The past couple of nights after our usual routine when I put Miles (18 mos) in his crib, after about 5 mins he starts wailing. Last night I went in rubbed his back a little and then left. He cried for about 5 mins after I left then fell asleep. Tonight we waited to see how long he would cry for and he cried hard for about 30mins (husband checked in once). I went in there at 8pm and basically held him on my lap til he fell asleep then transferred him to the crib—let’s hope he stays asleep til the morning!
He is fine at naptime, goes into the crib awake and falls asleep quickly.
I was thinking this might be a separation anxiety thing (being a working mom, I feel guilty when I come home on the later side and he goes to sleep 30 mins later). Do you know how I should be handling this? I know rocking him to sleep is probably not the right thing but it felt right to comfort him. Anyway, any advice appreciated.
Whenever a little one’s sleep knocks off track suddenly, it’s a good idea to see if there is anything new on his horizon – at this age, perhaps lots of talking, potty learning? Is mom expecting a baby by any chance? (Even if it’s early, sometimes they know!) If any of these are happening, separation anxiety can spike, temporarily.
If none of those as happening, it could be that he’s going through a phase where he really does want some mommy connect time at the end of the day. If there’s any possible way to scoot your schedule around, you could try to come home another 15-20 minutes earlier to spend time. That’s better than sliding bedtime later if possible, as a later bedtime can cause him to be overtired and thus have a harder time settling. Alternatively, you might have your caregiver do bath and even feed him before you get home, so you can just concentrate on connecting in other ways, and plan to eat yourself after he goes down.
Meanwhile, play lots of separation games with him during the day – ie, duck around the corner and come back, hide behind furniture and peek out), and make a little “mommy book” for him – get the photo album at the drugstore that has one picture per page, and put pictures of only Mommy and Maxwell in the book. Have your caregiver look at it with him during the day, so he still has a visual connection. You can also communicate all of your separations to him; even if just going to the bathroom, get down on his level, make eye contact, and tell him, “Miles honey, mommy’s going to the bathroom for a few minutes. Be right back!” Let him fuss for the few minutes you’re gone, then check back in with him when you’re back: “Here I am! Even when you can’t see mommy, I’m always in your heart.” Be sure to play with him during the day in his room, too – so he isn’t only associating the room with somewhere that he’s separating from you.
Last but not least: lose the guilt! That can actually create anxiety for you, and when you’re more anxious, he will be too. You are a wonderful, loving mommy who happens to work. You aren’t shortchanging him by making that choice – though a few adjustments to your schedule (as per above) may be the ticket at the moment. During the day, when you think of him, send him LOVE rather than stressful thoughts about feeling guilty! On your way home, spend the last 10-15 minutes of your ride looking forward to seeing him and connecting, rather than playing the “oh no we hardly have any time to spend tonight” script. If he does start to get upset at bedtime, just take some nice deep calming breaths yourself, and try to stay centered.