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There are two basic reasons why a baby cries when he is socializing: stranger anxiety and separation anxiety. Stranger anxiety often occurs at the same time as separation anxiety, yet they are distinctly different from each other. However, both serve the same purpose – to keep baby safe from harm. Read on to know how.
If your baby cries when an unfamiliar person approaches him, he has what is known as stranger anxiety. Separation anxiety is when baby cries when a parent leaves him in his room, at a daycare, or in the care of someone else.
When Do Separation and Stranger Anxiety Show Up in Babies
A baby normally gets stranger anxiety at about 8 or 9 months, but it can even be seen in babies as young as 3 months. Around the 4 month mark, babies begin observing people with the intention of seeing who they can trust. Since they can now recognize their caretakers, being in the presence of unfamiliar people can terrify them. The intensity of anxiety depends on the nature and personality of the child. Friendly babies will be more or less comfortable around most new faces, but shy and sensitive babies will take time to get used to them.
On the other hand, separation anxiety is often seen in older babies. It occurs when babies understand that they are individuals, but don’t understand that something exists even when it is not seen or heard. So when you leave baby’s room, he does not know that you will return. He thinks that you have left him forever, and this is the reason he cries until you return. Just like stranger anxiety, babies can get separation anxiety when they are as young as three months old.
Although stranger anxiety and separation anxiety sound worrying, they are actually natural defence mechanisms to keep baby safe from danger. As babies start crawling, they tend to wander away from their caregivers in their efforts to explore the world. Having stranger and separation anxiety ensures that they return to the safety and care of their parents after some time.
How To Help Your Baby Become Comfortable Around People
Most babies experience both stranger anxiety and separation anxiety, and this is completely normal. In fact, babies generally outgrow them when they are about two years old. However, you can help your baby become more comfortable around strangers by doing the following 3 things:
1. Be Calm Around Strangers
Babies can pick up on your emotions. So when you are in the company of strangers, be as relaxed as possible. Do not worry about how your baby will react to them. Instead, introduce the strangers to baby in a calm and friendly tone. After some time, baby will get used to meeting new people, and will not burst into tears on seeing them.
2. Leave Her Alone for Some Time
Start leaving baby in the company of a trusted caretaker or other babies for short periods of time. Let her cry for some time before coming back to her. Make sure you are nearby in case baby doesn’t calm down, or won’t stop crying. Greet her with a hug, a kiss or a cheerful hello when you return to help your baby feel secure and loved.
3. Take It Slow
Do not hand over your baby to people he has never seen before. If he is refusing to be picked up by someone even after a lot of persuasion, respect his wishes. Do not force him, let baby make friends at his own pace.
Remember, nobody knows your child better than you do. If you feel baby’s anxiety levels are higher than normal, consult your paediatrician.