If I was to say the words ‘Separation Anxiety‘ I would probably here the collective shudder of new parents everywhere. The only reason older parents are dismissive is that they have actively suppressed all memories of it.
Our little one is about to be 10 months old and his brain has reached that stage of development whereby he now understands the concept of being separated. There were no warning signs, no gradual build up not even a courtesy email or tweet. One day out of the blue it just suddenly happened and it was made all the more worse because he had a really bad winter cold at this point as well.
Once the concept of being alone has been realised, babies naturally don’t like this, panic, get scared and want to be held all the time. When we say all the time, we mean all the time, even to the point that he will not go to sleep unless you are holding him. When you do put him down, the mercury switch in his brain triggers, he wakes up realises he is alone again and cries hysterically until you pick him up again.
After 3 hours of this in the middle of the night, the poor little fellow is so exhausted he can hardly keep his head up. But, as soon as you put him down the cycle begins again.
Googling about causes as we take it in turns to comfort and rock him back to sleep doesn’t offer us, the parents, much salvation. All I read is this is a phase of emotional development and it will ease at some point between 12-24 months!!! We feel the bags under our eyes sag that little bit further.
The only thing you can do is pick them up and reassure the little one that everything is going to be ok. Letting them ‘cry it out’ is just not an option for us. It is too distressing for them and also for us, as we cant bear to hear him cry that hysterically.
The bond to their mum is the strongest, which can upset mum because they never seem to get a break, but, it also upsets dad because he tries to help but can’t because the little one only wants to be consoled by mum! This is tough, but dads need to persevere and eventually he will be so tired that he will lay on your chest and fall asleep. He will of course wake up every 30mins or so to double check dad hasn’t left him on his own.
The good news and to be positive about it, this is just a natural stage of development and the little guy is becoming self aware! Cogito Ergo Sum you could say. And that is a moment we should celebrate and be proud of, albeit at 3am when your patience is running a little thin and you may be on the receiving end of a one way diatribe from your better half if you tried to explain that point.
In the end you may both feel fed up with the seemingly endless walks around the bedroom throughout the night trying to cradle him back to sleep, but you should be proud. Our little boy is growing up.