Separation Anxiety in Babies

These are some steps you can take to cope with your baby’s separation anxiety:

  • Time your leaves. If you need to leave, try to do so when your baby is more likely to feel calm, such as after naptime or after you’ve fed him. Your baby is more susceptible to separation anxiety when tired, hungry, or sick. If your baby is sick, try to spend as much time with him as possible.
  • Don’t make a big deal out of it. If you’ve handed your baby off to someone else, have this person create a distraction, whether it’s with a new toy, playing in front of a mirror, or even a bath. This is your chance to slip away unnoticed.
  • Practice separation at home.{#practice} Leave-taking is a lot easier when your baby initiates the separation, such as when he crawls into another room. When this happens, if it’s safe, instead of following him right away, wait a while. If you need to leave the room briefly (after making sure the room is safe for him to be in), tell your baby where you’re headed and when you’ll come back. If he cries after you’ve left, call to him to comfort him, but don’t return right away. Eventually your baby will learn from this practice that nothing bad is going to happen if you leave his sight.
  • Create an exit ritual. If you need to drop your baby off at a sitter's or daycare, try not to just drop him off and rush out the door. Spend some time playing with him before slipping away. Reassure your baby that you will come back for him later in the day, citing a specific time: “I’ll be back after you eat lunch.”
  • Keep your promises. Make sure you return when you say you will. This helps develop your child’s trust and will help build his confidence that he can make it through the time spent apart.
  • Know that your baby will be OK. Remind yourself that your baby’s tears will subside after you leave. He’ll eventually turn his attention to the person with him.

Separation Anxiety in Babies at Night

It can be challenging if your baby feels anxious when you leave the room before bed, or wakes and is upset to find you’re not there during the night.

This can be a trying and exhausting situation for both you and your baby, but rest assured that this period will pass. Try to stay calm and develop a consistent pattern of behavior during this phase. In time, your baby will learn that you’ll still be there in the morning.

Tactics and Tips to Help You Avoid Separation Anxiety at Night

Here are a few strategies you can try to lessen separation anxiety at night:

  • Create a bedtime routine. Having one in place can make a difference, because it can set your baby’s expectations by keeping to a consistent pattern.
  • Leave the nursery door open. Your baby might feel comforted knowing he can still hear you in the other room.
  • Give your baby a transitional object. Babies normally develop a consoling habit during this time: He may suck his thumb, rock back and forth, and/or stroke and hug an object. Ask your healthcare provider if it’s OK to give him a small blankie or a stuffed animal.
  • Don’t reward your baby’s behavior. Try not to inadvertently reward your baby for calling for you in the middle of the night. You can check on him to make sure that he’s not sick and doesn't need a diaper change, and verbally comfort him. Beyond that, don’t pick him up, take him back to bed with you, or turn on the light. Before leaving, encourage your baby to go back to sleep. If he continues to cry, you can comfort him for a little bit longer.


  • How do you stop separation anxiety in babies?

Separation anxiety is a completely normal part of your child’s emotional development. There is no way to stop or prevent it completely.

  • How do you deal with separation anxiety at night?

There are ways you can cope with your baby’s separation anxiety at night:
• Leave the nursery door open.
• If your healthcare provider approves it, give your baby a stuffed animal or a small blankie for emotional support.
• Don’t pick her up or turn on the lights; instead, try to verbally comfort her.

  • Can a 3-month-old have separation anxiety?

A 3-month-old baby can show some signs that she is aware that there are moments when you might not be there, but separation anxiety usually starts later, at around 8 months.

  • How do I know if my baby has separation anxiety?

These are signs of separation anxiety:
• Your baby may start to become clingier with you.
• She may be wary of others, even those she’s met before.
• She may cry when you’re out of sight or in another room.
• She may refuse to go to sleep or wake up in the night and cry for you.

Separation anxiety is a natural part of your baby’s development as she moves toward toddlerhood and becomes more independent. Consider trying some of the tips in this article and speak to your healthcare provider for more advice. Keep in mind that in time this difficult phase will pass.

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