My baby has suddenly become scared and shy of strangers. She sometimes cries, even when my mother comes to visit. Why does she act this way? What can I do to help her overcome this fear?
First of all, don’t worry. A fear of strangers at this age is normal. Babies are beginning to develop a sense of self and others — an important step in growing up. Your baby now knows the difference between close family members and strangers. Sometimes your baby will just have a serious, watchful stare at new people. Other times, she will look at a new person, and then look away a few times before warming up and smiling. Some babies howl or whimper with genuine fear. Others cling to their parent and refuse to let go. Some babies, just like adults, develop an instant dislike for a person.
Usually, your baby is afraid of what the stranger does rather than who the person is. Try to see this from your baby’s point of view. You don’t want a stranger hugging you, and neither does your baby. So don’t just hand her to someone she doesn’t know well. Hold her while she gets to know the person. Have the new person smile and talk to her, and perhaps offer a favorite toy. Let your baby make new friends at her own pace.
However she reacts, comfort your baby if she is fearful of strangers. Hold her close to you and let her know that she is safe. Tell friends or relatives not to take it personally that your baby needs time to get used to people. Ask them not to rush up to her or try to pick her up. Grandparents or friends may have a hard time understanding why your baby gets upset when they pick her up. Assure them that it will be worth the effort to get acquainted slowly. As your baby gets older, she will feel more secure and more comfortable with other people.
This newsletter gives equal space and time to both sexes. If we write him or her, we are talking about all babies. Every baby is different. Normal children may do things earlier or later than described in this FAQ. This FAQ describes typical children at each age. Each child is special and develops at his or her own pace.