Stranger Anxiety?

Updated on December 07, 2007
C.H. asks from Rochester, NY
10 answers

My son is 6 mo. old. He has recently started crying whenever I am not close by. I will put him down on the floor with his toys around him and try to sit on the couch but he will cry unless I am sitting right in front of him. Sometimes when I am sitting right in front of him he will cry and reach out to me, and once I put him on my lap he is as happy as can be playing like that. I used to be able to make dinner with him in the excersaucer on the opposite side of the kitchen, but now he just cries if I try that. I have also tried putting him in his highchair 5 feet away from me, but he cries in that also. Anytime I try to put him down to do anything, use the bathroom, fold laundry, etc. he cries, and then stops as soon as I pick him up. I have tried calming him down without picking him up, but he won't go for that. At first I thought it was because he was teething because he just got his first tooth. Then he got sick and I thought it could have been that. But now he is no longer sick and doesn't seems to be bothered by teething anymore. Is this stranger anxiety, even if no one else is around? Any suggestions?

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answers from New York on

hi C.! this sounds totally normal to me and very common and there's probably nothing you can do! :) no, it's not stranger anxiety if there's no stranger. it's mommy-love! and it's really normal for 6-12 months.

my son was totally fine w strangers until 11 months and then he became very clingy; he stopped being so physically clingy once he could walk and do other things but now that he's 2.5 and we have a 9 mo old girl he's on top of me all the time. he will hang on my leg as i drag him down the hall. meanwhile, my daughter would go to anybody until about 6 weeks ago, now she's not happy about strangers at all. she's still friendly and independent, she is just very decisive about who she wants to be with and when. she will visit w strangers or even people she knows but doesn't like to be picked up. and late in the afternoon she will insist on being carried around quite a lot for "no reason," except this;

the reason is they love us!

you can't blame them. we're the whole world to them. they need and love to be close w us. i think you should enjoy it because before you know it he'll be 4 or 5 and off to school all day and you'll miss him like crazy. and then he'll be 12 and he'll mouth off to you and you will long for the days when he wanted you close to him all the time. i know i will.

the other thing to remember i think is that the more independent they become they also become more clingy at other times; it's a rubberband effect. they need to be bolstered by you to be able to take chances and grow. and we should give them all the love we can. especially because as they get older it gets harder and you'll have days where you're just exhausted and you can't do everything. so if i was you i would give love while the giving is easy.

good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from New York on

Hi, C.!

I gotta totally agree with Tara on this one. Wearing a baby does way more to foster future independence then "teaching" an infant to become independent by stressing them out.

Our society's "experts" yield more opinions I disagree with then agree with. Credentials don't mean squat to me.

This is just me, but if my infant is crying, I take it to mean that he *needs* me...and that's my job! Folding underwear is not more important than my young child's peace of mind. You don't "teach" independence and trust by being undependable and untrustworthy to your kid. And, when an infant cries, he is expecting his mother's help and support. Laundry doesn't need me more than my child does!

It has been said, and my son has borne this out, that an infant's wants are an infant's needs (under the age of 1 year). It may not be convenient, but it is a short season in their lives. And, to rise cheerfully to the occasion simply requires a perspective shift on *our* part (not our child's part). Remember you cannot push a string up a hill, and you cannot control the behavior of anyone else. And, the sooner parents understand that the only person's behavior they *can* control is their own, the more likely they and their kids are to have a peaceful, joyful, fulfilling life together.

Many times, we think we're "teaching" some kind of lesson, when actually we are teaching a wholly unintended one (i.e., *we* think we're teaching independence, but our kids are actually learning that they can't trust us to be there for them when they really need us).

Jean Liedloff wrote a wonderful book called "The Continuum Concept." She didn't actually write it as a parenting book, but her findings in the book have been absolutely life-changing (in a good way) for many families in our somewhat disconnected, dysfunctional culture. Her book is what I like to give as a shower gift to new moms! That, and a sling (the *only* baby equipment besides a good car seat I really found to be useful when my son was that little).

When my son was an infant, I held this image as my parenting ideal: My son, walking away from me, my arms always open and ready to support him should he need me. Never me walking away from him. He is 13 now. He has been sleeping over other kids' houses since he was four years old. He has *NEVER* called in the middle of the night and said he needed to come home. Moreover, and most importantly, we trust each other. That trust was built from day one (13 years ago today, by the way!!!) when I cheerfully and lovingly met his needs as they arose.

Sorry this is so long and rambly! Your question strikes me as a crossroads-kind of question, and basically I would said this: In your heart, does it feel right to you not to respond to your infant's cries? If it *really* feels right, then you know which path to follow. The answer is in your heart, not in some expert's research papers.

All the best to you and your family,


P.S. I also heard when my son was an infant, "If you baby the baby when he's a baby, you won't have to baby him when he's not." It sounds a little trite and like a cliche, but I have found there to be a great deal of truth in this statement. It simply follows the logic that a need remains a need until it has been met.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Buffalo on

I dont agree with the other comment about not going to your baby right away helps develop trust. I believe it develops DIStrust. Your baby is counting on you to respond to his needs and if you dont respond, eventually he figures you're not coming anyway, so why bother crying?

I think distraction might work, but the thing that works the best for me, is wearing him in a wrap or sling. He's held, comforted, close to Mom (which is all he really wants anyway) and your hands are free to do whatever needs to get done. I have a wrap and a sling, both can be worn on the back or the front. I have been able to cook, fold laundry, vacuum, sweep, mop, weed wack, mow the lawn, bathe other children, shop, shower, etc... all while wearing him. It has made my life easier in the sense that he isnt always crying and a happy baby makes a happy mum. It keeps him happy because his needs are still being met while I am able to tend to other things. Hope this helps. Everyone has different views and opinions. You take what works best in your heart and instincts and do what you feel is right. Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

You might want to read Attachment Parenting by Granju or The Continuum Concept by Liedloff. Our son is now 8 and I used a sling a lot when he was a baby. He's a happy, independent kid. The sling made it possible for him to develop without the unnatural anxiety that's so common in this culture (in comparison with most indigenous cultures).



answers from Albany on

This is caled separation anxiety and it is completely normal. All typical babies go through it. It will last a couple months while gradually get better each day. It will peak again around 1 - 1 1/2 years.

Go about your normal routine and as you walk away, talk or sing to him with positive expressions so he will know that all is well. He is also experiencing object permanence. Right now if he does not see something to him it is gone i.e. a toy under a blanket, you in another room. Soon he will learn that you still exist, or that toy under the blanket is still there even though he can't see you or it.

Each time you leave him, make sure you are in his view. Do not go to him immediately. Start off slow and gradually increase the amount of time before you go to him.

This is so important as he learns to develop trust. If you can do it well now than by the time school comes around he will have trust knowing you will always come back and there will be minimal tears as you leave him with a teacher.

Added for clarification in response to above post:

As an educator with a MS in Educational psychology I have seen the consequences of unhealthy attachment. Research supports that if you gradually detach yourself from the baby during this stage s/he will learn a healthy attachment. For instance, if you need to go fold laundry, sit baby on floor with toys and walk away to the other side of the room while telling your baby where you are going and what you will be doing. Stay in one spot as you fold the laundry looking up at baby and continue talking to her/him.

The first day you may only get to walk 5 steps from baby before meltdown. The second day you may make it to 10 steps. The third day you may actually get to fold a pair of underwear. Eventually you will be able to successfully fold your laundry while baby has you in sight without a meltdown. By doing this you will have taught your baby to trust that you will not leave. In a few months you will even be able to cook dinner while baby plays in another room. S/he has learned to trust you and will let you go.

I do not have a serious problem with attachment parenting as the above post suggested, but there is a time when a parent needs to let go a bit for the good of the child. If you can ease your child into this early when the anxiety peaks again at 1 you will have a much easier time.

And I am sorry but weed-whacking and cutting the lawn is dangerous for children to be around. You baby is at an increased risk of injury from projectile objects.



answers from New York on

Sounds like your baby has a strong case of mommy-ietus. He just wants to be near you. It probably started with being sick, and he got all this attention, and now he does not want to give that up. At this age, you cannot spoil them too much. As long as you are sure that he is well and does not need to go to the doctor, I'd get a sling, and cuddle him through it, and encourage your husband to do the same. If you leave the room, or go out without him, he will cry, but get distracted and go about playing, so I would not worry about that. Sometime about this time they realize that when you go away, you are doing something else, and they want to be a part of it. Also, if you put him down, and let him cry a little, as long as you offer him something to do, his protests will soon vanish. Try playing with him on the floor, maybe his attention will turn to the toy.



answers from New York on

This isn't stranger anxiety. This is separation anxiety. Usually children go through this twice or so throughout their years before starting school. It passes usually in a few weeks to a few months. What you can't do is cave into it all the time. If you are leaving to go somewhere just tell your little one that mommy (or daddy) will be back soon. If you keep telling him that then he will realize that when you say you are coming back soon you really mean it. I have four children ages 3 to 14 and I went through it will all of them. Then I took a growth and development course and learned that it is completely normal and they do grow out of it/get over it. Good luck to you.



answers from Glens Falls on

I agree with the development statement, re: the age. I've heard of doing things to teach him that you're not gone, when he can't see you, like peek a boo.
I don't agree with carrying kids around everywhere. I think that's a temporary convenience. That must get old, and very heavy. Plus a little guy that could be playing around with a ball or something while you water plants, or whatever gets exercise and brain development. My sister's boy was very heavy at 6 mo. I don't see how that would be physically possible.



answers from New York on

Hi, i may be wrong, but it sound like what i was going through with my daughter around that age. i couldn't even take a shower (with the curtain partially open for her to see me) she had to have me looking at her, and able to touch me at her whim, or she would cry, and that was that! once she started to crawl (which was a couple months later, even though it took longer then that to get it down to a good science lol) that's when it stopped.

now, it was just the "i have to be right up your butt" stuff that had just stopped. i had gotten to the point where as long as she could see me, i could be wherever, and do whatever. and she had in turn changed her anxiety to where NO ONE could leave the room without her! EVEN STRANGERS (like if we were at a diner, they weren't able to walk away after ooh's and ahh's w/out her crying). we had to actually start distracting her when someone would leave the room, BUT she didn't mind it if someone were to pick her up and take her away from us. that lasted a little longer then when i wasn't able to be outta arms reach.

just remember, they go through a bunch of different stages of separation anxiety, and all these stages (most of the time w/ most kids) all fade away. i know it's hard to handle when you're so used to being able to just put them down and do what you have to do...but once he's able to crawl, i'm sure he'll get over it because he'll realize you're RIGHT THERE, and if he REALLY wants you, he can get to you on his own. good luck.



answers from New York on

Have you had your baby's eyes checked?

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