Monday, October 5, 2009

Separation Anxiety

I'm an idiot. Seriously -- a complete moron. Why do I ever write things like "LL never went through a clingy phase"? What was I thinking when I wrote that in my last post? Haven't I learned by now that putting statements like that in writing is the surest possible way to guarantee that they stop being true?!?

LL is now completely 100% no-holds-barred in a clingy separation anxiety phase. He climbs all over me as soon as I pick him up in the morning. He cries and clings to fistfuls of my clothing (or hair) when I try to drop him off at daycare, or to hand him to someone else. The clinging is accompanied by a look of pure terror and pitiful wails. (In true toddler fashion, he stops crying and goes happily about his day 30 seconds after I leave, which is great for the daycare but sucks for me, because I hear his whimpering and sniffling in my head for the rest of the day.) It's slightly better if I try to hand him to someone he knows very well, but even then, as soon as he's comfortably settled in that person's arms, he turns and reaches for me to take him back again. (If I don't take him back immediately, he proceeds to the pitiful wails.)

When I pick him up from daycare at the end of the day, he insists on being attached to me for the rest of the day. If I try to put him down, even if it's just to play with him on the floor at home, he screams and grabs at me until I take him back into my arms. He doesn't want to go down for naps. He doesn't want to go to sleep at night. And for the past two weeks, he's been waking up around 11pm and screaming and sobbing until we go in to get him, and then he stays up for hours at a time. (We discovered a few nights ago that he goes back to sleep better if S goes to him instead of me, but he's still up for at least an hour.)

It's clear that LL is exhausted -- he has little bags under his eyes, and when he's awake in the middle of the night, he puts his head down and whimpers. I'm certain that he wants to be asleep. But he seems so full of anxiety that he can't fall back asleep. Baby insomnia. And none of our regular tricks are working -- milk, fresh air, rocking, singing, walking around the house, patting his back.... He just can't calm down enough to go back to sleep.

My friends tell me that these phases usually only last a month or so before they fade (and then reappear, and fade, and reappear, ...). I hope so, because it's both mentally and physically exhausting. I also think that it has been made worse by all of the daycare changes, and I think that it's also being compounded by teething (yep, fairly certain those molars are on their way). I can't take much more. I have a new baby carrier (a lovely mei tai that LL seems to really enjoy riding in) and it's the only thing keeping me sane in the afternoons. As soon as we get home, he goes into the mei tai and stays there until dinner, because otherwise my arms would fall off from carrying him. But even with the best carrier in the world, 22+ pounds is a lot of active toddler to be carrying around for hours every afternoon.

I know that almost all babies go through a separation anxiety phase at some point (or multiple points) during the first two years. But the "oh my goodness, my mommy is abandoning me, I can't believe I'm about to be left all alone in the world, if I can't see her and touch her I will surely perish!" thing is bringing on a horrible bout of mommy guilt. All of which is made worse by the fact that I'm hating school right now, and I'm hating the process of looking for a job after I graduate, and I feel like there's absolutely nothing that I want to do professionally right now, so why in the hell am I abandoning my child if I'm not even enjoying what I'm abandoning him for? But that's probably the renewed sleep deprivation talking. Right?


  1. Poor you. Repeat after me: PHASE. I hope it is a short one.

  2. Oh man, I'm sorry! That sounds awful. My little man has clinginess down to an art form, but I must say it doesn't interrupt his nap or nighttime sleeping. You have probably tried a nice dose of Motrin before bed, but if not, I suggest you give it a go. Hope things get back to normal soon.

    Whatever normal is with a toddler, anyway.

  3. Oh yes, we're huge fans of pain killers here. Last night, we did a triple attack of Motrin, Tylenol, and teething tablets, and he STILL woke up and stayed up for more than an hour.

  4. It's nice to know he loves you, but as a friend told me a little goes a long way when it comes to separation anxiety! Especially in the middle of the night. I must admit that I am not above a 1am car ride if it means getting Jillian back to sleep.

  5. Julian is doing this right now too...he's clingy and only wants to be held all the time. He struggles with naps and screams if he wakes up in the middle of the night (and we are usually up with him for at least an hour before he goes back to sleep). So, I know exactly what you're dealing with right now. I hope it ends soon for both of our kiddos.

  6. my son just went through this about a month ago. over the past 2 weeks we started dosing him with baby motrin 1-2 times per day. It made a tremendous difference (we had only ever used tylenol before). And then this week was great, terrific sleep for all (10.5 hrs at night, great naps at daycare). And today I found the culprit: his first molar is just visible! For us the clingyness was the result of extreme jaw pain. I've come to realize that the six weeks prior to teeth cutting are the worst and that cutting itself is no big deal. what a relief to sleep again!! wishing you the best!


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