Separation Anxiety and Sleep


What is Separation Anxiety?

The development of separation anxiety demonstrates that your baby has formed a healthy, loving attachment to you. It is a sign that your baby associates pleasure, comfort and security with your presence.

It also indicates that your baby is developing intellectually (in other words, he/ she’s smart!).

Baby has learned that she can have an effect on her world when she makes her needs known and she doesn’t have to passively accept a situation that makes her uncomfortable.

Separation anxiety  is a normal emotional stage of development that starts when babies begin to understand that things and people exist even when they are not present Or “object permanence”.

This can occur from as early as 6 months and can peak between 12-18 months. Nearly ALL children experience separation anxiety.

In a younger baby they don’t know enough about the world yet to understand that when you leave her you’ll always come back.

How do I know if my baby has separation anxiety? bedtime-toddler

Separation anxiety is pretty easy to spot. The following are behaviors typically demonstrated by a baby with normal separation anxiety:


-Crying when a parent is out of sight.

-Strong preference for only one parent.

-Fear of strangers.

-Waking at night crying for a parent.

-Easily comforted in a parent’s embrace.

Separation Anxiety and Sleep.

If the windows of your baby’s awake time are fine, then separation anxiety CAN  cause  havoc with day time naps and settling routines at night.

– It can arise up at any stage of development and become an obstacle to napping. Remember -the longest separation for your baby or child is during his/her night time sleep. 

-All of a sudden your perfect sleeper will require extra help to go to sleep, or start needing you in the middle of the night for reassurance.

-Your toddler perfects the art of stalling at bedtime.

-It can be frustrating, tired and exhausting stage to go through.

Hints for dealing with Separation Anxiety:

– Maintain a consistent pre nap and bed time routine, continue with the music louder/white noise/ use your baby’s snuggly.

-Reassure your baby when he or she goes down to that you are close by or for now stay close by until he or she is asleep without touch.

-Allow your baby to be a baby. It’s perfectly okay for your baby to be attached to you and for her to desire your constant companionship. It’s evidence that the bond you’ve worked so hard to create is holding. So politely ignore those who tell you otherwise.

-Don’t worry about spoiling her with love, since quite the opposite will happen. The more that you meet her attachment needs during babyhood, the more confident and secure she will grow up to be

-Give your baby lessons in object permanence. As your baby learns that things continue to exist even when she can’t see them, she’ll feel better about letting you out of her sight. Games like peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek will help her understand this phenomenon.

-Practice with quick, safe separations. Throughout the day, create situations of brief separation. When you go into another room, whistle, sing, or talk to your baby so she knows you’re still there, even though she can’t see you.

-Don’t sneak away when you have to leave her. It may seem easier than dealing with a tearful goodbye, but it will just cause her constant worry that you’re going to disappear without warning at any given moment. The result-even more clingyness and diminished trust in your relationship.

-Encourage her relationship with a special toy, if she seems to have one. These are called transitional objects or comforters. They can be a comfort to her when she’s separated from you. Many babies adopt blankets or soft toys  holding them to ease any pain of separation. They become a friend and represents security in the face of change.

As a stage, it will pass. In time, your baby will learn that she can separate from you, that you will return, and that everything will be okay between those two points in time.

Much of this learning is based on trust, which, just as for every human being young or old, takes time to build.


For further help with separation anxiety: email