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Sleep Regressions and Separation Anxiety Oh My!

The Mommy Files

Sleep Regressions and Separation Anxiety Oh My!

Sultana Patail

Like a phoenix I rise from the ashes - or rather baby sleep regressions, baby separation anxiety, and general baby hell. I haven't written in a while because of the above mentioned conditions. Writing has been put on the back burner as my little one has taken over my life recently. Such is life.

I was one of the lucky ones. Whether it was my sleep training or an act of God, I had a kid who slept through the night 8-12 hours at a time for the majority of his life. So when he hit 8 months and things changed, I was taken by surprise. 8 month sleep regression started and he was climbing the bars of his crib at 1AM. Separation anxiety followed a month later, and he shrieked whenever we took a step away from him. I almost cried out of frustration, thinking that all of my hard work was down the drain. But a little perspective (and google searching) showed me that my kid was developing just as he should be. 


Sleep Regressions

Babies hit sleep regressions around 4-6 months, 8-10 months, and 1 year. We didn't experience the first one, perhaps because we were travelling, but boy oh boy when his 8 month birthday came around he was in full swing. (True story: I didn't know what 8 month sleep regression was until I saw an episode of Jane the Virgin and started researching)  

The 8-10 month sleep regression occurs because they're developing both physically and mentally so rapidly, that they can't sleep. Thus, they wake up excited to climb and play at the most inconvenient hours. Some tips and tricks to help you cope:

1. Be rigorous in your sleep routine. Even if they wake up, don't give up. Keep doing exactly what you're doing every night. The predictability of a routine helps assure your baby of what's coming next. If 7PM equals dim lights, bath time, and bottle - stick to it.

2. Don't let them cry it out. In fact, don't let them cry it out younger than the age of 18  months. If they're whining, that's one thing. But if they're screaming at the top of their lungs, it's a different story. When they wake up crying, comfort them briefly but don't encourage play, and put them back in their crib. 

3. Be careful how you handle this stage, as actions will become habits. i.e. avoid bringing them into bed with you to fall asleep, or rocking them to sleep, because you'll be doing it when they're a toddler as well! (Hate to say, I failed at this one)

4. Let them practice their new skills during the day! Don't keep them cooped up. Let them crawl, climb, and cruise to their heart's content. Tire them out so that they rest peacefully at night.

Separation Anxiety

Like clockwork, when he reached his 9 month birthday, separation anxiety stepped in. It was actually creeping in slowly before that. He began getting more clingy to my husband and I, he whined when he couldn't see us, and he cried at bedtime. 

Before now, your baby had no object permanence. Once you left a room - or even held a sheet up in front of you for that matter - to them, you were gone. (This is why peek-a-boo is such a big hit with them. It's like a magic trick.) By 9 months however, they understand that you're still somewhere even if they can't see you. Out of sight does not equal out of mind anymore. Therefore, they come looking for you. (Yes, even in the washroom.) They don't know when you're coming back, and think that you're leaving them forever. So it's understandable why they freak out at this age. Some tips and tricks to help you cope:

1. Expose them to a variety of people. Grandparents, siblings, friends, co-workers. Have others babysit if you're comfortable, take them for play dates, enroll them in baby activities etc. If all they see is mom and dad, it's likely that they will cling to you. If you do a good job of exposing them to a variety of people early on in, you may skip this stage altogether!

2. Talk to them - they understand more than you think they do. Reassure them that you're coming back for them. Put them in their crib and tell them you'll be back in a few minutes, then come back 2 minutes later to check on them. You're likely to get a smile of relief.

3. Play peek-a-boo throughout the day. Not only is this game easy for you and fun for them, it also reassures them that no matter where you go or for how long, you'll be back for them.

4. Don't sneak off! Always say bye. Otherwise, they'll be scared to ever let you out of their sight, for fear you'll disappear. 

As we're closing in on 10 months soon, I can say that some of these techniques worked for us, while others didn't. Most nights we still have to calm him down in our bed, let him fall asleep on the bottle, or walk with him until he falls asleep. Every baby is different and it's basically a crap shoot. But nonetheless, hang in there. They'll grow up in the blink of an eye, and you may wish to have some of these moments back ;)