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Health & Baby

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Baby Development: Your 7-Month-Old

WebMD Commentary

OK, team, we've made it into the second half of the first year. Look out, the ride is going to get a little bumpy. A number of developmental advances are going to occur in the next months that will make your baby a bit more challenging.

Baby Month by Month

Girl and Boy Baby
Your baby's first year will be full of joys and challenges. WebMD pediatrician Steven Parker, MD, explains what you can expect as your baby grows and develops.

Stranger Anxiety Sets In

I see it in my office. Up to now, when I examined your little one, he looked back at old Dr. P with a big goofy grin. I am so cool! I am so funny! You could leave your baby with me and go out for a bit and your baby would be happy to continue to flirt with me. Your baby's philosophy apparently was, "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with."

Of course, that didn't mean your baby was totally promiscuous. You were and are your baby's No. 1 best buddy. If something were to trigger anxiety or pain, your baby would howl if I tried to give comfort and would want only you to soothe a worried brow. But, when times are good, your baby would put up with the likes of me quite happily.

Alas, nor for much longer. You may have already noticed some signs of "stranger anxiety." Does your baby ever protest when left with strangers? Has your baby gotten very upset by new people invading his or her private space? Let's see if we can deconstruct what is going with emerging stranger anxiety and separation anxiety, which is a predictable, normal stage displayed by most (but not 100%) of infants.

What Causes Stranger Anxiety

Stranger anxiety emerges when your baby's memory has taken a leap forward. Up to now, babies have pretty good "recognition memory." That is, they could recognize things and faces and environments with which they were already familiar. Witness that huge, warm smile they save for when you magically reappear.

But, what emerges around now is "retrieval memory" which is the ability to bring back to mind something that is not currently present. It is linked with a better sense of object permanence, when babies can find objects that are completely hidden. So, out of sight is no longer out of mind.

Now when a guy like me, whom your baby hasn't seen in a few months and barely knows, gets in their face, recognition memory fails ("who is this guy??") and retrieval memory cannot call up any past comforting interactions. The uncertainty of it all triggers the "flight or fight" stress response and your baby begins to protest violently. Parents are always so apologetic to kindly old Dr. P, but I find it wonderful: "You go guy. Stick up for yourself. After all, why should you give me the time of day?"

Baby's First Year Newsletter

Because every week matters, get expert advice and facts on what to expect in your baby's first year.

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