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Sleep Problems

Q&A: Night Separation Anxiety?

My seven-month-old, who used to sleep through the night, has begun waking several times and crying for more than an hour. When I go in there, all I have to do is rub his back for a minute and he falls back to sleep for a few more hours. What should I do?

It sounds like your baby may be experiencing the beginning of separation anxiety, Some parents are frustrated when this stage happens, but it's completely normal and truly a wonderful milestone in your baby's development. Separation anxiety means your baby has the cognitive ability to understand that you exist, even when he can't see you.

Your baby will eventually become more comfortable with his newfound awareness. In the meantime, here are some ways you can teach him that when mommy leaves, she always comes back — whether it's daytime or nighttime.

First, give your baby opportunities to practice separating from you during the day. Start with playing extended versions of peek-a-boo with him. Disappear from his sight for a few seconds and then reemerge. Gradually extend the time you disappear to 30 seconds, and then a minute or more.

Second, if you rarely separate from your baby, start making it part of your weekly routine. This will be helpful even if it's only for an hour or so. Pick a consistent time each week and make sure your child sees you getting ready to leave your home. He may protest at first, but resist the temptation to sneak out. In fact, involve him in the process of leaving. As you put on your coat, be upbeat and say something like, "Mommy is leaving but she'll be back soon!"

Plus, More from The Bump:

Tricky Ways to Help Baby Sleep

Worst Baby Sleep Advice Ever

Why Babies Cry (and How to Soothe Them)


By Conner Herman and Kira Ryan, cofounders of Dream Team Baby