Why Babies Cling and Have Separation Anxiety

Does your baby balk at the sight of a new face, or even a familiar one like grandma or grandpa? Don’t worry, it’s just a phase that will pass in time.

At around eight months of age something happens to most babies. Almost overnight your happy, gurgling bundle of joy becomes a clinging infant, balking at the sight of everyone from his regular sitter to Grandma. It’s all because of stranger anxiety. While this may sound like a frightening disorder, this clinging behavior is a normal part of a baby’s development.

Renowned pediatrician, Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, author of many parenting books including Touchpoints, explains that “stranger anxiety represents a big burst in intellectual development, because the child at eight months suddenly realizes that there’s a difference between mommy and her sister, or daddy and his brother, or somebody really close. It’s like a revelation, wow, I can tell the difference! Of course it becomes critically important to them, so when daddy’s brother, or daddy’s father or mommy’s mommy comes into the room they look at them, see the difference, and then register it by stranger anxiety.”

Once we realize why babies go through stranger anxiety, it’s much easier to cope with. “Instead of seeing it as a negative,” says Dr. Brazelton “you can go, oh, I can tell my mother not to go rushing up to her, to wait and let her come to her.” This is the sort of thing you need to respect at eight months.

As your baby matures and becomes a little more self reliant, the clinging behavior associated with stranger anxiety will pass. In the meantime you may need to give your baby a few extra hugs and allow a little extra time to adjust to a new face.

Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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