Separation anxiety can affect even the most social, friendly babies. Separation anxiety is also hard to manage as a parent. It is valuable to understand why it happens as this helps us to know how to manage it.
There are specific ages when you can expect separation anxiety to affect sleep:
At 7-9 months when a baby cognitively realises that their mother (who they previously thought of as an extension of them) is a separate person and separates from them. This creates anxiety about separation from mom.
In the toddler years when fears and anxiety become common when the toddler develops autonomy and imagination.
Sensory sensitive babies
Sensitive babies seek close proximity to mom because she is ‘safe space’ – she is predictable and a source of comfort. These babies become unsettled if separated from mom for any period of time.
Response to a life event
An upheaval such as a the birth of a sibling, mom starting work, a nanny leaving or going to crèche can result in separation anxiety. The first response is to take the time to identify why your baby has separation anxiety.
To ensure the anxiety does not progresses with long term consequences, take the following measures to decrease the separation anxiety:
- Play separation games such as hide and seek and peek-a-boo
- Encourage a transition or comfort object such as a doodoo blanky
- Do not be tempted to sneak out – always say goodbye and be joyful when you return
Be patient with your little one – it is a stage and if managed with empathy, one that will pass.