Your baby’s social life is growing richer and more complicated. She’s really starting to see herself as an individual, a realization that will only feed her hunger for independence. She’s also paying more attention to the different people around her. She can instantly separate the familiar faces from the strangers, a skill that may cause anxiety when out-of-town relatives stop by for a visit. While strangers are still frightening, her feelings for you and other loved ones are growing stronger and deeper. Overall, this is a fun but frustrating age.
Her newfound sense of individuality shows. She’ll complain when she doesn’t get her way, and no may become her favorite word. Thankfully, there are other, more pleasant ways to see her progress. Watch her when she smiles at a mirror. She really seems to know that she’s looking at herself, not another person. If she sees a pudding smudge on her chin, she’ll wipe it off. The person in the mirror will never again be a stranger.
That’s a good thing, because, in her mind, strangers still mean trouble. It will take her a while to warm up to new people, so don’t rush her. If you smile at the new person and speak in friendly tones, your baby will be more likely to accept her. After all, she trusts your judgment.
She’s now convinced that you’re the ideal person, so even familiar people like grandparents and caregivers may occasionally get short shrift from her. If you try to leave her with someone else, she may start complaining like never before. When you do have to make an exit, try to keep the drama at a minimum. Calmly explain that you’ll be back soon, give her a peck, and make your way to the door. Ideally, you should make your move while something else is holding her interest. Even if she throws a fit, it probably wont last long.
It’s easy to feel guilty when your baby cries when you’re leaving her at daycare, with a nanny, or at Grandmas house. Try to stay until she calms down, but know that as hard as it may be to leave her, you may be doing her a favor. If her other care providers are warm and loving, she’ll learn that she can trust other people. Her bond with you will still be rock solid, but she’ll know that life goes on even when her parents aren’t in sight. Rest assured that even if your baby is throwing a tantrum when you depart, she’ll probably calm down a few minutes after you leave.
When you are with her, she’ll thrive on your attention. She notices when you ignore her, and she REALLY notices when another child gets more of your time. You probably can’t give her all of the attention she wants, but you can help her learn the right ways to get it. If you give her a quick hug and a kind word when she’s playing quietly with her toys, she’ll know that she doesn’t have to act out to get noticed.
By the same token, try not to overreact when she crosses the line. If she’s doing something that’s annoying but safe, you may just want to ignore it completely. When you do stop her, tell her what she’s doing wrong — “no, that’s dangerous” or “no, that’s too noisy” — and give her something else to do.
Now that she’s getting stronger and more coordinated, she’s bound to come up with a few “tricks” that grandparents or other relatives just have to see. Your baby might enjoy performing, but don’t force her to have too many command performances. You don’t want her to think that she has to constantly put on a show. Besides, she’s plenty entertaining when she’s just being herself.
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 10-11.http://racine.uwex.edu/flp/documents/PFY10-11.pdf
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. Baby Bouncer. Eleventh month: emotional and active. http://www.fcs.uga.edu/pubs/PDF/CHFD-E-39-11.pdf