Ten Month Old Child Won’t Leave Mother’s Side

Reader’s Question

My baby is ten months old. She has been crawling since she was eight and a half months old. But, she will only go down on the floor if I am there with her on the floor. She won’t wander off into another room and will rarely leave my side. She cries if I put her down on the floor and carry on doing something in the same room. I have to really distract her attention with a toy or a finger food for her to go down willingly, and then it is also for only a very short while. This makes it difficult, as she is now getting heavy and I can’t carry her all the time. I thought that once she starts crawling she would be a bit more independent and would actually start exploring, but this is not the case. Is there something wrong with my child?

Psychologist’s Reply

Let’s start by firmly stating there is nothing wrong with your child in this situation. This is totally normal in infants. Some thoughts and suggestions:

  • The clinging behavior tells us the child has a very strong bond with you. It also suggests that you have a very strong bond with the child as well. I would suspect that you have been very attentive to the child’s every whimper, cry, noise, and sign of distress. You describe your automatic response to the child’s distress as picking her up. When this happens, you accidentally train the child to cry/whimper with even minor situations — knowing that Mom will come to the rescue immediately. I’m sure the label of “spoiled” has been tossed about here, but when we provide immediate responses to every sign of distress in our infants and children, we actually interfere with their need to develop independent and self-entertaining skills. While you want your child to explore…I suspect if she crawled into another room you’d be right behind her…worried and watching.
  • To improve this situation, we gradually expand the time the child plays independently. As you describe, using finger foods, toys, activities, etc. can encourage independent play. While the child plays, remain in the room, but go about your business. If she whimpers or cries, show some attention (physical touch, speaking to her, etc.) but don’t automatically pick her up. Instead, redirect her attention to the toys or activities. By providing her more time on the floor, she will begin to feel comfortable on the floor and will eventually start exploring.
  • Also slowly wean her from your total attention by allowing others in the environment to take your place in the room. Again, as long as she’s not hurting or the diaper doesn’t need changing, we can allow her to be “fussy”. The more people she becomes comfortable around, the more independent she will become over time.
  • Seek the advice of other Moms/Mums as well. I suspect this is your first child, so their advice will be very helpful. Reading books on child development will also be helpful. Again, this is a normal stage in her development, and it’s actually more uncomfortable for you than your daughter. From her standpoint, she only knows that crying or fussing creates an immediate pick-up into her mother’s arms…a pretty great place to be when you’re eight or ten months old. When you talk to others, use terms such as “fussy” or clingy, as all mothers understand that situation.
  • By the way, when she does cry and fuss in this situation, don’t give her a panic or uncomfortable reaction as when some mothers give the “Oh no…what’s wrong with my baby” type of panic appearance. Rather, say very little and instead talk to her while she’s playing independently. This approach teaches the child that they can still have mother’s attention when they are playing independently — without the need to cry.
  • Keep in mind that there is nothing unusual, bad or abnormal about your reaction to pick up and comfort your child. It’s a totally natural response. We just want to reserve that for times when the child needs Mom’s love and comfort — not when she’s bored or has nothing better to do. If you don’t make this change as a parent, you’ll be unable to get anything done around the home for the next four years.

Don’t worry, she’ll grow up to be a normal teenager who doesn’t want your opinion about anything. That is also a developmental stage.

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