Does your little one cry whenever she sees a new face or is held by someone new? Does she seem scared of everything familiar? Well, the good news is, this is actually a very common part of early childhood development, and it’s perfectly normal. Stranger anxiety usually starts at about eight months, and might go on until as late as two years old. Your baby may even experience stranger anxiety in settings that they are usually comfortable with, like around a new carer at their daycare center.
So, how do you help your beloved baby get used to all of the new things around them?
Be Patient And Respect Your Baby’s Comfort Zone
Getting to know this world for the first time can be overwhelming. So many sounds, colors, smells – it can be sensory overload. As your baby begins to develop their own self-awareness, she’s also developing a sense of what is “other” for the first time, and it can be quite discomforting to be around new people.
Many adults who haven’t been around babies won’t know about stranger anxiety, and might feel hurt when your baby cries – especially if it’s a relative who has really been looking forward to cuddling your 1-year old for the first time!
But that doesn’t mean that you should push your baby past their comfort zone; forcing a baby to be held by a stranger against their will can be quite upsetting, and can actually make the anxiety worse because they will feel even less safe. Just politely explain that your baby is getting used to being around new people, and put your feet down if you have to; your baby’s feelings come first, not Aunt Amy’s.
You may even have friends or relatives who tell you “the baby will get over it, just ignore her crying and don’t spoil her”, and while they may have good intentions, this advice isn’t very helpful. A healthy, secure attachment to the people she knows and loves, and misgivings about the unfamiliar, are evolutionary adaptive traits which would have served your little bundle of joy well throughout human history. She will become more independent when she’s figured things out a little more, and that process doesn’t need to be rushed.
Some Helpful Tips For Bonding With Your Baby
- Carry on holding her while introducing her to new people. This way, she’ll feel like she’s in a safe environment and that mommy or daddy can protect her if something is amiss!
- If she’s getting upset when you leave the room, especially for longer periods like daycare or with a babysitter, don’t sneak out. Part of stranger anxiety is the worry that when mommy or daddy leaves, they might not be coming back: when you say goodbye cheerfully, and they go through the process of seeing you come and go, they’ll begin to realize that you do come back and that it’s not something to panic about.
- If your baby doesn’t seem interested in playing with other babies, that’s also perfectly normal; babies start out with “parallel play” ( doing their own play activities next to each other ) and gradually move into playing together. Parallel play is also wonderful for development; all that time, she’s watching what her tiny neighbor is doing and learning from it!
- As baby begins to feel more secure, stranger anxiety will start to go away naturally. Building a strong bond with her caregivers will give her the confidence to go out and explore the world on her own terms. Encourage her to try new things and play with her new friends, but understand that she still needs the comfort and love that a trusted caregiver provides.
- Reading to your baby with a friend in the room can help expel some of that stranger anxiety, along with several other benefits.
- If baby really does seem to be unable to function at all without you being there, or if she’s still crying long after you’ve left the room, it’s worthwhile having a chat with your pediatrician for some helpful advice.
Remember, stranger anxiety itself is a normal part of growing up. It won’t be too long until she’s running around all by herself and you’ll miss feeling so needed! Every day of this time is special, and it’s important to cherish it!