My baby cries if anyone else holds her.

For babies born during the pandemic, you might think their stranger anxiety is unique, but it's actually a normal developmental stage.

Dear Is This Normal,

We had our baby in the midst of the pandemic so she met almost no one in the first few months. She now cries if anyone other than me and my partner holds her. What can we do to stop this?


Stranger Danger

Dear Safe,

I really wish there existed some sort of global support group for parents who had babies during the pandemic, and specifically, during quarantine. Like, I feel like y’all have been THROUGH IT, all on your own (for the most part), and these pandemic babies are a whole ‘nother breed of baby. I have friends whose pandemic babies: don’t like faces without masks, have never been to an actual grocery store, understand what the FaceTime ring sounds like, and started walking at like 9 months because honestly, WTF else is there to do besides work ahead on your milestones. It’s wild! But putting all of that aside, your baby’s stranger anxiety might not be as big a deal as it seems right now.

I think it’s easy (and logical) to equate this new fear of people to her being born in a pandemic and not seeing pretty much anyone else for the first few months of her life. But I’m here to tell ya—the timing here is purely coincidental! 

You see, stranger danger is a completely normal developmental milestone for babies that can start between 6-12 months old. Not every baby experiences it, but most do to some degree. Around 6 months old, your baby begins to recognize other faces and assign connections to those faces. So many times, babies will be totally fine with the faces they see regularly (parents, caregivers, etc.) and have some stranger anxiety with faces and people they don’t recognize. Again, this is completely and totally normal, and usually resolves on its own by the time the child is around 2. So your daughter isn’t necessarily crying because she hasn’t seen anyone over the course of the pandemic—she’s crying because the faces she is seeing aren’t faces she recognizes. It’s entirely likely that you’d be dealing with this to some degree even if we weren’t (still) in a global pandemic. 

But I do get that it’s a concern, one probably shared by a lot of parents of pandemic babies (and non-pandemic babies alike!). Luckily it’s something you can work on with your little one. If you have some family members or friends that you feel safe having around your baby, try to have them come around as often as possible so she gets used to them and starts to feel more comfortable around them. Experts say even video chatting can be helpful! When you do have trusted friends and family over, don’t force your baby to go to them; in other words, don’t give them the baby to hold. Instead, let her just be around them while she slowly increases her level of comfort. Have them play with and interact with her while you or your partner are holding her, so she understands this is a ‘safe’ person. Eventually, she’ll start to feel more comfortable with more people, as she spends more time around them.

Pandemic babies and parents have made some pretty big adjustments over the last year and half, and we’ll have to make even more as we slowly ease our way out of this. But don’t stress too much about it. Babies are incredibly adaptable and resilient little beings, and one day we’ll look back and marvel on these unprecedented times. Reeeeeeally looking forward to precedented times though, not gonna lie.

Take the Danger Out of Your Strangers,

Is This Normal


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