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How To Handle Your Baby or Toddler’s Separation Anxiety and Sleep

Baby or Toddler Separation Anxiety and Sleep

I’ve always thought the term “separation anxiety” wasn’t an adequate one. It sounds kind of clinical and dull, in my opinion. But those of us whose babies and toddlers have experienced separation anxiety (and I’m guessing that’s almost all of us) know that the separation anxiety is anything but dull!

So maybe a term like “separation red-faced-screaming-panic-attack” would be more appropriate? Just throwing it out there. 😉

At any rate, separation anxiety is the topic of today’s article. Specifically, we’ll look at why and when separation anxiety occurs, how it affects sleep, and what you can do to cope with it.

Don’t Worry, Separation Anxiety Is Normal. (In Fact, It’s a Good Sign!)

It might not seem normal for your baby or toddler to cling to your legs, spider-monkey style, and scream until they turn purple, but don’t worry — it’s very normal indeed!

In the first few months of your baby’s life, he’s really not able to distinguish between adults; one caregiver looks and feels much like another. That’s why most newborns and young infants are content to be passed around between adults. Beginning around 7 or 8 months, however, your baby will start being able to tell one adult from another; she’ll also start to become more attached to mom and dad. In this way, separation anxiety is actually a good sign; it indicates that a baby is forming strong, healthy attachments to her parents.

What’s more, at this age, your baby’s starting to develop the concept of object permanence. In the early months of life, babies don’t understand object permanence; once an object (or a person) disappears from their line of sight, it’s simply gone, in their minds. (This is why peek-a-boo tends to be endlessly fascinating for young babies — from their perspective, you’re performing the most incredible magic trick imaginable!) But around 7 or 8 months, babies begin to understand that objects and people they can’t see still exist — they develop object permanence. So when you leave the room, your baby understands that you still exist somewhere, and that you can return. Again, in this sense, separation anxiety is actually a positive sign — it lets parents know that their baby understands object permanence.

Nicole’s Note:
“As usual, don’t be alarmed if your baby doesn’t follow the books on this one. My sons were NEVER babies who could be passed around the party! Ever. They didn’t even really go to grandma and grandpa. Not even when they were a couple weeks old! I don’t know why. I think, somehow, they DID distinguish us from other adults. Somehow. Even our nanny, who was there on day one with our second born, he would not go to her until a week or two later and we had to ‘work’ at it. He went to me and his Dad and that was it. He was literally born that way. And, he was the ‘easier’ of the two. Ha! They have both been shy with strangers from the beginning, but now at 5 and 7 are soooo different! So, if your baby has always seemed to only want you, foster the security in the relationship and the confidence will come.”

A Look At Your Baby’s Separation Anxiety, and How It Affects Sleep

Separation anxiety starts in the infant stage — somewhere between 6-10 months, for most babies. You may start to notice that your baby clings to you and cries before you leave her with a babysitter, or at naptime and/or bedtime. Often, separation anxiety appears out of the blue — your baby is fine one day and is a clinging, sobbing, terrified mess the next. This is understandably unnerving for a lot of parents!

Separation anxiety rears its head most often when parents are transitioning their babies into daycare, or into the babysitter’s care. But separation anxiety also affects sleep. It can do real damage to a baby’s nap schedule, and it can cause even the best sleeper to start waking frequently at night. And this makes sense; a baby who’s deep in the throes of separation anxiety certainly won’t want to be left alone to nap, or to sleep all night. In fact, separation anxiety can be one of the major factors involved in the 8/9/10 month sleep regression.

A Look At Your Toddler’s Separation Anxiety, and How It Affects Sleep

It’s normal for your little one’s separation anxiety to wax and wane during his toddler years; it may be better at some points and worse at others. (Of course, if your child’s separation anxiety hangs around full-force throughout toddlerhood, that’s normal, too!) Many parents find that separation anxiety resurfaces in a big way around 18 months (co-inciding with the 18 month sleep regression) and again around age 2 (again, co-inciding with the 2 year sleep regression).

Just as it did in infancy, separation anxiety can really wreck your toddler’s sleep. And it may be even harder to deal with the naptime and bedtime drama this time around, since your toddler’s separation anxiety will often manifest as full-blown temper tantrums. Naps may become royal battles. And you might find that your toddler starts fiercely resisting bedtime or crying for your repeatedly during the night.

Some Separation Anxiety Do’s and Don’ts: How To Handle Your Baby or Toddler’s Naptime and Nighttime Separation Anxiety

Yes, separation anxiety’s perfectly normal — and from a developmental standpoint, it’s actually a good sign! But that’s hardly comforting when you’re facing your third week of sleepless nights and microscopic naps, right?

Not to worry — we have tips! These won’t banish separation anxiety forever (it’s a developmental milestone, after all), but they will help to minimize the effects of separation anxiety and make it easier to handle for everyone.

  • DO develop a good bedtime routine. If you haven’t already, work to create a soothing bedtime routine for your baby or toddler. This will help her relax before bed; it will also provide the kind of consistency and predictability that she needs to feel safe.
  • DO keep things light. The last thing a parent wants to do is make their child’s separation anxiety worse. But many parents do just that without realizing it. When you put on a worried and anxious face, or when you cry along with your child, you simply reaffirm to your little one that bedtime is, in fact, terrifying, and that he has every reason to be afraid. Instead, work to keep things light and calm at bedtime and nap time. If you seem relaxed and confident, it’ll help your baby or toddler feel that way, too.
  • DON’T try to sneak away. Parents, this is a big no-no. Yes, in the moment, it seems easier to simply wait until your baby or toddler is drowsy or distracted and then slip out the door. But in the long run, it just makes things worse. It adds to your child’s fear and uncertainty, because now, he’s learned that if he so much as looks the other way, you might literally vanish. Instead, say good-bye (lovingly and firmly) and then let your child see you walk out the door.
  • DO comfort your child when she needs it, but DON’T create new (bad) habits. If your baby or toddler is wailing at naptime, or wakes in the middle of the night sobbing and screaming, feel free to comfort her. This is reassuring for your little one; it lets her know that you’re nearby. And it’s reassuring for you, too! However, keep these interactions relatively short and boring. This is not the time to read books, or to sing songs, or to play games. What’s more, make sure that when your comforting is done, you leave. Remember, you don’t want to create bad habits during this phase, so now isn’t the time to start sleeping on your child’s floor, or sitting in a rocker next to her bed.

For more information about separation anxiety, and to learn how it’s different from the more serious Separation Anxiety Disorder, see Dr. Kaylene Henderson’s excellent post on the topic over at her website, Little Children Big Dreams.

Separation Anxiety Ruining Your Baby or Toddler’s Sleep? We Can Help!

Separation anxiety can do a number on your baby or toddler’s sleep. Fortunately, we can help! Our consultants at The Baby Sleep Site® specialize in creating Personalized Sleep Plans™ that are customized to your own parenting philosophy and your child’s temperament, and that will NEVER make you feel guilty or pressured. Even better, once you have your Personalized Sleep Plan™, your consultant will walk you through each step of implementing it at home.

Browse our list of consultation package options here.

Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!

Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

How has separation anxiety affected your chid’s sleep? Share your tips and stories with us!

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  1. Lauren says

    This has suddenly become a major issue for us. Up until now, our 15 month old daughter has had a nanny in our home, while mom worked in her home office. It was a fantastic setup for these early months – I got my work done but didn’t miss any big milestones.

    We moved at the beginning of the month (transition one), had to leave our beloved nanny behind (transition two), and a few weeks later, started daycare (transition three). So it’s been a big month.

    Day two of daycare and of course she still cries when I drop her off. That’s natural and I know that. But our bedtime last night was a disaster. She cried for two hours like life was over, even with me rocking her or sitting next to her crib. She laid even own and fell asleep for 20 seconds only to jerk back up and start crying again. Then, blessedly, she finally gave up and fell asleep for the night.

    She’s always been a fantastic sleeper – sometimes asking to go to bed and falling asleep with a quick “goodnight” from us, but last night was so heartbreaking and unfamiliar to us. Will it wane? God I hope so…

  2. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Lauren — Ouch…big transitions indeed! You must all be feeling overwhelmed right about now.

    As for your little girl’s sudden and unexpected behavior — I can guarantee it will wane. This is so, so normal! Painful, but normal. As for how long it will take to subside — that’s harder to know for sure. If your daughter’s typically been a great sleeper, and hasn’t been clingy, then this phase will probably pass quickly. However, you have had a lot of change recently, and that’s no doubt making this even more complicated.

    As for how to deal with this — just keep doing what you normally do as best you can. We always advise parents to carry on as normally as possible, since you don’t want to make any major changes to your routine or sleep habits for a temporary, short-term phase.

    From one work-at-home mom to another: hang in there, Lauren! Hope this phase passes you by quickly (for everyone’s sake!) Do keep us posted on her progress.

    Thanks for commenting, Lauren!

  3. Preethi says

    Wow, my son has been going through some crazy sleep regression coupled with teething. It’s been a nightmare. He is 10 months old now, and we have done everything possible (thanks to you site!!) to have a great bedtime routine (dinner, bath, story, pj’s, song) and from 4-9 months he had been sleeping great. But for the past month, since my son has learnt to crawl and now walk supported, he is very anxious about bedtime (and about mommy leaving him in his crib). Not only do I need to rock him a little, he wakes up to 2-3 times every night. CIO when we did it at 4 months worked (even though it was very hard on him and us), but I was hoping I wouldn’t have to do it again. The last time I tried it (4 weeks ago), my son threw up and he and I were so upset that I haven’t had the courage to try it again. My son naps pretty well, about 2, 1-1.5 hr naps each day. But the night time exhaustion is kicking in (both for me and him), I have even tried bringing him into bed where he sleeps ok, but still not great. I have never really been able to sleep well myself when he’s in bed with me as i move around a lot in my sleep. Once his teething settles, any suggestions on how i might resolve this ? Thanks!!

  4. Esmeralda says

    I am living the same situation as Preethi. Our routine was really good, 2 good naps. Since he has started crawling, he wakes up at night screaming his head off and nothing calms him down, except a small bottle or breastfeeding but I’m pretty sure he’s not hungry, it’s just comfort., so I’m trying not to give in!! He’s never accepted to be cuddled or rocked, so I don’t really know what to do, sleep deprivation is getting to me fast…

  5. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Preethi — I’m so sorry you’re enduring this! Sounds like things are hard for your little guy and for you right now :( As you already know, this is totally normal, developmental stuff. As for how you can resolve it — there’s really no “fix”, since this is a natural part of your son’s development.

    You could try a check-and-console kind of approach, in which you go into his room at regularly spaced intervals and comfort him when he cries, leaving again after a few minutes. This is a kind, gentle way to remind your son that you’re still present, and to offer him comfort, while still maintaining some of your bedtime boundaries. Of course, this takes patience, and it can make for some long nights. But that tends to be a good way to cope with a short-term phase like this.

    Hope this helps, Preethi! Hope this phase is short-lived, and that your little guy is back to his normal sleeping patterns soon. Hang in there!

    @ Esmerelda — you could try this check-and-console approach, too. If your son’s not so in to rocking or cuddling, try simply patting him in his crib.

    I’m so sorry you’re so tired :( This can’t be easy! And I know that understanding this is a normal part of your baby’s development doesn’t make it any easier for either of you. Hope this phase passes quickly, Esmerelda!

  6. Preethi says

    Thanks so much Emily! Your kind and reassuring words mean a lot. I will try the check and console approach, its going to be interesting as we sleep in the same room as him (we live in a 1 bed Loft!). Part of the problem is that when he wakes standing in his crib he can see us lying right there! This wasn’t a problem before as he couldn’t real stand up in his crib! Maybe we will sleep in the living room for a bit!! Hahhaa.. Thanks again!

    Esmeralda, know that you not alone, have you tried the wonder weeks app? The app in addition to this site really helps me sometimes when I’m lost as to why my son behaves in certain ways. It helps to know that this is common and part of a developmental milestone and will hopefully fade…

  7. Eva says

    My son’s first bout of this was at around 11 months. He would scream and cry if I left his line of vision, even when he was playing with daddy. It was a very tough phase.
    He is 22 months now and seems to be going through it again. If I make a move into the kitchen or try to go to the bathroom he runs after me wailing, even though I’ve told him where I’m going and that I’ll be back.
    His speech is very advanced for his age. If he’s in his car seat and I get out if the car to open the door before I go get him out of the car he’ll shout “came back!” – even though I was “gone” for all of 5 seconds.
    Yet if I leave him with grandma for an afternoon, or he’s out with daddy, he doesn’t look for me. Once I’m not actually around he’s fine, it’s when he knows I am that he clings to me.

    I’m a SAHM and wondering if this will ease up?

  8. Esmeralda says

    Thanks for the replies. I will try the check and console technique. Believe it or not, last night I was expecting a looooong night but baby didn’t call for me at all! I just went into his room at 6.30 and he was crawling happily in there! Of course I didn’t sleep well coz we’ve never had a sleeping-through-the-night night so I woke up frequently anyway wondering why he wasn’t calling!lol!! Fingers crossed it lasts

  9. momoftwoboys says

    My son is 18 months old, he has been experiencing severe separation anxiety, and has been waking in the middle of the night for the past week. He is normally such a good sleeper. He goes to bed at 7:30 and sleeps until 7 or 8 normally. However, he was under the weather last week and was experiencing coughing that was waking him in the middle of the night. Over the past couple of nights, he has been waking without the cough inducing it. Last night he woke about 11pm, and was hysterical. It took a good 10 mins for me to get him to calm down and just let me hold him. I don’t know if he could have had a nightmare or was just scared. All I know, is I am hoping that he starts sleeping well again, I am one sleepy mommy!

  10. says

    Night waking is the most common challenge parents face. You may think you have sorted the sleep problems only to find that your little one goes back to waking at odd hours.
    We all wake during the night but it is how we get ourselves back to sleep that is the key.
    Encouraging your little one to self settle is the key. Being consistent in your routine,reassuring and comforting your child is the way to begin.
    Try to avoid feeding overnight if your baby is over 8 months . Patting, back rubs and a cuddle can really help.

  11. Charleen says

    My now nearly 10 month little girl went through night time separation anxiety only just one month ago, and luckily it was only short lived for 2 weeks. She has always been a dream night sleeper 7pm – 7am and always gone to bed happy, then one night got hysterical when I left the room and would not stop crying unless I was in the room which was totally out of character, I sat on the rocker next to her bed and just shhhh her to sleep, she then woke twice that night and for the next couple of nights, but all I had to do was stand at the door and say shhhh mummys here which was enough for her to know I was still there and put her back to sleep – the middle of the night waking only lasted about 4 nights, but the bed time going down lasted two weeks, I just sat in rocker each night when I put her down, not saying anything, the whole time she just stared at me (but with no tears) until her little eyes got heavy and she fell asleep then I slowly each night moved my way to the door, by the first week I was at the door, and by mid second week just outside the door until one night I just completely walked away to the lounge and she let out one yelp and that was it, and I have my little dream sleeper back again.

  12. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Preethi — sharing a room with baby can be tough; my husband and I did that for a bit after our oldest was born, out of necessity. Makes for some nice bonding, but also for some long nights!

    Hang in there, Preethi; you sound like a wonderful mom, and with any luck, this stage will pass you by quickly, and you’ll be back to your regular, restful routine. :)

    @ Eva — this sounds so normal to me. My daughter (youngest of 3) is almost 2, and she’s the same way. She FLIPS if I leave her for a moment, but once she knows I’m gone (like when I leave her with a sitter or something), she calms down quickly.

    This will definitely pass. One thing I can suggest, and have learned from experience; the more you can put your son in childcare-type settings for short periods of time, the faster this will pass. That’s been my experience, anyway. The more “practice” I gave my kids with being away from me for a bit, the easier it got for them.

    Hope this helps! Thanks for commenting, Eva. :)

  13. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Esmerelda — Awesome! How did last night go? Same kind of success?

    @ momoftwoboys — It could be that he’s just gotten into the habit of waking (thanks to his illness and cough) and will need a little more time to adjust back to normal. This has happened at my house from time to time; if my kids are up sick in the middle of the night for a few nights in a row, their sleep suffers for a few days even after they’re well.

    Keep us posted on how it goes! And thanks for commenting. :)

    @ Early Childhood Coach — thanks for sharing this advice! To clarify, we consider one nighttime feeding to be normal up to 12 months; it isn’t until that point that we really urge parents to cut night feedings.

    Everything else you’ve shared, though, sounds spot-on! Thanks for commenting.

    @ Charleen — thanks so, so much for sharing the details of your experience! Comments like this are so, so helpful to the moms and dads that read our blog articles. Sometimes, hearing another parent’s tried-and-true tips is just as helpful (if not more so) than reading loads of expert advice!

    Thanks for commenting, Charleen! :)

  14. Esmeralda says

    Well yes! I’m very surprised!! I know he woke up many times but he didn’t call out. At 5.30 he was chatting happily so I got worried that would be wake up time but I left him well alone and for once he fell back asleep until 7am! Fingers crossed!!

  15. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Esmerelda — fantastic! Maybe he’s past this little regression now, and things are returning to normal. As you say — fingers crossed!

  16. Lauren says

    We are going throguh this, I think with my two year old. It started maybe a month or so before he turned two. He started by pushing limits at bedtime and nap time asking for book after book and song after song and throwing a tantrum each time I said no. But he still went to sleep ok and slept through. Then my husband and I went away for a few night sto a wedding across the country and he stayed with my parents. Gave my mom a bit of a hard time but not different than he was doing to me. When we got home the first night was normal and then the second night he looked totally scared and did NOT want me to leave. He wanted me to rub his head and was getting hysterical so I sat in the chair and he was ok with that. I thought maybe it would be a one time thing, but the next day at nap same thing, then by the next day his naps were getting shorter and he was waking at night looking for me, so I thought maybe he was upset I wasn’t still sitting in the chair. I did something similar to the sleep lady shuffle working my way towards the door, but it was taking him so long to go to sleep at night. I have another child and a husband who works long hours so I was getting frustrated by sitting in his room for up to an hour. I wouldn’t mind if it was ten or fifteen minutes and then he slept all night but that is not what is happening. I have been sitting outside his door for abt a week now and this was ok at first and I could go downstairs after a few minutes, but tonight he kept calling me to make sure I was there. So NE I am not sure I will get past this “step” in the sleep lady shuffle. I thought we were getting back to normal, but I don’t know if this is just going to be anger battle. I really don’t want to have to do Amy crying. He was a habitual dryer as an infant and I have run out of nadwidth for that!

  17. Lauren says

    I also wanted to add that sometimes doing something we think is helping them is really doing just the opposite. I didn’t realize it at the time but my older son who is now five went through similar situation as I described above but at 14 months and we ended up in a habit of staying with hima nd holding his hand until he fell asleep which would take 45 min to 2 hours! ( so you can see why I don’t want to go down this road with my second). I used to feel guilty that I was getting frustrated with sitting there b.c I had read non-cry books that made me feel like it was my duty to stay with him and that I should feel happy about it. So we have stayed with him every night for alost 4.5 years when suddenly we realized, he could not settle with us there. Our presence was too stimulating and he fell asleep more easily when we left after our routine was done. I just twanged to hare this story because we used to think he needed us to fall asleep, but really we were keeng him from doing just that.

  18. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Lauren — First, let me say that I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this with your little one. So frustrating, I know! It can be so hard to walk that fine line of helping our babies and toddlers through a rough stage without also helping them to form frustrating (and exhausting!) sleeping habits.

    You make an excellent point in your second statement, about how the help we give our babies and toddlers at this stage is actually less helpful, in the long run, than we might think. Thanks for sharing this detail about your own experience with us, Lauren! :)

  19. Esmeralda says

    Ah ah ah, it was short lived! This is getting worse in fact. Tonight there was nothing else to do than let him cry and check up on him 2x in 1h. I don’t like this but he is really fighting to stay awake if he sees me around and is worried i would leave the room again! Last night at 3am, same scenario, it took 1h! I’ve been dreaming about sleeping 8h straight and hoping it would be soon.with this sleep regression, i feel like I’ve been cheated off it and it will never happen ever again! Bouhhhh
    I shall take my revenge when he’s a teen and wants to sleep in on Saturday mornings, mwah ah ah…

  20. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Esmerelda — oh, no! :( Bummer; and here we all were hoping you were out of the woods. You must be so tired. Your instincts sound right, though; if checking on him frequently seems to be making him fight sleep even more, then that might not be the best solution.

    Hang in there, Esmerelda! Your perspective is good; someday, you’ll be trying to forcibly drag him out of bed in the morning, because all he’ll want to do is sleep!

  21. Carina says

    My 4 month old has started crying hard before bed, in my arms during the nap/bedtime routines. I hold him and try soothe him, sometimes taking as long as 45min to an hour. It’s like cry it out but without me leaving the room! It’s terrible! He naps for 40-45 minutes 5 times a day. His nights are eyes closed from 6-7 until 5-6am but he’s tossing and kicking as of 3am (when I re-swaddle him he falls asleep again), at 5am he’s even more jumpy (have to rock him for 20 min to get into a deeper sleep before I can put him down again) and then he’ll sleep until sometime after 6am (unless the 5am tricks don’t work and we’re up then). Since we haven’t perfected the nap/night routines, I’m not sure if this crying is overtired, separation anxiety, or ‘hey- I love life too much to close my eyes’ protesting. He’s quite spirited!

    Sometimes I intuit he needs to do it on his own, and I put him down for a few minutes and he’s better off. Other times if I try take a break from the soothing and put him down he escalates. He doesn’t settle from the escalating if I give him a chance (admittedly I have a hard time giving him more than a few minutes, maybe 5-7 minutes). We tried CIO once (for a few nights) and it was working, but didn’t feel right for our family. We have chosen to co-sleep (for now)!

    Any thoughts? Ideas? Similar stories?

    Thank you

  22. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Carina — first, let me say kudos to you for all your hard work in trying to figure out how to help your baby along in his sleep in a way that works for your whole family. That’s no easy task, as our readers can affirm! But it’s one that’s worth undertaking. So good for you, mama!

    Now, in terms of what might be going on here: have your read our blog post on the 4 month sleep regression? If not, you can find it here: This will explain a lot about why your baby is behaving this way, and will help you understand some of the fundamental shifts that are taking place in your baby’s sleeping patterns.

    Hope this article sheds some light on this, Carina! Keep us posted on how this goes, and let me know if I can help you with anything else.

  23. Mandy says

    Wow, this is SO what we’ve been dealing with the last two weeks. My son turned 2 in May, and we’ve had a slight routine shift for summer, but nothing drastic. However, around the 1st of July (it’s the 12th now), my regularly awesome sleeper who usually goes to bed easily and sleeps straight till morning, now screams and fusses for 2 hours at bedtime and then wakes several times during the night wanting comfort. A lot of my friends suggested moving him to a toddler bed so I tried that last night, and while it made him wake up a little less during the night, when he DID wake, I’d get him closer to sleep again, leave, and he’d follow me out. UGH. Any suggestions on how to do not sleep next to his bed or sit in there if he’s in a toddler bed and can get out?

  24. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Mandy — sounds like you may have 2 separate issues on your hands here: separation anxiety combined with the transition to a toddler bed. Both can cause problems.

    For the separation anxiety: this will pass on its own, with time. Do the best you can to offer comfort without creating any new sleeping habits/arrangements that you’ll have to undo later.

    For the transition to a toddler bed: check out this past blog article on when and how to transition from crib to bed: There are some tips in there on dealing with this kind of “jack-in-the-box” behavior. :)

    Thanks for commenting, Mandy! And keep us posted on your son’s progress!

  25. Lisel says

    We are struggling with daycare/ separation anxiety, as Ive just gone back to work 1 day a week. We have 17mth old twins (now 4 wks in daycare) and a 2.7yr old (in daycare 1 day since January, now 2days).
    Twins handle daycare beautifully, no tears on departure, happy all day but when I pick them up they bucket tears and clench me so I can’t move. Makes it impossible to collect #3, and get to the car! They also fall asleep well at 7pm, but after few hours sleep they’re awake crying on/off all night (normally sleep thru 7-6 perfectly)
    Older child says she likes kindy, but still cries and clings on when I drop her off. She’s so happy when I get her but won’t let go all night, wanting cuddles non-stop, crying when I make dinner or pick up the twins. Even rejecting her dad when he tries to cuddle her… don’t know how to cope with 3 at once. And im only working one day a week :(

  26. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Lisel — this sounds so normal. Even though it’s just one day a week, this transition probably feels HUGE for your little ones! And you mention that you’ve just gone back to work one day a week; the newness of this is probably making their separation anxiety worse, too.

    It’s almost certain that this will fade over time. For your part, stay as calm as you can during the drop-off/pick-up times, and during nighttime wakings. I know these phases can feel excruciating, but stick it out as best you can, and it’ll likely pass quickly.

    Good luck to you, Lisel! And thanks for commenting. :)

  27. Rachel V. says

    Thanks Emily for the great articles and how wonderful it is to find all the comments and realize I am not alone!
    My 9 month old was sleeping wonderfully for the past 5 months after a successful (if a little traumatic) CIO. I was boasting to everyone about it :) HA! For the past few days and nights he has been clingy, teary and weepy and now fights bedtime and wakes up 2-3 times a night… We tried to stick to our “method” which is to go and see him at regular intervals but just talk to him, comfort him and rub his tummy / head, not pick him up, but it made it 10x worse. He brought himself to a near-hysterical state and it took 2hours to calm him down… So I’m wondering if we should drop the CIO techniques for a while? I realize you say to try and not instil bad sleep habits for short-term problems, but I’m having a hard time finding a middle ground. Thanks in advance for your kind words of wisdom!

  28. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Rachel V. — It sounds like your little guy may be smack in the middle of the 8/9/10 month sleep regression (you can read more about that here: This is totally normal; during these regression periods, babies who normally sleep beautifully will start waking often.

    However, as you say, even though it’s normal, it can be so difficult to deal with! It sounds like your usual methods aren’t working this time around. So I’d say that, within reason, it’s fine to try other things. You may need to pick him up and rock him a bit to comfort him, and that’s fine — that’d be considered a nice, middle-ground kind of compromise. Even rocking him to sleep now and then (provided that you don’t make it a regular thing for weeks on end) won’t hurt anything.

    Hope this helps, Rachel! Thanks for reaching out. And do keep us posted on your little one’s progress! :)

  29. Justine Llewellyn says

    My litte girl is 8 month and the last two weeks she been a terrible sleeper, she go to bed fine usually falls asleep on bittle but 2/3 hours later she awake and really crying, the only thing to stop her is to pick her up . She then falls asleep fine untill i put her bk in her cot and it starts again so after 2 hours she ends up in our bed, she also cries in the day if i leave and wont go to anyone else but me, she is teethin but im so tired
    i cant leave her crying st night becausei have two other daughters any advice would be grateful

  30. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Justine Llewellyn – Does your daughter normally sleep well? Is this a new problem you’re dealing with? If so, then it sounds like the 8/9/10 month regression to me. Totally normal, but yes, it’s frustrating! I’d recommend you check out this article for insights and tips:

    Thanks for commenting, Justine…best of luck to you!

  31. says

    Here is an idea that helped my babies at around 8/9/10 months, when they would take that first deep breath to start the screaming waterworks when I’d walk out of the room. I’d immediately pop my head back in the door and say, “PEEKABOO!” It was so cute watching their terrified faces relax into a grin.

    Then I’d dramatically move out of their line of sight, wait five seconds, and do it again. More smiles. Then I’d disappear and wait ten seconds before popping out. Then twenty. Then thirty. And so on until I could safely be out of sight for over a minute. By that time they were bored with it and didn’t seem to care when I didn’t reappear.

  32. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Rebekah – oh, man, I love this tip!! What an adorable and creative idea :) Way to turn an almost-meltdown into something fun! Sounds like you’re a great mama. Thanks for sharing this!

  33. watereve says

    My little man used to sleep so well until from 2 months. From 6 months he’d wake every now and then, but now at nearly 11 months we are finding that he will wake at least 2-3 times in the middle of the night and during one of the wakings he can be up for upto 2 hours! We have tried comforting, staying close by, we have tried patting, picking up and rocking. But his eyes are wide open. Eventually we get him into our bed and he will drift to sleep after we’ve fallen asleep. When we tried CIO the length of time we are up is only longer because we need to calm him down and then go through the whole process. Getting to our wits end though and soooooo in need of some help! please!

  34. Sally Brown says

    Hi Ladies,

    My little man is 21 months and appears to be going through sleep regression…. he literally screams blue murder for me…. any suggestions on how to handle bed time….he is still fine during the day for his nap…sleeps between 1 – 3 hours….

    Do I leave him to scream in his cot…. he used to happily put himself to sleep and not wake until the morning…. now just screams for mama…. and wakes up all hours of the night screeching for me.

    We have made the mistake the last few nights of letting him sleep with us…I have never allowed him to sleep in our bed before…

  35. Emily DeJeu says

    @ watereve – so sorry to hear that you’re struggling with this! Have you checked out our free guide, 5 Ways To Help Your Child Sleep Through The Night? That is by far the best place to start, as it’s completely free (woohoo!), and it lays out 5 techniques you can use immediately to start working on sleep. It’s a quick and easy read, too, which is important, since you’re no doubt feeling sleep-deprived. 😉

    You may also want to consider one of our newer products – the Express Sleep Plan. The Express Sleep Plan is super budget-friendly, and it provides you with a sleep training plan immediately. The plan will walk you through every step of sleep coaching, and will even give you a day-by-day action plan for sleep training.

    Hope these resources help! Best of luck to you. :)

  36. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Sally Brown – so sorry you’re struggling with this! Separation anxiety is just so heartbreaking, I know. First off, if you don’t want to make bed-sharing a regular thing, then I would definitely stop doing that, and stick with keeping him in his crib (or perhaps picking him up to comfort him, but just sitting in a rocking chair or something, instead of moving him into your bed). Typically, the best way to handle the screaming is to do check-ins with your son at regular intervals when he’s upset and crying – for instance, you may want to go into his room every few minutes, pat his back, reassure him with your voice, possibly pick him up and give him hugs, and then head back out of the room. What you’re doing is to reassure him that you’re still nearby, even though you’re not in the room, while simultaneously making the sleep-time boundaries clear, and ensuring that he stays in his sleeping area. This can be an exhausting and difficult process, to be sure, but generally, if you stick with it pretty faithfully, you should start seeing some improvement within a week or so.

    Hope this helps, Sally! Good luck to you :)