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The Second Six Months: Moving Up - Part Three

This article includes the following items: New Fears and Concerns in the Second Six Months. Stranger Anxiety, Easing into strangers, For more difficult cases, Separation Anxiety, Is Baby Too Dependent?, Close Parent-Infant Attachment Fosters Independence. There will be three more parts to this article so be sure to keep an eye out for them.


During the first six months parents and trusted subs are the center of baby's universe. While this remains true during all states of development, from six to twelve months baby develops the skills to extend his world of interest. He becomes less an arms and lap baby and more an exploring floor baby. During his stage, growth accelerates. Baby's weight increases by a third, first words appear, and true thumb-and-forefinger pickups emerge, as well as first crawls and steps. These skills also bring about parents' development as safety patrol officers. Baby's motor development allows him to get more and more of his body off the ground. By six months he's on his own two feet, and the baby chase begins.

New Fears And Concerns In the Second Six Months

A friend of yours, but a stranger to baby, wishes to greet you and your baby-in-arms. You open your arms to your friends, but your baby doesn't open hers. Instead she fearfully clings to you, periodically peering over her shoulder to check out the intruder. The harder you work t making a proper introduction, the tighter baby clings.

Your baby is experiencing what is commonly called stranger anxiety -- is normal among children in the second six months; it seems to be a protective behavior that keeps babies close to home base at a developmental stage when their motor skills entice them away.

Stranger Anxiety.

Stranger anxiety normally occurs between six and twelve months, when your onetime social butterfly turns shy. While she formerly enjoyed the game of going from arms to arms, now she settles only for yours. Your baby may reject even her closest significant others previously dear to her. This social behavior is a normal and passing phase, no reflection on your parenting, nor an indication of child insecurity. In fact, some of the most securely attached babies ay go through periods of stranger anxiety before eagerly embracing unfamiliar persons.

Your baby regards you as the standard by which she measures everyone else, and she rates everyone else by your reaction. She sees strangers through your eyes. If your baby needs a social chairman, here's how to help.

Easing into strangers.
Quickly greet the advancing person with a welcoming smile and begin a joyful dialogue, but still keep a distance. Give your baby time and space to size up the stranger and read your happy face. Based on your reaction to the stranger, baby forms a concept about the unfamiliar person. If she's OK to you, she's OK to bay. Then you take the lead. Make the proper third-party introduction: "See Aunt Nancy, she's nice." Meanwhile Aunt Nancy makes no advances then you gradually close the distance. When Aunt Nancy is within baby's intimate space, take baby's hand and pat Aunt Nancy's face, all the while reading baby's body language for when to advance and when to retreat. Brief Aunt Nancy about your strategy so she knows not to rush at baby. Grandparents, especially, need to understand how important it is to let baby approach them. This avoids hurt feelings or lectures on how you are spoiling that baby. This method also helps babies approach "strange doctors."

For more difficult cases.
If your baby is very stranger anxious. set the stage for a more subtle introduction. Warn your friend about what your baby is experiencing. This is a matter of normal infant development; don't be apologetic. ("But she really is a good baby"), trying to cover up for these first impressions. Suggest the stranger begin by warming up to one of baby's favorite toys; for example, cuddling T. Bear or pulling out a special toy so that baby will want to approach the stranger to get the toy.

If all your social strategies fail to release the clinging vie, sit baby securely on your lap while you enthusiastically relate to the stranger and let baby joining the fun at her own pace.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety usually begins around six months with the crawling phase and may even intensify from twelve to eighteen months when baby begins walking. A wise parent will respect the normal phase of separation anxiety and, if possible, plan necessary separation from baby outside of this sensitive period. Because this phenomenon is of such concern to parents, let's take a closer look.

Is Baby Too Dependent?

Our eight-month-old baby cries every time I put her down and walk into the next room. I can't seem to leave her without her getting upset. We're very close, but could I have made her too dependent on me?

No! You have made her secure, not dependent. Your baby is experiencing separation anxiety, a normal and healthy behavior that is not caused by your making her too dependent.

As a pediatrician watched their own eight-month-old playing, he developed a theory as to why separation anxiety occurs and why it's healthy. While his baby crawled around the room, every few minutes he would look back to see if I was watching. He would get upset if he saw me walking out of the room or couldn't keep a fix on us.

Why this curious behavior? As an experienced baby watcher, he learned that babies do what they do for a good reason. Separation anxiety seems to peak at the time when baby begins experiencing loco motor skills. Could separation anxiety be a safety check that clicks on when baby has the motor abilities to move away from her parents but does not yet have the mental capabilities to handle separation? baby's body says go -- his mind says no. Otherwise, he would just keep going.

Giving "It's OK" signals.
Don't feel you have made your baby too dependent on you and that he will remain clingy and not develop a healthy independence. On the contrary, separation anxiety is often a measure of how secure a baby's attachment is and how securely he will ease into independence. Here's why. Suppose baby is playing in a room full of strange toys and strange babies. Baby begins to cling to you. Instead of reinforcing his fears of the strange and unfamiliar, you gibe baby "It's OK" cues. Baby releases from you and becomes familiar with the strange environment, periodically checking back into home base for reassurance that it's OK to proceed into more unfamiliar situations. The presence of a strong attachment figure, usually the parent or a familiar, trusted caregiver, acts as a coach to give baby the go-ahead to explore further. During a strange situation the attachment figure interjects a reassuring "It's OK" as baby begins to explore another level. As soon as baby becomes familiar with one level, he goes on to another level. As baby climbs the ladder of independence, he checks in to be sure someone's holding the ladder.

Easing baby into separation.
If baby can't see you, he does not yet have the mental capacity to figure out that you are just around the corner or will soon return. Making voice contact sometimes reassures baby who can't see you, and it stimulates baby's ability to associate your voice with a mental image of you, quelling an attack of separation anxiety before it happens. Not until the second year do most babies develop object and person permanence, the memory ability to make and retrieve mental images of a person or thing he cannot see. This ability to retain a mental picture of a trusted caregiver will enable baby to move more easily from the familiar to the unfamiliar.

Close Parent-Infant Attachment Fosters Independence

As was mentioned earlier in a different context, we think it helps to understand mental development if we compare the developing of baby's mind to the process of making a phonograph record; this is our deep-groove theory. The stronger the parent-infant attachment, the deeper the attachment groove in baby's record and the easier baby can click into this groove when needed. Earlier theories about spoiling claimed that an infant who is strongly attached to his mother would never get out of the groove, become independent, and explore on his own. Experience and the experiments of others have shown the opposite. In a classic study, called the strange-situations experiment, researchers studied two groups of infants (labeled "securely attached" and insecurely attached") during an unfamiliar play situation. The most securely attached infants, the ones with the deepest grooves, actually showed less anxiety when separated from their mothers to explore toys in the same room. They periodically checked in with the mother for reassurance that it was OK to explore. The mother seemed to add energy to the infant's explorations. Since the infant did not need to waste effort worrying about whether she was there, he could use that energy for exploring.

When going from oneness to separateness, the securely attached baby established a balance between his desire to explore and his continued need for the feeling of security provided by a trusted caregiver. When a novel toy or a stranger upsets the balance, or mother leaves and thus reduces baby's sense of security, baby feels compelled to re-establish the original equilibrium. The consistent availability of a trusted caregiver provides needed reassurance and promotes independence, confidence, and trust, leading to an important milestone by the end of the first year -- the ability to play alone

There will be more articles on infantsHealth Fitness Articles, breast or bottle feeding and other related topics to follow. So please keep an eye out for more of my articles.

Article Tags: Stranger Anxiety, Securely Attached, Aunt Nancy, Separation Anxiety, Baby Begins, Have Made, Trusted Caregiver

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


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