Stranger anxiety is completely normal for your baby to have as their fear of strangers stems for their lack of trust for others – and deep love for you! You and your partner are your baby’s primary sources of safety, and without you, they might feel distressed, anxious and it can cause them to cry and/or have tantrums. Helping your baby realise that the ‘stranger’ you’re leaving them with is someone they can trust is essential to ease their fear.
Take it slow
Firstly, you should remember that it’s completely normal for your baby to fear the unknown and that you should be patient with them instead of frustrated. Your baby takes cues from you and if they can sense you’re getting frustrated or nervous, they will continue to get worked up. Remain calm and remember it is a slow process at the start but will get easier.
Start with a family member
When introducing new people to your baby, try with family members first that they will see regularly. They will be familiar faces, but your baby might not be able to identify who they are just yet. Use their grandparents or aunts and uncles to get them used to other people before you start with a babysitter or nanny. When possible, try and have the ‘stranger’ come to your house – your baby will feel more comfortable if they’re in a familiar environment.
Model your behaviour
When greeting the ‘stranger,’ be positively expressive – give them hugs, smile or give eye contact, your baby will understand that if you trust the other person, they can too. When it’s time for the stranger to meet your baby, let your baby hold onto you or place them on your lap.
Having you close can give them the reassurance they need and can let them explore trusting the new person with being able to go back to you if they feel anxious. Never leave your baby with someone new for their first time if you can help it; this can cause them to feel scared and abandoned. You know that you will be back but they do not have the understanding yet. After your baby has developed their trust, remind them that you are coming back quickly and stay true to your word.
Before you decide to introduce your baby to a stranger it can be useful to get them used to a comforter or favourite toy. This object can be a pseudo-you when you’re not with them and can give them comfort when they’re feeling anxious. Remember that your baby being fearful of strangers is normal, and the more people you introduce to them, the less anxious they will be. Leaving your child is never easy, but having a trusted caregiver can be a weight off your shoulders.