Developing independence

When will my baby be more independent?

Babies become more independent as they get older. They become more and more tolerant of separation from a caregiver. Their ability to do this depends on a number of factors including the age of the baby, their personality, and level of confidence. A safe, supportive environment reduces crying in babies and may promote confidence and independence.

A) The path to independence

Babies are born very immature. Providing a safe, supportive environment for a baby reduces crying and stress and may promote confidence and independence. It is not spoiling them but rather is protecting them from harmful stress.

One study (Anderson 1972) showed that children who initiate separation from a parent and can count on the parent staying in the same place are more likely to explore . Another showed that when the parent initiates the separation, children are more likely to be unhappy and try to return to the parent (Ainsworth 1978).

Over time, babies become more independent. They need less holding, communicate better, and can start doing things, such as eating, with less help.

They also start to tolerate more separation. The timing depends on factors such as:

  • The age of the baby
  • The number of milestones (for example, holding the head up, sitting, walking) the baby has reached
  • The amount of stress the baby has had from events such as prematurity or illness
  • The baby’s personality and level of confidence (Miller 2010)
  • The nature of the separation

References

Ainsworth MDS, Blehar MC, Waters E, et al. Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale N.J.: Erlbaum; 1978
 
Anderson JW. Attachment behaviour out of doors. In N. B. Jones, Ethological studies of child behaviour. Oxford, England: Cambridge U. Press; 1972
 
Miller PM, Commons ML. The Benefits of Attachment Parenting for Infants and Children: A Behavioral Developmental View. Behavioural Development Bulletin 2010 (10)