Kids go through phases. This is true all the way through development, and even into adulthood. However, no group goes through as many changes as a growing baby. One day the baby may not care at all whether mom or dad is in the room with them, the next day the kid could freak out if the mom is even three steps away. Their brains are growing so rapidly and they are beginning to understand the world a bit, and the world is a scary place, especially for somebody who doesn’t even know what it is.
It’s important not to freak out when a child becomes clingy, as it is often a sign of something, and it never is just totally random. Either it’s some stressor in the kid’s life, or it’s just their brains developing one step at a time. They find out new things every day, either about the world or about their own abilities. Their mom is really the only thing that a baby knows for sure, so anytime they get scared or confused or overwhelmed, they go for their mom. To them, mom means safety, comfort, and familiarity. As things start to get pretty real for kids, they realize how much mom means to them. In some people, this continues on well into adulthood, but that is neither here nor there. Here we will discuss some of the many factors that can cause a child to suddenly become clingy, even if they were once incredibly independent.
15 Mom Returns To Work
This one could actually go both ways. Once the mother goes back to work, that is a giant adjustment for both mom and the baby. Having spent the past however many months together, at almost every second of the day, the baby now without mom. The baby’s whole perception of reality has been shattered. He could either become super clingy, or upset and ignore mom.
If he does become super clingy, then it’s a good idea to work with the baby when mom is home. A good amount of reassurance said in a gentle voice, is a good way to strengthen the trust between mom and baby. Telling him it’s going to be okay, everything will be fine, all said in a gentle tone, is a good idea to calm baby down and solidify a sense of trust.
14 Baby Becomes More Aware
When babies are first born, they know nothing about the world they just entered. They have no experience with anything, even breathing, really, and therefore everything is completely new to them. At first, they recognize their mother through chemical reactions, mostly, but other than that, it’s brand new. As they grow up, they at first will be so intrigued with the world around them that the mother could walk away and the kid is so distracted by what’s around them that they don’t even notice. As they get used to the things around them, however, they certainly notice.
As they grow up a bit, they also begin to realize that they are separate beings from their mom. At first, they think they are the same creature, but they slowly realize that their moms are their own beings, and that freaks them out. They just watched what they think is their other half leave the room, and that leads to the baby crying out in pure fear and anxiety.
13 Baby Doesn’t Understand Permanence
This is one that is difficult to teach, but certainly possible with some commitment. The dictionary definition of permanence is ‘the state or quality of lasting or remaining unchanged indefinitely.’ What this means in layman’s terms is that once something changes, that’s how it’s going to be forever. For instance, if the baby kicks something under the couch and he doesn’t see it anymore, that means the ball has ceased to exist in the baby’s mind.
How this pertains to the clinginess is that the baby doesn’t understand that when mom leaves the room, she could come back. He thinks that as soon as his mom has left his sight, that’s it, she doesn’t exist anymore. A good way to teach this is by gently saying to the baby “I’ll be right back,” leaving the room, and coming back a minute later. Slowly increase the time spent in the other room until the baby stops crying, and begins to understand that just because mom has left his sight, doesn’t mean she has left existence.
12 Bond Between Mom And Baby Strengthens
This is both a good and a bad thing. It’s good for obvious reasons: the baby should trust his mother, should feel as though she is the most important thing in the world. However, with this increase in trust comes an increased chance of the baby freaking out when the mom is not around. Think of something that is well loved by somebody. Maybe it’s a certain stuffed animal. At first, it was just there, just something familiar. However, as time goes on, that stuffed animal begins to be the greatest thing in the world to that person.
The same thing happens to a baby. As time goes on and he does begin to think that his mother is the greatest thing in the world, that he cannot live without her, that is wonderful for the bond between the parent and the child. However, this also increases the kid’s chances baby getting upset when the mom goes away. This is actually an evolutionary response to ensure that, if in the wild, the baby wouldn’t wander away. Pretty cool, huh?
11 Baby Is Developing
This is possibly the biggest reason that almost every baby goes through periods of extreme clinginess. When babies go through the “wonder weeks,” which are, generally, weeks 5, 8, 12, 19, 26, 37, 46, 64, 55, and 75, they often exhibit the “Three C’s,” which are crankiness, clinginess, and crying. While these times are particularly difficult to get through, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. When those weeks are over, the baby can generally do some pretty cool new things, such as start to roll over or maybe even say a few words, depending on the week.
The reasons for this are fairly unknown, though. It could be the universe letting the baby know that some big changes are coming. There are theories that say when adults feel lost or depressed, a lot of times that means a big change is coming, so it’s not beyond reason that the same thing may happen to babies. It could also just be the baby’s brain gearing up for the change, or the baby could be a bit extra stressed subconsciously knowing what is going to happen next. It’s very difficult to know for sure, however, as we, unfortunately, can’t ask the baby.
10 Baby Begins Teething
Big physical changes can also increase a baby’s clinginess. One big common denominator amongst mothers who have extra clingy children is the fact they the babies are often teething. This makes sense; teething cannot be a comfortable process. The teeth are literally punching holes in the gums, and that has to be incredibly uncomfortable. Even when people get older, when they experience a good deal of pain they say (or at least think) “I want my mommy!” This is especially true in infants.
Another reason teething may cause the baby to want his mother much more is the fact that he has no idea what is going on. His mouth is extremely uncomfortable, but as far as he knows, there is no reason for it. Therefore he’s in pain, he’s confused, he’s scared, and he’s often tired, as the pain can often keep kids up at night. Again, it would be so much easier if we could just sit the baby down and say “look, I know this is tough now, but it’ll pass.” Alas, we are stuck just waiting it out.
9 Baby Gets Separation Anxiety
Again, this is a very common thing. But the fact that it happens to most mothers and their baby does not make it any easier to deal with. This again often comes along at certain points in the developmental process, and again is usually an evolutionary thing. However, it again is very difficult to deal with.
This is a bit more intense than mom leaving the room and baby crying after her. This is if the child is sitting on the floor and the mom is five feet away doing dishes, baby will cry and cry and cry until mom picks him up. Oftentimes with separation anxiety, the baby will also begin to ignore Dad a little bit, as he is too focused on looking for mom all of the time. There are many women on forums complaining how they can’t even go to the bathroom without their baby freaking out, even if dad is securely holding the baby. Sorry, dads…
8 Baby Starts Walking
Again, this is good evidence for the fact that developmental changes often cause clinginess. This particular one is a bit more complex than that though. When a baby first starts walking they are (literally) taking their first steps into independence. Oftentimes, this is one of the first times that they realize they can walk away from their mother. This is where that evolutionary response comes into play. As the baby realizes that they can walk around, their evolutionary brains kick in and they begin to freak out if they can’t find their mom. Again, this is so they don’t wander off into dangerous territories.
This one doesn’t always affect babies though. Sometimes when kids start walking, they go headfirst into their independence and that’s it, they couldn’t care less about being separated from mom. So this one is not always a guarantee that the child will get clingy when he starts walking.
7 Baby Gets Sick
A lot of mothers report that their child gets much clingier after their first bout with a cold, or any other kind of sickness, no matter how trivial. This is probably due to the fact that the baby is suddenly realizing that things are not always peachy. To an adult, a cold is no big deal; it’s a manageable cough, maybe a stuffy nose, no big deal. But that is only because we get at least one cold per year (usually). To a baby that has never had a blocked nose, that is incredibly scary.
When babies get scared, or uncomfortable, they nine times out of ten look to their mother for relief. Mom is able to talk the baby down a lot, but even if not, being near her often makes baby feel better. Most of the misery of a cold comes from how the person handles the symptoms mentally, and mom can almost always make that easier to handle. This is why when someone is sick, they feel a desire to have someone take care of them. They want somebody to fill that mom role.
6 Baby Is Surrounded By Strangers
This is another big reason for an increased amount of clinginess. For the first however long of an infant’s life, it’s mostly just been baby, mom, and dad. Maybe some siblings, or a dog or something like that, but the circle is generally pretty small. Therefore, when a baby is first introduced to the extended family or is brought to a party of friends, it’s impossible to pry that kid away from his mother.
This makes sense. It is general human nature that makes us fear strangers as a kid, and there is probably a good deal of Darwinism at play here. The baby knows he can trust who he knows it can trust, but beyond that, they are incredibly vulnerable. Even if they don’t know it for sure, their instincts are certainly wary of it.
5 Baby Starts Daycare
This is another very big adjustment for the baby. They are thrown into an environment with a very large amount of strangers, and then mom just walks out of the door. This freaks a baby out for a couple different reasons. They don’t know anybody, but at least in the theoretical family party, they still had their mom to cling to. However, as mom has just left, it’s a whole thing for the baby now.
There is no safety net, and there is an absurd amount of stimulation, especially when compared to the quiet environment set up by the parents at home. There are new kids, new adults, and new everything. Naturally, this will scare baby. Then when mom comes to pick the kid up after her day at work, the kid is so relieved that they never want to leave her side. This is why starting daycare earlier than absolutely necessary is not always recommended.
4 New Sibling Enters The Family
This one doesn’t always pertain to newborns, as it’s difficult to bring a new sibling into the mix when there is already a newborn baby, but this can apply to toddlers more often. Up until the arrival of the new baby, the first baby had 100% of the attention. Now, there is a whole other being for the parents to completely take care of, so the first child doesn’t get nearly as much attention.
This is why a lot of kids start fighting after having a younger sibling. If not, then this is when they generally get clingy after the arrival. They feel as though their mom doesn’t love them as much, and they don’t necessarily understand why their attention has shifted to the other baby. They can’t understand that this new one needs to be fed and watched over day and night, just like him when he was first brought home.
3 Family Moves To New Place
A move is a big change for anybody, young and old. However, an adult understands what a move is, a child does not have any comprehension of the concept. When coming into the world, they are in a bright white room, with lots of commotion and confusion going on. When they get home, however, it is their own little safe-haven. They get used to the place, to the smells, the sights, and the sounds.
All of a sudden, the family moves and it’s a whole new world for the kid to get used to. It’s a new environment, the walls are different colors, there are new sounds to get used too, and maybe even different smells. Any sort of change like this might scare a child, and they, again, cling to their mom for comfort. She is the most familiar, comfortable thing, and therefore the child, in a whole new world of discomfort and unfamiliarity, craves the feeling of normalcy.
2 Family Goes On Vacation
Let’s start by saying that going on a vacation with a new baby isn’t exactly highly recommended. But if it’s what a couple decides to do, then it’s what they decide to do. With that said, know that it will probably scare a young child, and therefore, he could get very clingy. For the same reasons as the moving, a vacation overwhelms a kid. It’s a whole new world, especially if there was a plane involved.
The pressure on a plane freaks the kid out, and then once they land they are in a totally new environment. Nothing is familiar, and there is an insane amount of commotion. A lot of times vacations are taken to warmer climates, so it’s even a whole new weather environment the kid needs to get used to. Therefore, yet again, it’s time to cling to mom. She is the only sane thing in this world of insanity as far as a kid is concerned.
1 Baby Has An Abusive Caregiver
One of the biggest indications that a new caregiver is abusive is if the child becomes extra clingy. Say the kid has always been an independent one, not really paying a whole lot of attention to the parents, more so investigating the world around him. Now, after the first day alone with the new nanny, the kid doesn’t want to leave the mother’s side. This is a pretty good indication that some foul play may have occurred.
Now some investigative work is required. Nobody should just assume that this caregiver is being abusive, some benefit of the doubt should be given to the person. Maybe install a nanny cam to find out for sure the next day. It’s not good to jump to conclusions, but if the person is being abusive then parents should keep that person away from their child and call the authorities.
Sources: Community.BabyCenter.com, ModernMom.com, Mothering.com, CircleOfMoms.com, NetMums.com
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