Is My Baby’s Separation Anxiety Causing Sleep Problems?

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  • August 05, 2015
Is My Baby's Separation Anxiety Causing Sleep Problems?

Would you like me to answer your baby sleep problem in my next video? If so, post your question on my Facebook Page! I will pick several questions a month to answer and post them here on the blog!


Hi! I’m Kim West, The Sleep Lady. Today I’m going to answer Lindsey’s question:


“Help! My ten-month-old does not nap and is up all night. She only takes two thirty minute naps a day. I’ve recently been trying to move her bedtime up to try to compensate for the lack of sleep during the day. We’re up to 7:30 p.m. right now but it’s not helping. She’s up six to eight times a night and will not go to sleep without me helping her.

I tried the Ferber method and I felt it hindered us. She has developed some serious separation anxiety. I put her down in her crib awake and she will fall asleep on her own so I know she can do it. But for every wake-up she has after that she will never go back to sleep unless I nurse her. I’m exhausted and I haven’t had more than a two hour stretch of sleep at night since she was five months old. I don’t know what to do. Thank you for your help.”



Lindsey, I have a couple of questions for you:


  1. Do you feel like she’s eating enough during the day? That’s going to be really important when you create a weaning plan at night and have to decide whether to keep one feeding or get rid of all of the feedings at night. So, it’s important that you feel like she’s eating enough during the day. You might want to check in with your doctor about that too.
  2. Have you talked to your pediatrician and ruled out any underlying medical conditions that could be interfering or contributing to her night wakings and any sleep issues that you’re seeing?


Focus on Nighttime Sleep First


Is My Baby's Separation Anxiety Causing Sleep Problems?You did not say how you get your baby to sleep for naps. Perhaps you are nursing her to sleep for naps and back to sleep? If that is the case, I would recommend that youcontinue to do that in order to fill her daytime sleep tank before you start with night coaching. Same goes for motion sleep, continue to use that during the day for naps.


Set a Reasonable Bedtime For Your Baby’s Age


Aim for your baby having    at least 2.5-3 hours of sleep during the day. Then you can face bedtime with her more rested. Bedtime may also need to be be closer to 7:00 p.m. so that she’s not overtired. Even though you say she is awake when you put her in, she is probably over-tired if she’s only had two 30-minute naps during the day.


Sleep is a Learned Skill


She may be facing bedtime too overtired and therefore missing the opportunity to truly learn how to put herself to sleep at bedtime from a wakeful state. If she doesn’t have the skill mastered at bedtime she can’t apply to the middle of the night wakings which are more difficult.


Create a Plan for Weaning


I would create your weaning plan and then I would recommend doing a gradual, gentle method. You tried the gradual extinction method (aka Ferber)and you didn’t find that it helped particularly with separation anxiety. I think The Sleep Lady Shuffle tends to help with separation anxiety because you’re staying with your child. You’re just doing less to help them to go to sleep.

While you continue to nurse during the night, if dad or another caretaker could help you out and go in at the non-feeding times during the night, at least for the first three nights, that will really help. If you’re consistent for at least a week, you should see some really big changes and improvements in sleep.


Video filmed by In Focus Studios

If you have experienced a similar situation, please share! Supporting each other makes parenting so much easier!

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

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