. And it may be even harder to deal with the naptime and bedtime drama this time around since your toddlers separation anxiety will often manifest as full-blown temper tantrums. Naps may become royal battles. And you might find that your toddler starts fiercely resisting bedtime or crying for you repeatedly during the night.

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