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Your Baby’s Stranger Anxiety

Month 7, Week 4

The days when your baby used to snuggle in just about anyone’s arms are ending -- welcome to stranger anxiety.

It’s normal for babies to get anxious when an unfamiliar person holds them and can be a sign of healthy emotional development and attachment: Your baby now understands the difference between you and a stranger, and she prefers you.

You can help your baby get comfortable with visiting relatives and new caregivers -- it may just require a bit of patience.

  • Have a new sitter come early. That way, you can play together and give your baby time to warm up to the caregiver before you run out.
  • Be friendly. Your baby will watch you for cues, so show her that you like and trust the new person.
  • Don’t draw out your departure. While your baby will likely cry when you leave to persuade you to stay, when you’re gone she’ll soon give up and start playing with the sitter; prolonging your goodbye will only make her more upset.
  • Don’t give up. Remember, it may take your baby a while to adjust to new childcare settings. So if the first week is rocky, wait to see whether it smoothes out.

Your Baby's Development This Week

Your baby is learning to use her hands better -- twisting, pinching, and pulling -- and she'll love playthings that allow her to develop those skills.

Just remember, safety first: Make sure anything that can come apart doesn't have parts that pose a choking hazard.

You may notice these growing signs of hand and finger development:

  • Instead of raking at objects using her hand as a claw, your baby may be starting to develop a pincer grasp and use her thumb and forefinger (or possibly middle finger) to pick up small objects.
  • She may be able to feed herself! Once she has her pincer grasp in place, she may be able to start eating finger foods like cereals and diced fruit.
  • You’re constantly fetching her toys. Your baby has learned not only to pick things up but to open her fingers intentionally and let go of objects -- and may even throw them.

You might wonder about:

  • What to play with your baby. Peekaboo is perfect at this age, because she may now be aware of object permanence -- she realizes that objects exist even when she can’t see them -- so hiding and revealing toys and your face will be fun for her.
  • How much she understands. While she may not say her first words until 12 months, she should be able to comprehend simple language sooner than that and may look around when you ask, “Where’s Daddy?”
  • Sign language. Since your baby knows what she wants but can’t yet say it, starting to teach her signs for words like “milk,” “all done,” and “more” can eliminate some frustration for both of you.

Month 7, Week 4 Tips

  • If someone says your baby is spoiled because she’s wary of strangers, don't worry. It's not about being spoiled, but about her budding sense of self and a healthy attachment to you.
  • Family and friends visiting? Warn them ahead of time that your baby is going through a stranger anxiety phase so that they’re not hurt if she initially rejects them.
  • Expect stranger anxiety to fade fairly quickly, but not separation anxiety. Your baby will still be sad to see you go.
  • If your baby doesn’t warm up to a childcare provider eventually, you may want to look into why that is.
  • Don't read too much into stranger anxiety. It doesn't mean the child is going to be shy. It's just a phase they're going through.
  • If your baby is frustrated, afraid, or in pain, don't hand her to an unfamiliar person. She needs you or someone she's comfortable with to calm her down.
  • Watch your reactions. Your baby takes her cues from you. If you seem upset when you leave your baby at daycare, that won't help. Strive to be positive and calm.

WebMD Medical Reference

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