This past weekend we witnessed firsthand Annabelle displaying stranger anxiety for the first time. She has never been a baby who screams when she goes into a new place. But this weekend, she clenched my shirt, hid her face, and then had a full out freak out after someone that wasn’t Mommy or Daddy held her.
I don’t think we’ve met…
Yesterday at the gym nursery, the caretaker took her out of her car seat while she was half asleep and placed her in the swing. Once she woke up in the swing, she looked around and saw she was somewhere different than home. And she started screaming.
One of the nursery girls came to get me out of my spin class and said Annabelle was making a sound she’d never heard before. I walked in to find a purple faced Annabelle, crying and clutching her bunny with fear. Once I took her from the poor, terrified worker, she stopped crying and buried her face in my shoulder. I spent the better part of the following hour trying to calm her down.
Early Signs of Stranger Anxiety in Babies
The What to Expect App on my phone described how stranger anxiety can set in around five months in a baby. Suddenly the baby is aware that the person holding them is not someone she sees everyday. Dr. Spock says, “By five months they become more sophisticated in the sense of being more discriminating about whom they know and trust (source).” That means baby actually thinks before she reacts when seeing a new person. It is a crazy thought.
Recommendations for Baby Stranger Danger
Remain calm – if you’re calm, then baby is calm. Babies can sense anxiety from their parents.
Act as a buffer – don’t hand off your baby too quickly. Let her watch you smile and interact with the person. After awhile, have the person come up to her (that you’re still holding). Then, once she seems comfortable, you can try to let the person hold her.
Prepare strangers ahead of time – let people know that your little one is uneasy with new folks. If the person has already met her, it doesn’t hurt to mention that the baby needs time to warm up to a new face in case she cries!
Annabelle will be attending daycare in August and I am so worried she is going to be traumatized the first few days that we leave her there. I know we can do a little test-run before we bring her in on a regular schedule, but I fear one day isn’t going to do much for her stranger anxiety. I am hoping by August she has outgrown this and that it’s only a phase. Then again… as she gets older, separation anxiety sets in too, so who knows how she’s going to react!