Parenthood

Separation anxiety and sleep regressions

"It should be noted that separation anxiety can happen at any stage in your child’s first few years. Some babies or toddlers barely blink when their parents or carers leave them. It is not that they are more secure little people than others; it’s just that they are independent little souls and know that they are safe wherever they are and whoever they are with! So don’t beat yourself up if your little one shows signs of being slightly anxious when you leave them. It’s not necessarily you – it could be them!

Separation anxiety is a pretty dramatic, but often normal, part of growing up. Sometimes it can seem to appear out of nowhere, and your usually easy-going small person will suddenly develop fears over your departure.

Children may have been looked after by someone specific, or may even have been attending crèche for some time, before separation anxiety starts. Sometimes they may even start to develop attachments to one parent rather than the other. Dealing with it and not ignoring it is the best thing we can do for them.

Helping with separation anxiety

Pre-empt the early stages of separation anxiety by having regular carers in your baby’s life. This might mean grandparents, aunties, uncles, babysitters or friends. Don’t have too many long goodbyes – your baby will sense your unease and will react accordingly. Fake it if you have to! The initial tears will soon dry (for both of you!) and, while it can be unnerving for parents, it will pass, so try not to take it too personally.

Normally separation anxiety will happen just as you start the transition to something new – perhaps as you think about going back to work. You will be checking out your childcare options or gradually settling your little one into crèche and you may start to notice a ‘clingyness’ creeping in. As if this is not tough enough to contend with, this anxiety can also affect baby’s sleep habits. They may become poor nappers, or begin to resist the actual naps themselves. It’s not irrational – they may feel that they are being abandoned each time they are put down for a nap, and who can blame them? Provide comfort and reassurance. Stay with your baby if needs be while they fall asleep. If it helps the baby feel secure during this period of change, just be there. I will mention toddlers’ separation anxiety issues later on in the book when we deal with that age group. Time goes by so quickly in the first few months of parenthood.

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This piece is an extract from the No Fuss Baby & Toddler Sleep by Niamh O'Reilly is published by Mercier Press and is available to buy now from all good book stores or online from Amazon.com.

 

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