Your baby’s social life is getting more complex as the months go by. She’s growing more aware of the people around her, and she’s also starting to think about her place in the world. For her, a little awareness can be a confusing thing. As she sorts through new anxieties and conflicting emotions, she’ll need your love and support as much as ever before.
By the 10th month, she may have already engaged in a few skirmishes in the long “War for Independence.” She wants to assert herself — you can expect her to say “no” or shake her head if things aren’t going her way — but she isn’t nearly ready to face the world alone. She’ll cling to you with a death grip if she feels nervous. And even in her better moments, she may not want to let you out of her sight — which isn’t a bad idea, considering how mobile she’s becoming.
You may have been excited to hear her say no for the first time. A few hundred no’s later, the excitement probably wore off. As difficult as it may be, try not to get upset. She’s making a positive step toward independence, not trying to pick a fight. Rather than scolding or arguing, try redirecting or reassuring her. And remember: A child of this age might say “no” when she really means “yes.” You don’t want to scold her over a simple misunderstanding.
When you do get upset — justifiably or not — your little one is bound to notice. She has become very sensitive to the emotions of the people around her, and she pays special attention to your moods. If you’re distressed, she will be too. But if you stay upbeat and cheerful, she’s likely to follow your lead.
Her own emotions are growing stronger and more complicated. In a given day, you can expect to see joy, excitement, anger, frustration, disappointment, and fear. Give her comfort when she needs it and cherish the happy moments while they last.
Fear can be especially problematic for her budding social life. Her anxiety around strangers is still there, and she’ll still feel a little nervous around unfamiliar people.
Even if her stranger anxiety may be subsiding, her fear of being away from you — also called “separation anxiety” — may be picking up steam. She may cry when you leave a room and have a full-blown conniption if you try to drop her off with an unfamiliar person. You can ease this fear by playing games like “peek a boo,” which are based on reappearing after a short absence.
No matter what you do, she probably won’t outgrow her separation anxiety until well past her first birthday, so you’ll have to get used to her clinginess and her cries. You can even take it as a compliment. She wants to be with you because she thinks you’re the model of perfection. Unfortunately, this too will pass.
You may be the perfect human, but you probably aren’t the only important person in her life. Your partner is looking really good, too. Your baby is starting to love his or her brand of fun, and she’ll probably light up whenever your partner enters the room. If you work outside the home and have found a loving and attentive babysitter or daycare provider, your baby may also feel comfortable and happy around her as well. She may even call the other provider “mama” — the ultimate compliment.
Don’t worry that the care provider may be taking your place. Your position in your child’s world is secure, even if you’re working a full-time job. So make the most out of the time you have together. Even an independent person like your baby will appreciate all of the hugs, encouragement, and positive attention she can get.
Sears, William and Martha. The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby From Birth to Age Two. Little, Brown and Company.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age Five. Bantam Books.
University of Wisconsin Extension. Parenting the first year: month 9-10. http://racine.uwex.edu/flp/documents/PFY9-10.pdf
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. Baby Bouncer. Tenth month: budding independence. http://www.fcs.uga.edu/pubs/PDF/CHFD-E-39-10.pdf