Please watch my child sleep video on separation anxiety in children.
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Hi! I’m Dana Obleman, creator of the Sleep Sense Program.
This weeks question comes from Jody who writes:
“My twelve month old has been sleeping through the night for over eight months. Lately he’s been waking and needs to be held and reassured by his mom and dad until he goes back to sleep. Could this be separation anxiety? And what should we do?”
It could be separation anxiety Jody, but you’ll also want to be really cautious about your expectations for him as far as sleep goes. Little set backs can happen from time to time and because he’s twelve months old he might be learning to walk or to perfect that skill so that will often cause a bit of a sleep regression.
The best way to handle it might be to first give him a few minutes and see if he is going to settle on his own. It’s really common for babies to have something called a partial arousal where they will wake in the night and even cry for a few minutes and then go right back to sleep again. When parents go in they’ll find that their eyes are still closed and that they really do look like they are still sleeping. So, you don’t need to rush in right away; give it a couple minutes and see if he’s going to do this more on his own.
Then go in and if you want to, you can sit by the crib and tell him it’s still night, lay him down a few times and just encourage him to go back to sleep. I definitely wouldn’t take him out of the crib and I certainly wouldn’t start rocking him, because my guess would be that the more that that happens the more likely he is to start waking up looking for it over and over again.
Also Jody, have a look at how he falls asleep at bed time. If you’re rocking him to sleep at bed time, my guess is you’re going to have to make a big change to that too because he’s got a rocking-sleep association started there and he’ll just keep waking up through the night looking for that same thing again. So keep an eye on bedtime, make sure he’s falling asleep on his own there and then for the night wakings it’s fine to go in and it’s absolutely fair if he’s having a bit of separation anxiety that you make your presence known. Tell him everything’s fine and that it’s still nighttime. If you want to come in and out and check on him every five minutes that’s perfectly fine as well. Just be very careful that you don’t start messing with his own strategies and rocking him to sleep etc.; keep him in that crib and it should blow over.
He knows how to sleep well already because he’s been doing it all this time, so he probably just needs a nudge in the right direction to get back on track! As long as you’re fairly consistent and firm with what you’re expectations are, (mainly that he go to sleep for the night) he should get back on track with that really quickly.
So thanks for your question Jody. Good luck; sleep well!
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