Separation Anxiety and Sleep Disruptions

So my baby turned 1 year last month and while this entire year has been quite the journey, we have now embarked on the new challenges of the new year. First came the Gag Stage, right after we had navigated a few days of teething challenges which caused minor sleep disruptions, and now, we have the full blown separation anxiety phase taking over our lives entirely.

It all started around the same time as Daylight Savings Time this Spring. Both Aaron and I missed that date and realized it the night of, leaving us totally unprepared for what was to come. We were smarter in the Fall, planned everything over a week and had a perfectly sleeping baby when the clocks turned. Unfortunately, this time was really bad. J’s bedtime is 8 p.m. or at least it was. For the first few days, we thought we can try to get him to sleep an hour late because it would really just mean that he was still sleeping at 8 p.m. except that it would be 9 p.m. So we delayed dinner, bath, playtime and such and put him down to bed later in the evening. The first night, I put him to bed at 8:22 p.m. and he fell asleep at around 9:00 p.m. We were hopeful that this might just work. It did not.

The next night, we ended up putting him to bed at 8:30 p.m. and he didn’t sleep until 9:30 p.m. Two nights after that, he fell asleep at 8:45 p.m. We were hopeful that things might get better since that really meant it was 7:45 p.m.

Eventually, this just did not work. No matter what time after 8:00 p.m. we put him to bed, he would not sleep until 9:30 p.m. That became his new bedtime leaving me angry, very angry. I could get some ‘me’ or us time after putting him to bed at 8 p.m. and Aaron and I could at least catch one of our pre-recorded shows together but now, even those precious few hours I would get with my husband seemed a distant memory. This was unacceptable to me. Something had to be done and I just declared during one of those desperate times that we shoud just move his sleep time to 8 p.m. like it was…just like that and we did.

The last few nights, we have been able to get him to bed close to 8:00 p.m. and he has fallen asleep by 8:30 p.m. which still gives us some us time. Thank Goodness for that. But…

Separation Anxiety Attacks

Since Friday (3/13) night, J has been waking up at all times of the night unpredictably. The first time, he was up at 5:45 a.m. and did not go back to sleep. The next night, he was up from 4 – 5 a.m. and again at 6:00 a.m. at which point I was finally able to get him to fall asleep at 6:30 and he woke up 8:30 a.m. allowing us to at least get a couple hours sleep. Then, two nights ago, he was up from 12:30 – 1:30 a.m. – which wasn’t the worst because it was still early in the night that I had some sanity left in me. Last night, he was up at 4:35 a.m. I was able to get him to fall back asleep at 4:55 and pleased with myself, came back to bed only to have him wake up in less than 5 minutes. Then, I sat with him trying to get him to sleep, rubbing his back, caressing his hand, putting him down into his crib every time he sat up or stood up…until 5:46 a.m. at which point, I just quit and decided to go back to bed. He was quiet for some time but woke up again in 5 minutes at which point Aaron woke up and decided to help out.

This did not appeal to J which is the other cause of my frustrations – he can only be soothed by me. He will stop crying as soon as he sees me and Aaron is just not good enough. It will take Aaron, not for lack of trying, almost double or triple the time it would take me to get J down to sleep again. This does not flatter me. It is exhausting.

Rubbing Eyes
Rubbing his eyes. Tired from all the lack of sleep.

Eventually, this method just did not work. Nothing seems to work. Multiple Google searches have come in empty. The best “solution” I found was to play Peekaboo with the child during the day so he knows you’re still coming back no matter how often or for how long you go. I will try that since I am desperate but I really wish there was a stronger and more tested solution to the separation anxiety issue.

I spend a lot of time with him. I have a full-time nanny on the weekdays even though I work from home most of the days. Both Aaron (who also works from home) and I check on him constantly throughout the day. When I do have to leave, I give him a hug and kiss good-bye. He protests sometimes but then comes around to it. I wave ‘bye bye’ and off I go. Being in the loving care of a nanny he is familiar with and has known since he was 6 months old is definitely reassuring for him when I leave for work. The question becomes, how do I alleviate his fears and anxiety at night time.

Perhaps, separation anxiety is not an issue for Indian parents who almost exclusively co-sleep (generalization on my part but almost all the Indian parents I know, in India and here in the U.S., co-sleep) but we chose for J to have his own room and his own space so we could have ours – does not mean we love him any less. In any case, I am desperate for a solution. I know that this is a phase but it is one of our most challenging one yet since the first three months of tummy issues.

My state of mind

I am extremely exhausted. Really, really tired. I could cry at any minute. I am frustrated, feeling helpless, and utterly devoid of options to help the situation. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that we will soon be relocating to San Jose for Aaron’s new job and I will be unemployed there until I find a job. The unpredictability of my future scares me and I fear that dealing with J and his evolving challenges (like sleeping, teething, etc) will only get me more and more frustrated knowing that, that is going to be my life – that of a full-time-mom. My current balance enabled by work, a nanny, and a supportive husband will become uni-dimensional from a practical standpoint. I will be a mom and that’s going to be it…. Future awaits.

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