My wife and I live alone (i.e. no other family members) and our 6-month-old infant is quite attached to both of us.

When we have visitors, or we are over to other persons' houses, he is okay to play with others as long as we are still in visible distance. He cries (really shrieks) when he realizes both his parents are missing. Either one of us has to be in the room.

Now my family are saying it's our fault we've over cuddled him. How do we get him out of this habit? I really don't want to go down the route of letting him cry it out - we tried once and it wasn't pleasant.

3 Answers 3


Your baby's behavior is not unusual, although different kids have very different tolerances. Our eldest daughter spent the first 3 months of her life in the hospital, and as a result is actually more comfortable with strangers than we are. Our youngest is the exact opposite. However, that doesn't mean you can't gradually teach them to overcome their fears.

You didn't describe your own reaction, which is important because infants learn by example. One common mistake parents, especially new parents, often make when their child has issues like this is trying to sneak out to avoid a scene, then the instant the baby cries they rush back and snatch him out of the arms of whoever is holding him. I don't know if that's what you do, but that's usually what people mean by "over-cuddling." It teaches your baby that you are also uncomfortable with the situation. It's also scary to look around and suddenly your parents are gone.

It's better to let him see you leave, and that you are happy and comfortable with leaving him in someone else's care. Yes, he will still cry, but don't come to his rescue immediately. Give him around 30 seconds, then come back in and don't snatch him away, but sit where he can see you and show you are comfortable with him being held by someone else.

It also helps to teach people the best way to comfort your child. Sometimes people who don't have children, and even some grandparents who haven't had a baby in a while, try to "make the baby happy" by making silly faces and noises, or otherwise overstimulating him, which can have the opposite of the intended effect. Make sure they are comforting him the same way you would.

  • thanks, yes that is what we usually do. Wait a bit, try and speak to him when he is in our parents hands - saying "we're right here" and so on. But he just puts his hands out towards us asking to be "rescued" and wont stop crying until Dec 7, 2011 at 4:59

First of all, there's no such thing as over-cuddling or too much love. Spoiling a child can be done in terms of too many toys, or consistently giving in to flimsy wants, but not by being present.

Realize that you're dealing with an infant, meaning 3-12 months of age by the definition of this site. At that age, some kids simply are more needy than others, and you've got one of those. At this age, lack of independence is not a problem in itself.

The short-term solution is to accept the situation for now. On a longer term, you can train independence:

  1. One simple way of doing this is to first pick a time when the child is well rested (because tired equals grumpy) and then let him play by himself while you're present.
  2. Then tell him you're going into the other room for a moment -- then leave, and return immediately (20 seconds).
  3. Praise him if he didn't cry, otherwise console ("see, I did return!").
  4. Repeat ad nauseam with increasing absences, and repeat the whole thing over several weeks or months. He'll learn that it's okay to be alone.

    • This also works well at the end of the bedtime routine: Give him a kiss and a good cuddle, then see step 2 above.
    • The same approach might work if the problem is not being alone but rather being without the parents.

Also, "crying it out" is often not a good solution, but opinions vary on that. It might appear effective to the parent or other caretaker, but for the wrong reasons -- the worst case being that the child is traumatized by the fact that no help comes even when desperate for help. I don't want to go into the good/bad discussion here, but please know that this is a disputed method.

  • We've tried 1 - 3 and at some times he's happy being alone. I think our issue is more around not adjusting with other adults. Thanks for your reply Dec 6, 2011 at 15:14
  • @shinynewbike: Have you tried the same 4-step approach where you leave him with guests/grandparents instead of leaving him by himself? Obviously this is more difficult to train because you need other people present. Dec 6, 2011 at 16:10
  • I would question the usefulness of step 2's first part. While I agree that using conversation with infants is important, I doubt they're really going to understand you when you say I'm going to the next room. I was also wondering if you had a citation on the 'no such thing as over-cuddling'?
    – corsiKa
    Dec 7, 2011 at 0:07
  • @glowcoder: re: using conversation, he can only learn my language if I use it, and I can't tell from the outside how much he already understands, so why not just say it -- also, he will pick up your calmness from the tone of your words and that will soothe him too. Re: over-cuddling I don't have a citation or "scientific" reference, but it does seem to be the general stance from site users, and keep in mind we're talking about a 6-months-old infant, not a teenager. Dec 7, 2011 at 9:03

In this case I don't think crying it out is the answer (an I am a big proponent of crying it out at bed time). Children go through stages, and especially at approximately ages 3months, 6months, 9 months, and if they are not in school sometimes longer. (when dropping off at school crying it out is the answer, the teachers know what to do). But in terms of what you are experiencing now know it is normal and your parents are simply jealous and therefore blaming you because they want to have a connection with your baby as well. You CAN NOT over cuddle an infant!!!!

  • they do have a connection, he plays with them nicely when he knows we are around. we're wondering why he wants us around as well. Dec 6, 2011 at 15:12
  • shinynewbike's parents are jealous and want a connection? Aren't you reading too much into the question? Dec 6, 2011 at 15:14

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