A baby, until the age of
six months or so, usually is content to be held by relatives and
family friends. She may even smile and play when her parents place
her in someone else’s arms. But between seven and nine months,
she’ll begin to resist people other than her parents, and may cry
and reach for her parents when someone else tries to hold her.
During this stage, she may even feel anxious about her grandparents
and familiar baby-sitters.
Such reactions, which are a normal part of a baby’s development,
result from her growing awareness of the world. She recognizes her
parents as special and different and views them with pleasure.
Because she has good feelings about them, she wants to be with them
and isn’t as comfortable or trusting with other people.
Also, at this age she believes that something exists only as long as
she can see it. When her parents walk out of sight, she feels
anxious and cries. When she’s back in their arms, she feels
This developmental stage can be difficult for parents because it
sometimes causes embarrassment and makes it hard to accept help with
childcare. A relative or friend, offering to care for the baby, may
feel rejected by the child’s anxious cries. Some adults blame the
parents, saying, “You’ve spoiled her by holding her so much!” Or
they may try to persuade the baby to come, saying, “I won’t hurt
you. You have to get used to other people.”
When your baby enters this developmental stage, remember that
anxiety about strangers and separation is normal. It isn’t necessary
to force her to go to other people—she’ll soon do that willingly.
Just try to meet her needs and have others talk to her and play with
her while you hold her. You can explain to people that, while you
understand their feelings of frustration and rejection, you know
that your child is acting as most children her age do.
During this stage, many babies have trouble separating from their
parents at day care or when a baby-sitter comes. Explain the
situation to your caregiver and let her know that your baby may need
extra holding and comforting. If your child cries as you go, you
also may find it hard to separate. Have your caregiver try to
distract her. Call shortly after leaving if you’d like to reassure
yourself that all is going well.
At times you might be tempted to leave while your baby is distracted
and unaware that you’re going. While this eliminates the initial
rush of tears, she may react with surprise and fear when she
discovers you’ve left. It’s always better to say a quick good-bye.
You’ll know that your child’s fear of strangers and separation is
lessening when you see her reach for someone other than you, and
when you see her go happily to someone who’s reaching for het As
this stage passes, she’ll once again feel more comfortable and
content with others.