Social anxiety is hardly a baby-specific issue – after all, many of us still get the jitters before venturing into a dinner party or reception area packed with wine glass-wielding strangers. So when it comes time to introduce Baby to new adults – friends, family, coworkers, you name it – don’t be surprised if her initial response seems to be, “No thanks!” Some babies instantly warm to strangers while others may fidget, shy away, or even cry. This “stranger anxiety” can especially worsen between 6 and 12 months when she starts to recognize faces better. Try adopting these tactful steps to make Baby’s early contact with the wider world easier for both of you.
- Prepare the other party
Whenever you’re introducing Baby to a stranger, just put it out there: Baby hasn’t met many other adults yet. Stating this outright can help prevent any embarrassment or alarm in the event that Baby isn’t quite ready to be around strangers yet and decides to announce this loudly.
- Prepare your baby
Baby is smarter and more aware of her environment than you think. Introduce this new person to her, and tell Baby how you know them, and how great it is that this person is here to play with her!
- Close the gap
Once you’ve cleared the air about Baby’s experience with other adults, try bringing her physically closer to her new acquaintance. Encourage your companion to talk to or play with Baby while you hold her, and see how she responds. No tears or worried looks? Then proceed straight to…
- Go for the hold
Among the most intimidating social leaps for babies is being held by somebody unfamiliar to them. When handing an infant to a new adult, you can make the exchange smooth by showing your companion how to approach Baby slowly and hold her securely with one hand behind the head and the other supporting her bottom. Once you’ve made the trade, give Baby a few minutes to adapt to her new holder. Then, if all still seems well…
- Give them a moment
The ultimate test here is to see how your baby responds to a stranger without your presence. If the two of you are at home, try stepping out of the room briefly. Chances are that Baby might cry at first, but don’t cut the meeting short just yet. Instead, come back in, wait for her to calm down, and then leave the room again. Eventually, Baby should understand that even when you’re not immediately present, you’re not far away either. And you’ll be back sooner than she knows!