Is This A Sleep Regression Or Separation Anxiety? Parenting Can Be Complicated

By
Share
Ad failed to load

Is your toddler fighting naps, again? Does your little one cry when you leave their bedroom at night? Maybe, if they are anything like my son, they won't let anyone put them to bed except you (which is so hard when mom needs a night off). If any of the aforementioned sounds familiar, I wouldn't be surprised if you're evaluating your bedtime situation and asking yourself, "Is this a sleep regression or separation anxiety?" Oh, the joys of parenthood, right? Well, according to experts and even though they are two different issues, a sleep regression and separation anxiety can happen at the time time and may require the same parenting strategies to see your baby through.

Firs thing's first: what is a sleep regression, anyway? According to The Baby Sleep Site, a sleep regression is "a period of time (anywhere from 1 – 4 weeks) when a baby or toddler who has been sleeping well suddenly starts waking at night, and/or skipping naps (or waking early from naps) for no apparent reason." According to the same site, regressions are generally related to your child meeting a developmental milestone, like crawling, walking, or feeding themselves.

So, how is separation anxiety different from a sleep regression? According to the Sleep Lady, Kim West, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW-C), separation anxiety is part of an important developmental milestone, called object permanence, or recognizing different faces and places. Your baby "suddenly understands that when you leave the room, you don’t disappear like a game of peek-a-boo. Suddenly, [your child] is hit with the realization that you can go somewhere without [them]." The thought of you leaving can be pretty overwhelming and, as a result, can cause anxiety.

Ad failed to load
Ashley Batz/Romper

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), separation anxiety can impact your child's sleep in multiple ways. The AAP site goes on to say, "a baby or toddler may wake several times during the night and call out for his parents. An older toddler may try to climb out of his crib or plead to sleep in your bed." The Sleep Lady agrees and, according to her website, separation anxiety can cause sleep regressions at bed and nap time when your child is between 6 months and 2 years old.

Whether your child's sleep troubles are caused by separation anxiety or a sleep regression, the expert advice about what to do when faced with either is pretty similar. According to the Sleep Lady, "babies thrive on consistency." She adds that it's important not to give in and let your baby or toddler sleep with you, which might help in the short term but can create long-term sleeping habits that are hard to break. Instead, "When your baby wakes or climbs out of bed, gently return her to bed (or lay her in the crib), making it clear that it’s sleepy time."

Ad failed to load
Giphy

If you think that your child's sleep issue has to do with separation anxiety and you not being there when your baby and/or child wakes up in the middle of the night, the AAP advises you to play games like peek-a-boo and hide and seek to reinforce the idea that you will always return. The AAP also suggests parents consistently take the time to explain absences to their children. West agrees, adding that parents should "consider introducing a lovey or transitional object that you’ve slept with for a few nights" to comfort your child.

The key is to correctly identify what your child is currently dealing with, whether it be a regression or separation anxiety, and take concrete steps in letting them know you're there throughout the entire process, regardless. Then maybe, just maybe, everyone can get some sleep.

Ad failed to load

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

7 Things A Mom Really Means When She Says She Doesn't Want Anything On Mother's Day

Every year my family asks me what I want for Mother's Day, and every single year I tell them the same thing: Nothing. So, by now, they know that when I say "nothing" I absolutely do not mean "nothing." In fact, there are more than a few things a mom …
By Candace Ganger

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

Here's The Right Birth Method For You, According To Your Zodiac Sign

If you're pregnant, you've probably given childbirth some serious thought. Some moms-to-be prepare a meticulous birth plan, while others are comfortable just going with the flow. And me? Well, I made a plan... but that plan was useless when faced wit…
By Steph Montgomery

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills
)}