Separation Anxiety + Baby Sleep

routines transition Oct 07, 2022

Have you ever experienced separation anxiety with your baby? It can be so hard and frustrating for both parent and child, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to help your baby feel safe and secure, but also be able to go to the bathroom for 3 minutes alone, or to have them go down for a nap or bed without a total meltdown.


  • Never wanting to be put down.

  • Crying or whining when you leave the room (even for just a minute to go to the loo!)

  • Crying or expressing distress entering situations where they anticipate you leaving (For example, when mum/dad leave for work, when dropped off at daycare or another family member’s house, as you enter the bedroom before naptime or bedtime, etc.)

I want you to know that separation anxiety is very common and totally normal! You aren’t doing anything wrong, and it is actually something that is a natural part of your child’s development.


This anxiety often peaks around ages 6-7 months, 9-10 months, 12-14 months and 2 years old. Behavior includes: fussing when the preferred caregiver puts them down or leaves the room to get a drink or make lunch. Here’s why:

  • At 6-7 months your baby is developing object permanence, which basically means they are recognizing that when you leave a room, you still exist and you're not with them, which is a new thing! Change can be hard, but it's a learning process, and it's important to know that these aren't cries of "oh no! you're abandoning me" but more of just learning that you do exist when you're not right in front of them, and that there are times when you aren't together (daycare, naptime, bedtime, or at grandma's).

  • At 9-10 months they are a little more in tuned, and can recognize any routine of being separated from you (be that daycare, bedtime etc.). It is normal for your child to learn how to work through this new transition in their life.

  • Around 12-18 months they have a better understanding of what's actually happening around them. So when you say goodnight or goodbye, they know you're about to leave, which can cause some separation anxiety whilst they learn in time that some temporary separation is ok!

  • Around 2 years old your toddler is experiencing some pretty amazing development. Their general awareness of the world around them is heightened as they enter into full blown toddlerhood. This can cause some stress and separation anxiety.

Remember, these are averages. It won’t be the same for every baby, and your child could experience this at any age really.


If your baby is experiencing separation anxiety at bedtime or naps specifically, here are some things you can do to help to enable all caregivers to lay your little one down for naps or bedtime:

  • Try to have other caregivers spend lots of time in the day playing inside their bedroom. On weekends, you do the same. Make this a part of your quality time together. If they see that you (their favorite person ever) enjoys being in their room/sleep space, then they will see it as a happy place.

  • Extend your bedtime routine by 10-15 minutes for a few days or so to include more connection time.

  • As part of your nap or bedtime routine, say goodnight to different objects and people in the room (the crib, books, rocking chair, stuffed animals, Daddy/Mommy) before laying them down.

  • Try to involve them in the routine by guiding them to turn off the light, or turn on the sound machine. They will begin to look forward to this if you do it every day!

  • When you and other caregivers are able to, try doing your bedtime/naptime routine together so she gets used to having someone else other than mom put her down.

  • When it’s time to leave the bedroom, don’t sneak out!! This can often increase their anxiety.


  • For older babies and toddlers, verbally let them know that you always come back! Repeat the phrase “mama/daddy always come back!” The word “back” is something that can easily stick in their mind and start to understand from a young age (younger than you might think). Start this as young at 9 months and keep repeating throughout toddlerhood. Your young baby/toddler can understand a lot more than you might think.

    Most importantly with this tip: you must follow through! Always come back, and when you return, explain to them that you are back! Say phrases such as “mama/daddy is back from work!” The more you do this, the more they will understand. Repeating that you always come back, and following through with that promise teaches them not to panic when you leave temporarily. We want them to feel safe and secure with us of course, but also develop a healthy understanding that we can have appropriate and natural times of temporary separation, and that it’s ok!

  • Play peekaboo! This simple little game is a great way to help them learn that you can go away and come back again! Plus, it’s cute and so fun for them.

  • Spend extra one on one time together when possible, with your full attention and without distraction. This helps them to feel safe, secure, and connected.


  1. Separation anxiety often peaks around ages 6-7 months, 9-10 months, 12-18 months and 2 years old. Behavior includes: fussing when the preferred caregiver puts them down for bed, or leaves the room for even a minute to get a drink or make lunch.

  2. To help with separation anxiety at bedtime, play together in their room, and say goodnight to objects around the room before bed! Get them more involved with bedtime routine!

  3. To help with general separation anxiety, help them to know and understand that you ALWAYS come back! And follow through with this! Play games like Peekaboo as a fun way to learn that you can leave and then come back again! Make sure to spend lots of quality time together to increase connection and security.

Last but not least. Hang in there! it is SO NORMAL for your baby to want to be close to you all the time, but it’s also normal for you to want a few minutes to yourself here and there. With these tips you can ensure they get all the love they need, whilst filling YOUR cup too.


I have guides and courses to help YOU teach your baby to sleep in a way that feels good for you mum heart and parenting style. Multiple methods to choose from, no “one size fits all” approach. You choose:

Click here 
If you have a newborn (0-15 weeks)

Click here 
If you have a baby (4-14 months)

Click here 
If you have a toddler (15 mo - 4 years)


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