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Dealing With Stranger Anxiety

Every time she saw her grandmother, baby Bridget Clifford of Strongsville, OH, cooed adoringly. That is, until she turned 6 months old  -- and began screaming when Grandma came near. Why the sudden rejection? Around 8 to 10 months, many infants develop stranger anxiety. A baby can now hold a mental image in his short-term memory  -- so when you slip out of sight, he knows you're missing. He's also learning to express emotion  -- hence those lusty wails.

By 15 to 18 months, he'll be more confident that you'll return. Until then:

Avoid hurt feelings. If your baby shrieks when lifted by friends or relatives, explain his reaction in developmental terms: "It's not you. Most babies this age are afraid of people."

Don't hand him off. He may take more kindly to playing than being held. Try placing him on your lap and talking quietly to him while someone offers him a favorite toy.

But if you have to leave him for a lengthy period, ease the transition by distracting him with a toy or music while you slip away. Or wait until he's asleep. That way, you escape a goodbye that's painful for both you and your baby.

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