There comes a time in some babies’ lives where it seems like they are becoming afraid of strangers, or even people they do not see on a regular basis. During this time your baby will cling to you more and cry more when someone comes near or tries to pick them up. This is referred to as “stranger anxiety” and is completely normal, even though it may be heartbreaking.
As your baby gets bigger and more aware of the world around him, he becomes more attached to his mom and dad, knowing that they are his caretakers, the ones that will clothe him, feed him, and keep him safe. He knows that as long as he is in your arms that no harm will come to him. He understands that as long as you are together then no one can take you away from him, or him from you.
Stranger anxiety is your babies’ first real fear. Not only is it a fear of being taken from you, but it is a fear of you being taken from him. It normally happens around 7-8 months of age, and lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Generally anyone that the baby see’s on a very regular basis will be immune from the screaming, while people that he doesn’t know, or only see’s on the rare occasion will be met with tears and terrified screaming. There are some things that you can do to make it easier for your baby though.
1. Try not to leave your baby with a complete stranger. If you have to leave your baby with a new sitter then plan on getting to the sitters house at least 20 minutes early. The earlier the better to help your baby get acquainted to his caregiver and help make the transition of you leaving easier.
2. Have get togethers at your house. Instead of going to someone else’s house during the holidays, have family and friends over to your house. That way when your baby needs a time out, away from everyone, they have a familiar place to go to — their own bed.
3. Warn your friends and family ahead of time about this phase. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by having your baby scream in their face, so let everyone know ahead of time, and also ask them to stay back a bit from your baby when they first come in. Give your baby some time and space to be able to watch everyone around him, before he has to interact with them.
4. Don’t hand off baby immediately. Going along with number three above, hold your baby close to you when you enter a new place and don’t hand him off to anyone unless he acts like he wants to go. Don’t force your baby to be with anyone he doesn’t want to be with.
These are four easy rules to remember to help your baby get through the stranger anxiety period. It is also possible that your baby will react badly at first to you or your partner, if the other one is home with them full time during the day. It is easy for a baby to attach himself to the person there the most, and shut out other people. Don’t take it personal, instead remember that it is just a phase that your baby is going through and like so many other phases, it will pass and your baby will soon be raising his arms and running to you when he sees you enter the room.
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