Tuesday, April 2, 2013

separation anxiety

As I mentioned in my last post, we've been battling some pretty intense stranger/nighttime separation anxiety battles with Elden. It's worth mentioning that he has definitely inherited my love language--touch--and tends to seek out physical interaction. If he's sitting on the couch with Jon while I do dishes, as soon as I sit down next to him he will lean into me and rest his head on my chest. When I pick him up, he wraps his little arms around my neck. Even his daycare teachers have noticed this characteristic and have mentioned to us on numerous occasions how they've never met a baby that gives as many hugs as he does.
Being cuddly
Anyway, within the last few weeks we had noticed that Elden had been more bashful than usual around unfamiliar faces. However, it took him only a few minutes to warm up and he would allow others to hold him without incident. Bedtime had returned to normal with us laying him down, awake, and him babbling himself happily into dreamland (usually).

Things are a far cry different these days.

At both our family's Easter celebrations, homie clung to me like a wet t-shirt. We're not just talking sitting happily in my lap and observing the room. He literally wrapped his little hands around my arms, belly to belly, and would alternate between burying his head in my shoulder and cautiously looking around. It took probably 30-45 minutes for him to warm up, but even then he was hesitant and would occasionally break down in tears until he was returned to my arms.

I should also add that Jon and I volunteered as greeters at church on Sunday morning. This means we took Elden to the nursery for the first time ever. I told them that he had been experiencing some separation issues so they gave me a pager (instead of the usual flashing of the problematic child's number on the sanctuary screen method) so they could "reach [me] in a hurry". Suffice to say it did not take long for our pager to start buzzing. We had finished greeting a few minutes prior so it wasn't a big deal.When I went to retrieve Elden he was making the sad, dramatic gasp/inhale noise one makes at the conclusion of an epic crying session. He clung tightly the remainder of service.

Then there's the nighttime separation anxiety. Elden is perfectly happy and content through bathtime, nursing and his bedtime stories. He's even okay when we lay him down in his crib. As soon as we shut the door, however, things take a drastic turn. Hysterical sobbing--wailing, really--permeate through the house. We have been giving him anywhere between 2-10 minute intervals once we lay him down for the night depending on the magnitude of cry. Then I return to his room and as soon as I pick him up the crying stops. I usually hold him, rock him, etc. for about 5 minutes before laying him down again. Except, instead of waiting until I close the door to resume crying, he starts as soon as he realizes he's being moved in the direction of his crib. He reaches for me in a desperate attempt to hold on while simultaneously breaking my heart into a trillion pieces. We usually repeat this process 3-7 times per night before he finally gives in to sleep.

I know what you're thinking. Just let him cry it out. The thing is, Elden is not the fall-asleep-within-an-hour type. The other thing is that I know how separation anxiety feels. I experienced very intense separation anxiety regarding my own mom the first half of my life. I had this unfounded notion that if I wasn't with her every second of the day something bad would happen to her. At night I would go into her room to make sure she was still there. One night when I was probably 5 or 6 she couldn't sleep so she had gone downstairs to do dishes. When I went to check on her and she wasn't in her bed I entered full-on panic/meltdown mode. After that night, if she ever couldn't sleep she would wake me to tell me she was going to be downstairs to avoid another episode like the first. Knowing how very real the panic and anxiety surrounding being separated from the person you don't want to be separated from is, I refuse to let Elden cry it out on this matter. I know for a fact he's not simply fighting sleep. There is something deeper going on (mother's intuition?) and I will do everything it takes to reassure him that I--we--are here for him. I know this is a phase and he will eventually outgrow it. In the meantime I am practicing patience and intentional love for my boy as he battles his anxiety surrounding being separated from us.


  1. We tried the CIO method with Myles for a few nights and it did not work. Babies are incapable of manipulation, they cry because they need something, and in Elden's case I think he just needs you :)
    My mom told me she went through something similar with my brother and this is what she did. After the regular bedtime routine, when you lay him down, pull up a chair and sit next to his crib with your hand on him until he falls asleep. DO NOT PICK HIM UP! Your hand on him should be enough to let him know you are still there. Do this for a few nights (2 or 3) then stay seated in the room, but each night move the chair further and further away until you will eventually be in the hallway but still in his sight. I know this sounds time consuming but it will be worth it. Have a book or your phone with you for when he not looking at you so you dont get bored :)
    Hope this helps!

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