Baby’s Brain in Week 32
Between six and nine months, babies show wariness when something out of the ordinary happens. They now recall what they’ve experienced before, whether people, places, or things. They’re most comfortable with what’s familiar (OK, who isn’t?).
Babies, however, have no filter through which to hide their distress. Plus they have limited experiences overall, so they face many novel situations in which they’ll display wariness or downright fear. At those moments, your child will turn to you for comfort and reassurance.
What the Research Shows
To demonstrate the onset of wariness, researchers presented babies between the ages of four and nine months with a strange object: a plastic model of an ice-cream sundae. Most four-month-olds strained toward the sundae immediately, without any hesitation. Most six-month-olds hesitated for a second or two, but then reached for the sundae impulsively. Nine-month-olds tended to hesitate longer, and some of them even turned away or started to cry, as in, “I can’t ever remember seeing this weird thing before and it doesn’t make sense to me!”
In another experiment, researchers handed 12-month-olds a puppet. (None had seen puppets in the past.) At first the babies displayed wariness, but eventually each habituated to the toy. Then each child was handed a different puppet. With this puppet the children warmed up more quickly than the first.
Apparently the 12-month-olds noted the strangeness of the object but then searched their memories to determine if the object corresponded to something they had experienced before, which they had. Therefore, they were less wary of this second toy than they were with their first experience with a puppet.
Week 32 Brain Booster
Now you know why your child is so wary or even fearful when you leave him with a new person in a new place—that shiny new daycare, for example. With this in mind, realize that when you do leave your child, it will take a few visits to the new place with the new person before your child will remember him or her as attentive and the place as safe. Without you, Baby must establish new attachments and a new sense of security.
Also realize that some children warm up quickly; others take longer. Be patient and comforting as you present your child with new people and conditions.