When I was pregnant one thing that I used to think about a lot was my mum being able to hold her first grandchild as much as she wants (she has wanted one for a very long time!). I would go to her house every weekend whilst pregnant and all she talked about was how much she was looking forward to having days out with the baby and babysitting.
For the first two months or so T was exactly like what we had spoken about, he enjoyed being held by my mum, although she couldn’t look at him for long because he was refusing to take a bottle and I was breastfeeding. She could hold him, cuddle him to sleep and hold him to her heart’s content.
Sadly, once he reached 3 months old he started to cry when anyone but myself or his dad picked him up. I didn’t think much of it I thought that after a while he would grow out of it.
He is now approaching 6 months and it seems he has gotten worse, now he will burst into tears if he looks at someone other than myself or his dad for too long. If they even attempt to touch or hold him he will start crying out loud.
At first, it was funny just like a game of hot potato seeing who would set him off but now I feel really bad for my mum as she hasn’t been able to hold him or have a cuddle with him for nearly three months. This also means anytime I want to have some alone time or go out with my partner I can’t as he wants to be around us constantly. It feels so intense sometimes.
So I did what any new mum would do and turned to googling his behaviour and discovered that he could have stranger anxiety. I had no idea this was even a thing so I spoke with my health care visitor who told me it’s possible he could be anxious about new people or places.
Baby Stranger Anxiety is explained as,
“Stranger anxiety is a form of distress that children experience when exposed to people unfamiliar to them. Symptoms may include: getting quiet and staring at the stranger, verbally protesting by cries or other vocalisations, and hiding behind a parent.”
How is it possible for T to be anxious about my mum holding him, she was there when I went into labour and was one of the first people to hold him when he was born. She was the one who would stay over at ours at night and make sure I could rest and only need to be awake to feed him.
She was the one would come over and help sooth him when my partner was at work and I had no-one to help me stop him crying and now I am wondering why he doesn’t let someone who has been there for him at every step as he should be as used to her as he is to us.
I keep thinking that it’s my fault that for the first few weeks after we got home that we didn’t really leave the house as I was so exhausted or that maybe I should have taken him to a baby and toddler group to get him used to strangers. Maybe that way he would have been more comfortable around other people.
It can be quite frustrating at times when we are around family members or out with friends and he won’t let anyone hold him but I just have to remember that I am all that he knows and when we are in a new environment and around other people I am his comfort.
When I think about it actually I love that he clings to me, I love that I am his number one and I love that all he needs is me close to him to make him happy and I have to remember to enjoy this I know it won’t last long.
I have been advised that I can ease his anxiety a bit by trying the below techniques.
1- Prepare Strangers
Advice people beforehand especially new people that your baby is a little sensitive and let them know not to overwhelm the Baby. Advise people to approach the baby/ child calmly and slowly, maybe advise them to play with one of the baby’s toys as this may engage the baby/child. The parent can hold the baby and introduce them to new people.
2- Don’t show your anxiety
The baby will take the cue from you if you are anxious about them crying around new people they may pick up on this and become anxious as well.
3- Show Them Who to trust / Lead by example
When around new people or even family members you should smile at them so your baby can see you smile at the person, that way they know that the person can be trusted. Sooth and reassure your baby and talk to them about the person.
I will be trying these out with T and I hope that in time he will grow to trust family members especially my mum because my heart is breaking seeing how sad she gets when he won’t let her hold him.
I would be really interested to know if anyone else has experienced this and what have you done to make your baby or child more comfortable around other people.
Thank you for reading