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Separation Anxiety & Sleeping Trouble in Young Children

Beginning in the second half of a child's first year, separation anxiety can cause many nights with disrupted sleep. During this stage (which can last for several months), a child may wake several times and cry anxiously for one or both parents, often expressing a strong preference for one.

This is a normal stage in children's emotional development and needs to be managed with a loving and consistent approach. Separation anxiety usually fades away somewhere around the second birthday. Until it does, your child may need reassurance several times night after night.

To deal with separation anxiety as a whole, here are a few steps that you can take:

  • No matter how young your child is, let them know in a matter-of-fact way when you have to leave them. Even if you're only going into another room for a minute, tell them, "I'll be right back." One day they'll surprise you with their own "Right back!" when they're leaving you for a while.

  • Create a diversion to distract your child's attention when you leave. A babysitter can help with that by sharing a new toy or giving your baby a bath. Then say goodbye and leave as quickly as possible.

  • When you go out in the evening, try to use a familiar babysitter. If you must use a new one, ask her to arrive before the child's bedtime and allow a little time for getting acquainted. Many parents make it a rule to employ a regular babysitter one night a week and plan their social activities accordingly. Children usually find it easy to accept such a separation when it is part of a predictable routine.

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Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2022)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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