What's happening? That outgoing baby who liked everyone now clings to you when strangers, even grandparents, approach.

Almost every baby goes through the stranger anxiety stage, some more than others. The peak of such behavior is usually between 8 to 10 months of age. Though it can be worrisome and embarrassing to parents, it's really an important step in your baby's development. At this time your baby is learning two very important concepts:

  1. that he is a separate person, and
  2. that people and things come and go not because he wants them to, but because they are separate.

Be patient and supportive. When your baby hesitates or pulls away from people, don't force the issue, and don't scold. When you must leave for brief periods, leave a favorite toy or blanket for comfort. Don't try to sneak out without saying goodbye. He may be upset for a short while, but if he doesn't see you go, he will wonder why you aren't with him.

Learning occurs through experience and practice. When you leave, the baby is upset; when you return, he is reassured. Each time he gains confidence that you will come back. For more information on child development and parenting, contact Parents as Teachers by calling your local school district office or by visiting the National Parents as Teachers website. Another resource is ParentLink at 1-800-552-8522 or the ParentLink website.