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Health & Baby

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Baby Development: Your 7-Month-Old

Separation Anxiety Comes Next

You may find stranger anxiety reassuring. After all, you're still No. 1; your baby's not at all anxious around the great you. But be careful what you wish for. On the heals of stranger anxiety comes "separation anxiety," in which you may not even be allowed to go to the bathroom without your little one raising a fuss. This especially plays out when infants awaken at night (as most do) and, because of separation anxiety, rather than just nodding off, your infant howls until you come in to comfort him or her.

Separation anxiety results from a confluence of developmental forces. First, your infant's capacity for retrieval memory is stronger, so when you aren't around, they still can conjure up an image of you and are reminded they want you right now! Second, they can't come up with a good explanation of why you are not there (after all, that's your 24/7 job!) nor what is going to happen next without you present to serve as an emotional anchor.

Like all of the wonderful and vexing developmental challenges of infancy, stranger anxiety and separation anxiety usually fade after some months. (I'm being deliberately cagey: it lasts only a few months (if at all) for some; others take a good 6-12 months to cast it aside).

Now You Know Why It Happens

I've gone into some detail about this developmental phenomenon because I think it's so interesting, and also the more you understand what is motivating these seemingly inexplicable changes in your baby, the better you will understand and appreciate what babies are going through from their point of view and the better equipped you'll be to help your little one master and move on from this normal developmental challenge of childhood.

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