Baby stages: dealing with separation anxiety

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.  (WOTV)- By the time my daughter turned 5-months-old everyone at our house was sleeping like babies. This wonderful, luxurious trend continued to 10-months-old. Then one night (actually while on vacation) our daughter woke up screaming bloody murder. We immediately scooped her up trying to figure out what was wrong.

Our go-to soothing method, the classic “bubba”, was received with a swift toss out of the crib followed by more inconsolable tears. We changed her diaper. No luck. Finally I just brought her into our bed for a few minutes in the dark to cuddle her. Before I knew it she was babbling and reaching over to my husband, “Hi, Da-Da,” and making silly sounds.  Hmmm…. now what? So I went to lay her back down and she finally took her bottle and went to sleep.

Fast forward one-hour. We’re back to sleep cozy in our beds and awaken to the same shrill cries. What the heck?! We decide she must be teething and get her a dose of infant ibuprofen. She continues to sob. Next we get an ice cube and put it into a mesh-infant feeding back and let her suck on that to help the assumed teeth pain. That seems to help and she calms down. I finally get her back to bed.

Fast forward a few more hours. Sobbing again. ARGH! Now exhausted and frustrated I pick her up out of her crib and talk and soothe her. She is so upset and I can’t figure out what is going on. After about 10 minutes of cuddling she calms down and I get her back to bed.

The next night the same routine happens. Remember we are on vacation and the lack of sleep in now becoming extremely frustrating. On night three I decide to google this phrase, “Why is my 10-month-old waking up crying all of a sudden?” The answer surprises me and yet is very obvious all at the same time: separation anxiety.

Top Tips I Found Successful

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After much research of message boards from other moms and articles from baby experts and trusted baby websites I created a plan of action, followed it and we are all back to sleeping through the night. Here’s some advice to help stop this dreaded stage in it’s tracks.

The Advice: Be Calm.  Be Consistent.

According to KidsHealth.org, “When your baby wakes up in the night and cries for you, reassure your baby quietly that you’re there, but then send the message that he or she needs to go back to sleep. Your best bet might be a soothing pat on the back and a quick exit. If you are firm and consistent about teaching your baby to go back to sleep without you, this stage should pass pretty quickly.”

The Test: It works!

I followed the advice above and it worked. I calmly checked her diaper to make sure she was clean, ruled out that she wasn’t sick, patted her back, laid her down, covered her up and rubbed her face and hair a little to soothe her.  “Go night night baby.”  She still got mad and cried. BUT I walked away, cringed in bed as she cried but after a few short minutes she fell right back to sleep. Whew!

The Advice: Keep interaction minimal

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According to KidsHealth.org“Remember not to turn on too many lights and to keep interaction to a minimum.”

The Test: It works!

This is crucial. If you turn out the lights or start talking a lot to baby it will make her think it’s time to wake up. Let her know you’re there and that she’s safe.Maybe hum a little tune to soothe her but just focus on calming her down and getting her back in bed asap.

The Advice: Let them cry it out *after you reassure them

Many moms agree that during this stage of sleep regression one of the best things you can do is follow the advice above and then walk away. You are retraining your baby to fall asleep on his/her own. If you start rocking her every night at 2am you’ll create a habit. What you want to do is teach baby that when she wakes she needs to soothe herself back to sleep. That requires you to check on her if necessary or give it a few minutes before you go in. Likely she’ll fall back asleep.

The Test: It works!

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Every parent knows that the concept of “crying it out” seems brutal and harsh. But as parents looking to catch a few zzz’s we know it’s important to step back and let them self soothe sometimes. So I did. The first few nights we checked on her and comforted her quickly and quietly and then put her in her crib and walked away. She cried and then went to sleep. In the nights that followed when she started to fuss (not all out sob) we sat biting our nails in bed and waited it out for a few minutes. And like magic she would stop and go back to bed. After a few nights of this, our sweet baby girl is back to sleeping like a champ!

The best advice I can give you is that this too shall pass. This stage isn’t fun but you can speed through it by knowing what’s happening and handling it like a pro.  If you create bad sleep habits when they are little, those traits can last a long time. Being structured early on (with compassion and understanding) is a great way to be on the same page with your spouse and get baby back to sleep in no time.

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