Baby's stranger anxiety includes mom

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  September 24, 2012 06:00 AM

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My 1yr. has been with my mom for 2 mos. When I went to visit her, all she did was cry. She didn't want anything to do with me. Why did she do that and what can I do to [re-establish] our relationship? My mom lives about 200 miles from me or I would visit, my mom took her because I was moving and wasn't sure when I would get a place. Now I am settled in and I want my baby back with us. What do I do?

From: Michelle, Lander, WY


Dear Michelle,

What you're seeing in your baby has a name, it's called "stranger anxiety," and although you are her mother, she doesn't know you so you qualify as a "stranger." This is a normal behavior for infants beginning about the age of 6- or 7-months and can last for a few months, peaking at about a year. It's not that she doesn't like you, her mom, it's that she's frightened of anyone she doesn't know. She's used to the person(s) with whom she has daily, frequent, caring contact.

Be patient with her. Even though she's only a baby, this is a real fear -- your child's first! Spend as much time as you can in her presence but don't push yourself on her. It won't take long for her to get used to you -- to the sound of your voice, your touch, etc -- and once you see that she's developed a comfort level with you, you can begin to assume more and more of her care. Start with small gestures that include your mom showing her that you are a safe and comforting person. For instance, let your daughter sit in your mom's lap and then you sit next to your mom, speaking softly with each other. Rather that reach for the baby or try to take her, let her just get used to your presence. While this might be frustrating for you, it's a comforting and comfortable way for your daughter to get over you being a stranger. You will be able to take your baby home with you and it will be an easier time for all of you if you don't rush this transition.

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2 comments so far...
  1. I imagine that Barbara's transition suggestion might be a bit difficult when there is a 3-4 hour drive, each way, involved. Is there a way that your Mom can live with you for a while? If that's not possible, maybe enlist your Mom's help. Can you make a little photo book of you, including pictures of you with your daughter taken before you had to leave her with your Mom. She can "read" the book to your daughter, telling her nice stories about every day things you used to do together. I did something like that for my son so that he'd remember what my parents & brother look like, since he sees them only a couple times a year.

    Posted by MomOfOne September 24, 12 03:42 PM
  1. MomofOne, I like your suggestions about photos (I did the same for my son, many times, to help him with transitions of various kinds), but what I meant, specifically, is for the mom to invest a few days at the grandma's home, working on getting the baby comfortable before she makes the physical transition.

    Posted by Barbara Meltz September 28, 12 11:25 AM
 
2 comments so far...
  1. I imagine that Barbara's transition suggestion might be a bit difficult when there is a 3-4 hour drive, each way, involved. Is there a way that your Mom can live with you for a while? If that's not possible, maybe enlist your Mom's help. Can you make a little photo book of you, including pictures of you with your daughter taken before you had to leave her with your Mom. She can "read" the book to your daughter, telling her nice stories about every day things you used to do together. I did something like that for my son so that he'd remember what my parents & brother look like, since he sees them only a couple times a year.

    Posted by MomOfOne September 24, 12 03:42 PM
  1. MomofOne, I like your suggestions about photos (I did the same for my son, many times, to help him with transitions of various kinds), but what I meant, specifically, is for the mom to invest a few days at the grandma's home, working on getting the baby comfortable before she makes the physical transition.

    Posted by Barbara Meltz September 28, 12 11:25 AM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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