29 answers

4 Month Old Cries When 'Strangers' Hold Her and Is Sensitive to Loud Noises...

Has anyone gone through this? Is this a stage? My daughter is 4 months old and seems to cry around 'new' people or 'strangers' -- that includes my sister who we see quite a bit. My daughter is super aware of her surroundings and KNOWS what is going on. She seems to startle easily to loud noises, etc, too. I notice she is mostly this way when the house is full of people, or we are at someone else's house. When it's just a few of us, she seems much better, but still leary of 'others'. I don't know if it's something I've done, or just her personality, but both my husband and I are very outgoing social people, so I'm not sure where she would get this? Does anyone have any suggestions?? Overall, she is a funloving, adorable, well-behaved baby that sleeps GREAT too! BUt this social anxiety makes me sad/nervous, frustrated...

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you all for your responses! You were all so helpful and positive!! I really appreciate it!.. I just wanted to let you all know that my little girl is much better as of late.. She is still a little skiddish of strangers, but we give her time to 'warm up' by slowly introducing them and having them be around her for a while without picking her up and she does just fine! She's getting better and better! Just the other day all of my nephews were over... 4 under the age of 3 and they were yelling and jumping and playing and she was just fine!! Yay!!! I know stranger anxiety comes and goes so I will know now to just ease into everything and she will be fine... Phew! God bless!!

Featured Answers

Abbie went through this......she DEFINTIELY outgrew it! Just keep exposing her to others. Good Luck.

Hi S.! My daughter was the exact same way at that age. She actually would never even go to men, including my husband (her Dad). She would also get all worked up when there was too much going on around her and preferred things to be quiet (very sensitive to noise)! Luckily it is just a stage and my daughter is VERY outgoing now. She is still sensitive to loud noises, but seems to be fine with it. I would just say that it is a stage and she will grow out of it before you know it. Right now she prefers Just Mom. . .enjoy it because that doesn't last:)

Yes and it is NORMAL. Babies are suppose to be attached to certain people they see on a regular basis. The crying when the baby is around strangers is a instinct that they are born with.....it is a good thing!

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My name is J. and I went through this same thing with my daughter. She is now 5 years old and has been diagnosed with sensory integration dysfunction. It is more common than most would think and is easily corrected. I am not saying this is what your daughter has, but it sounds exactly like what we went through. I am not sure the age at which they can determine, but our diagnosis came through an occupational therapist that specializes in sensory integration. It took us so long to discover this because most family doctors and only a few peditricians are up on the occupational side of things. Good Luck!! It really is an easy fix and my daughter loves her therapist. We have only been with the program for a few months and already they are reducing her time in the office and she will most likely been done with therapy by summer.
I just read some of the other responses and I have to say that while it is normal for some babies to shy away from certain people at times, but the loud noise is what makes me think there is more to it than a phase. Please take the time to type sensory integration dysfunction into your browser and read up on the subject. I have two children and my son went through the phase part of what everyone is talking about...what my daughter went through was very different from that...only you will be able to tell the difference...and a trained professional of course. Good luck to you.

1 mom found this helpful

Pick up some good books on baby develpment, every child will vary according to thier temperament. We had one that really did have a problem with this, it started at this age and it continued into childhood, but you can't really tell at this stage if she will outgrow it and she is just a very sensitive baby (Brazelton calls them quiet babies, I think.)

Look into the watch me grow program, it is free through the state of Ohio (www.ohio.gov) They will send someone to your home to track her development and give you information about what may or may not be typical development and give you suggestions for what you can do to help her grow.


i have two kids one is four and one is almost 2 my first child goes to anyone, stranger or not. my second one will go to no one. he would not go to my husbands family at all and is just now a little bit going to them. i think it is just a personality trait. he is slowly growing more sociable. but you know there are others ( strangers) he will go right up to. it is only certain people he gets wield around.

Hi S.!

You have a quite a bit of responses, and out of the ones I have read, I have not seen anything regarding infant temperaments researched and studied in psychology and child development. Experts divide babies temperaments into three main categories: easy going, slow to warm up, and difficult.

Babies with easy temperaments are usually in good moods, adjust easily and quickly to new situations and changes in routine, and usually eat on a regular schedule. Easy babies react very mildly when hungry or have some form of discomfort. These babies are usually able to find ways to soothe or calm themselves down when they become fussy.

Babies with slow-to-warm-up temperaments basically seem shy. They need more time than easy babies to warm up to new people and experiences. Slow-to-warm-up babies sometimes even reject or withdraw from anything or anybody new. Instead of being active and forthright, they are usually cautious, and will watch situations first. These babies can quickly become overstimulated.

Babies with difficult temperaments are always in some form of constant physical activity; they may even seem restless at times. They are usually easily distracted and respond vigorously to hunger and other discomforts, with very loud and intense crying. At times, difficult babies are very hard to soothe when they're fussy, and have difficulty soothing themselves.

There's TONS of research on these temperaments, and books upon books about what it means for your child, and what you can do to help your child. Good luck!

It is completely normal for your baby to cry around strangers, especially if she is very aware. My daughter started to be aware of strangers and cried for my sister also. We found that if my sister talked to my daughter and she could only hear her voice (not look at her face. My sister covered her own face), my daughter was happy and calm. She recognized her voice and was fine. But when she was looking at my sister's face and hearing her voice, she would cry. We figured out that my daughter was confused because my sister looked like me but didn't sound like me. So when she looked at her and heard a voice that wasn't mine, it scared her. When she heard my sister's voice which she recognized and didn't look at my sister, she was fine.
This was just a phase and she grew out of in within a few weeks or month.

Sounds like normal development to me. Sometime between 4 and 6 months, babies learn about "object permanance" - that is, they realize that something still exists when they can't see it. So separation anxiety sets in... they now know that mommy and/or daddy are somewhere even though they can't see them - and they want them. This is the time they start to have a preference for mommy and daddy, too and you stranger anxiety. It doens't have much to do with personality - it's just a phase most babies go through. My son is extremely outgoing (age 5) but around 4-8 months he screamed if anyone but me held him. My daughter (now 2) is pretty shy and quiet and when she was 4-8 months she definately prefered daddy over anyone else but she never screamed about it.

This is pretty normal for this age. She is starting to develop more of a sense of self - her world is getting a little bigger and she is just wanting to feel secure. Some little ones are just alot more sensitive, and that is ok. Don't push the issue too much for now, but get involved in playgroups or activities that you can do together, and with other babies - story times at the library, or a music/movement class for infants. She'll be just fine!

Hi S.! My daughter was the exact same way at that age. She actually would never even go to men, including my husband (her Dad). She would also get all worked up when there was too much going on around her and preferred things to be quiet (very sensitive to noise)! Luckily it is just a stage and my daughter is VERY outgoing now. She is still sensitive to loud noises, but seems to be fine with it. I would just say that it is a stage and she will grow out of it before you know it. Right now she prefers Just Mom. . .enjoy it because that doesn't last:)

This is absolutely a stage, and nothing to be worried about at this age. All babies typically go through a stage like this where they get a little nervous about what is going on in their world. My daughter who is 6 months has gone through this a little bit, but she seems to have gotten through it. It may happen when she is around 18 months or so as well. My older daughter did this too and it was really hard on me. She is the most outgoing child now and gets a little shy initially with strangers but warms up pretty quick. I wouldn't worry about it now unless it persists and it's still going on. Then you can talk to her pediatrician about it later....

It sounds like she is experiencing stranger anxiety, although she is a little young for that stage, normally occuring around 8 to 9 months, some as early as 6 months. But it is a perfectly normal delevopment.
It's interesting to see their personalities poking through at such young ages. But I wouldn't get frusterated with this. My son is a very out going little man at 5, but he also likes to be very much in control of his environment. If we walk into a party or family gathering that we are "late" for, even if he knows everyone there, he will cling to me still. I have found if I get there a few minutes early or right at the beginning when there aren't many people there that he deals with the growing group better than he does walking into the big group. He has been like this since he was a baby. He likes his routines and schedules and major changes without warning and explination tend to cause him a great deal of stress.

Here's a link with a little bit of information about seperation anxiety:


This is TOTALLY normal. It's separation anxiety. She's used to being at home with you all day long in peace and quiet. When she gets around other people and more noise, it's unusual to her and she doesn't understand it. If I were you, a good way to work on this is to take her out more. Take her in places where a lot of people are. Walk around the mall, let her see the people all around her. Take her to family get togethers more. Even if it's only a visit to grandparents. She'll get used to it. It's nothing you've done. But, it IS something you can help her with just by exposing her to the outside world more often. I used to walk around the mall with the carrier that wraps around me, and put my baby in facing away from me. She used to LOVE watching all the people walk by! And I used to love all the smiles and gooey eyes she'd get from people!

We're going through this right now. My 4 month old daughter will let strangers hold her for a few minutes and then freaks out. When I take her back she still screams her head off and cannot be consoled until we leave the situation. As soon as I put her in the car she stops crying and some times even smiles. I'm going to try "warming her up" to strangers before they hold her and see how that goes. I'm learning that everything is temporary so I'm not letting it get me frustrated although it does put a damper on social gatherings.

I have a son who is 8 now, but when he was a baby would always cry if someone other than myself or my husband would hold him. He startled easily and I would have to hold him if I was vacuuming. As he has grown and I had another child (she's 6 now) I have come to realize it is his personality and not us "spoiling" him or anything else we did. He still doesn't like loud noises, but that has gotten much better. He is shy and that personality trait does seem to run in families (even though you and your husband are outgoing, maybe other members of your family are not??). If I were you I would try not to worry about this, but maybe talk to your pediatrican and see if he/she thinks it might be his personality. If your son is shy or has social anxiety, he'll have some challenges as he gets older and has to deal with social situations more and more, but being accepting and loving is the best thing you can do for him, along with learning about shyness and social anxiety. Playing team sports has really helped our son "come out of his shell". He is much more comfortable in social situations now but will never be what I consider an outgoing individual. That's okay! Enjoy your son.

HI S.,
My 2nd child was like that and still is to some point. What you must remember is that babies are people too, they have their own personality and deserve respect. My daughter is slow to adapt, needs to warm up to strangers before interacting with them, does not like big social events where "people are looking at her". The only advise I can give you is to read the book "raising you spirited child:a guide for parents, whose child is more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistant, energetic" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. Also, it is helpful to have a talk with reletives about giving her time to warm up to them, not bombarding her when you enter a room, let her initiate contact (and not to take it personally), with strangers, just say politely, she liikes to observe you before she plays with you (not she's shy) and remember that you are her advocate. You need to stand up for her, believe me, people will make assumptions that she is "a brat", she IS NOT! She is a person with her own personallity and if she is respected, she will come around in her own time.

Good luck & stay strong, she will!

Don't fret over this. Nothing's wrong with her, and you haven't "done" anything (or forgotten to do anything, either.) Just reassure her and let her go at her own pace with getting comfortable with people. Just because you and DH are outgoing doesn't mean she'll have the same ease around others, but if you push her and get anxious or irritated at her shyness it will only intensify it and take longer for her to feel secure in making her own choices about responding to others. She won't really understand why you are feeling irritable, just that you ARE, and that will put her on edge.

"Stranger anxiety" is pretty normal, and she'll cycle through it at different points in her development as some new level of awareness peaks. It's OK, though - rejoice! She's a smart cookie and is recognizing that someone is different than her familiar faces, and she's trying to figure out what to do about it.

Don't force her to go to strangers if she doesn't want to (even if it's family). You can sit next to someone and talk to them, involving her in the interaction, then if she's comfortable with the proximity, playing an "I got you!" game, moving her back and forth from the person in a fun way while the person pretends to get her feet or belly. Just go at her pace and watch for her clues.

If you have to leave her with a babysitter - if she has a regular one, that face will become familiar, too, and she'll be fine.

You need to be her secure base from which she can explore the world. And if the world just seems too scary, she needs to know it's OK to just stick with you for a while and watch until she feels brave enough to explore again.

Keep getting out and about with her, and keep her security toy or blanket around, if she has an attachment to one, but let her choose when she wants it. Getting around others and watching you interact will teach her how to socialize, too.

Sounds like she has become very much aware of the world around her and notices the difference between mommy and others. You have been her whole world and she knows who she prefers. Separation anxiety starts about 4-6 months and can last until who knows when. Some babies startle rather easily. My oldest son was very jumpy and alert, while my youngest son could sleep through a tornado!

Being around a large group of people can be overstimulating, especially if she is used to smaller groups. If she is passed around, she may become frightened that she won't see mommy again. If you know you will be in a setting where a lot of other people will be in attendance (weddings, church, parties, etc.), be sure to arrive before most others do. That way, your baby can watch as others arrive and it will be a gradual thing, rather than just thrusting her into a roomful of people who all want to give her attention at once! Try "introducing" baby to guests as they arrive, so they can say "hello" one-on-one.

Try leaving your baby with a trustworthy caregiver (like your sister) for at least 15 to 20 minutes at a time once a week, so your baby learns that mommy will always return to her. This will help her to trust others who mommy trusts, and give you a break when you need it. As she grows older, being able to adjust to other caregivers will also help her become a more independent and well-adjusted child.

Let everyone know this is not personal--this is very normal for babies this age. She is used to mommy and very wary of anyone else. I don't blame her--no one else has filled her every need since birth!

Don't hesitate to ask your pediatrician about these behaviors, too. As long as baby's hearing and vision are okay, I wouldn't worry about it. What you are saying sounds very normal for her age.

Pefectly norma. Some kids just happen to be more sensitive to others while some kids are naturally more outgoing and sociable. FYI - I have 5 kids ranging in age from 21 to 9 - they are all amazingly different from each other and from my husband and me. Don't worry. ( :

I believe what your daughter is going through is very normal for her age. You are going to see many changes and stages right now. My daughter seemed to be the same way around the same age, and grew out of it very fast. She going through her mommy attachment. Enjoy this stage and her attachment to you because it won't always be that way and you'll miss her needing you all the time. My daughter is 19months old now and is a brave, loving entertainer now. Your daughter just knows you and your husband are her mommy and daddy so she wants to be with who she knows best! Hope this all helps!

Yes, my daughter was very much like yours. Even at the age of 2nd grade (whatever age that is) lol she still really didn't like loud noises. And she was a bit more shy around others too.

Your daughter will grow out of it, but it may take some time. But for now, try to keep things peaceful and quiet for her. Remember, her senses are very acute at this time, and she hears things very well.

For her getting adjusted to others, this age is when they do start realizing that "you're not my mommy" I would keep letting her go to others even though she may cry and fuss a bit. I found when I hold a baby that is a bit fussy for there mom, I talk to them softly and get them visual things to see .. i.e. things that are bright and happy and I take them outside of the site of Mom .. this should help them get used to other people holding them.

Good luck .. they grow up so fast.


Abbie went through this......she DEFINTIELY outgrew it! Just keep exposing her to others. Good Luck.

Sometimes new babies get overstimulated very easily. I wouldn't worry about it, but I might think about this as you plan your day. I had a child who would get overstimulated and I would have to think in advance about how many places I could really take her in one day. If you are planning to go to a party in the evening, I probably wouldn't take her shopping all day during the day. For some babies, just being in a new environment is stimulation. You might also refer to a book called "The secret of the baby whisperer" or (or something to that effect). I read the book about 7 years ago and it was helpful to me with understanding similar issues.

She didn't "get it" from anywhere. These are very normal, very common reactions for a newborn. They are still finding out about this world, and when they don't know what's going on, or where mommy or daddy is, they freak out. Even if they're around the same people a lot, those people aren't mommy & daddy...you are her security. At this point, I wouldn't lable it 'social anxiety'. I'd label it 'normal baby behavior'. Most babies go thru these times. And while she may "outgrow" it soon, it may creep up again, the closer she gets to becoming a toddler. Babies look for routine and stability. When their environment is 'out of wack', they react accordingly. They can't communicate any other way with us, other than to cry and let us know that way, that they are upset by the commotion.

Actually, it's all completely normal for that age. She may be overstimulated with so many people around, which is why she's startled by the noises. Babies at that age can only process so much as everything is new. As far as "stranger anxiety", it's a phase that comes and goes.... and it's healthy!! It means that your child is realizing that there are differences between the people she sees everyday, people she see occasionally, and people she sees for the first time. You have nothing to worry about.


I have 2 friends whose kids have grow up with mine, they are both close to my age, 30's they both have children a month to 3 motnhs ahead of mine.
We are all controlling and anal ;)
We all have different traits too though.
One is extrmely nervousy and insecure, her child displays this, he will NOT allow her to move away from her. He's 19 months now.
My other friend's child is better adjusted. Maybe cos they're more confident people, maybe genes, maybe learned.
My daughter is right in the middle. Has definately gone through separation anxiety (not at 4 months though, 8 or 9 it started) now that she's 19 months she is a little shy when we arrive somewhere but will eventually go on her own.

What I would recommend that I saw my sister do with her kids who were extremely clingy - is allow her as she gets older to spend a day with different people, your sister, a grandma etc I started that with my daughter also, they go to a music class I paid for so she can bond with another person besides mommy and daddy. I grew up with a nutty grandma and really felt it was important for her to have that role lead and guide her through life too.

Whatever her nature is, it just is though. Nothing wrong though. My sister's (I have a BUNCh of sisters hahaha) 5 y/o was shy and introverted since birth and as HARD as she has tried to change her, she is who she is. My sis has tried to make her funny, laid back, relaxed and it works for a bit but ultimately she's a shy, reserved girl who is having some adjustment issues since she started a new school.
her very extroverted son bounced back in a month at the new school with best friends by the 3rd day.
She is back from winter break and still no friends :( But that's her nature and we have to deal with her accordingly, not embarass her or shame her.

Yes and it is NORMAL. Babies are suppose to be attached to certain people they see on a regular basis. The crying when the baby is around strangers is a instinct that they are born with.....it is a good thing!

In my opinion, it is just a phase, but it can also be part of her personality. I have twin girls and at about that same age they both got a little "stanger anxiety." They would pretty much cry if anyone picked them up other than myself or my husband. One of my girls was more "scared" than the other, so that's why I say that personality is probably a factor too. I tried to resist the urge to immediately run over and swoop them up. I would walk over beside the person holding them so that they could see me and tell them that they are OK. This seemed to help and the phase seemed to only last a week or so. :)

It sounds like your daughter and my 1st born are the same child! My daughter went through this and simply didn't really "like" people other than us until she was about 3. It always bothered me that she wouldn't smile and coo at others. Now I look back and see that she was my first child and first children usually are used to quiet surroundings and are simply only comforable in their "comfort zone" (i.e. the home). Now she is in kindergarten and has too many friends for me to handle and is a very social and friendly child. You've been blessed! Stephanie

No need to be concerned about this at all. It can be frustrating at times, I agree, but she will grow out of it. Don't force it on her though. Taking her out and putting her in a carrier (like a wrap) facing outward is great. My daughter used to LOVE going around in that thing. She's 22 months old now and is so social, but she went through that phase too. All babies do it. Keep in mind that she spent 9 months living inside your body. It takes a while to get used to this big outside world, especially as they become more aware of surroundings. One other thing you might try is to be right where she can see you when someone else holds her. Talk to her and put your hand on her so she knows she is safe and that you are near. This doesn't always work, but it's worth a try.

Every child is different. I have 3 that are going to be 4 years old. They were sensitive to loud noises and would cry if someone else held them. I would ask your sister to maybe not just rush in and try and hold her. I would ask her to talk to her first, maybe play games with her. then later when she seems comfortable, then maybe hold her. It may take awhile. I dont think there is anything wrong with your baby. I dont think you have done anything wrong. I think your baby is just sensitive to these things. she is practically a newborn. Are you a stay at home mom?

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