Stranger anxiety, also commonly known as “making strange”, is a normal part of development for little ones. It often begins around the age of 6-9 months, but can start much earlier or later depending on the baby. Stranger anxiety is when your baby becomes visibly upset when being handed to someone other than their parent or anyone else regularly in their life.
Stranger anxiety is actually a sign of healthy parental attachment and nothing to worry about. It indicates that you and your baby have spent a lot of time together, and your baby prefers you above other people. There are things you can do to get you and baby through this phase without unnecessary stress. Here are some of those ideas.
That’s right, mama, this is referring to you. Often times we empathize so much with our little ones that we begin to feel stress at the thought of our babies being in uncomfortable situations. We think about how they feel and we begin to have similar feelings. This can be troublesome, however, since babies are masters at reading our emotions. When we feel stress, our little ones feel it immediately and begin to get worked up.
You can try your best to prevent this vicious cycle by remaining calm and acting friendly with those around you. Your baby will see you being relaxed and begin to pick up on those cues instead.
Don’t Move Fast
When there is someone new in the room, don’t allow them to take your baby too quickly. Little ones often need time to adjust to the people and situations around them, and holding off for at least a few minutes while you casually chat with someone is a good idea. This gives your baby time to “get to know” the person before being forced into a close situation with them. It lets your baby know that you are ok with the person and feel comfortable around them.
After a few minutes, if baby still doesn’t want someone else to hold him, don’t press the issue. Your baby’s feelings of security are more important than someone else’s desire to hold him. Your priority is your baby and helping him develop – not another adult’s feelings.
Pick the Right Time
Don’t force your baby on someone else when your baby is already upset, sick, or in pain. When your infant is not feeling well, she needs someone she is familiar with to give her comfort. Now is not the time to pass her around. Allow your little one the comfort of familiar arms to get her through her rough moments, and save socializing for another time when she is feeling better.
Sometimes as parents we feel like we are never going to get a break, or that our little one is going to grow up to be unreasonably shy. These are understandable feelings, but neither of them is necessarily true. Almost all infants go through stranger anxiety, and many end up being outgoing, sociable older children. And as parents, we almost always end up getting a break sooner or later.
Instead of feeling stifled or worried, enjoy this time that your little one is clearly choosing you as her favorite. Make memories to cherish for the bittersweet moments in the future when your child is older and much more independent. As amazing as it seems right now, you will actually look back and miss these days.