Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Behaviour

My daughter of 6mths screams whenever we go into shops. What can I do?

My baby hates any sort of shops. She is fine in the pram out and about but really screams in any shop. The supermarket was the first place, so I tried the supermarket with the pram but that still didn’t help. I always make she that she has had a good sleep before we go anywhere from home but this still doesn’t help. It makes my day very boring as I can’t go anywhere. She also seems grumpier when at other people’s houses; she can cry all the time I am there and be perfectly content when we arrive home.

It can seem very isolating if you feel that you cannot go anywhere because your daughter becomes upset. Both of you do need time out and about and visiting with friends. Since your daughter is obviously wary of new situations then begin in a very small and gentle way to introduce her to the world. You are sensible to have tried taking her out at a time of day when she has had a good sleep and is not getting hungry for a feed.

Your daughter will feel more secure if she is close to you. If you have a buggy or pram where you can sit her facing you then use that option as you then can talk to her about where you are going and what you are seeing. If you don’t have a buggy with this option use a baby carrier or sling for your first trips out. The carriers where the baby can face forwards are the best for this age. Your daughter will be able to see what is going on but have the security of your body close to her, and the sound of your reassuring voice nearby. If you do not have a carrier or can’t borrow one you may have to start by carrying your daughter in your arms. This will not be easy if you want to do a lot of shopping so use this method just to get her used to going into shops before trying to do the shopping as well.

Many shops today are brightly lit and have loud music playing. Before attempting to take her into a big, bright noisy supermarket take her into smaller, local shops. Finding a corner store, newsagent or greengrocer will be best for these first few trips. Talk to her about where you are going and what you are going to see. Although she will not understand your words she will understand your tone of voice. If you sound apprehensive or worried she will pick up on that tension and become wary and frightened herself. Your attitude to this problem will really help her. Hold her close to you, and keep talking and smiling at her. “Look, we are going to see all the fruit and vegetables, what shall we buy today?” is the sort of chat you need to keep up.

Take a moment to pause in front of the shop window before entering. If you feel your daughter is becoming apprehensive reassure her with your voice. Show her the pile of bright oranges and lemons or array of chocolate bars; “These are bright, they look good to eat”. Keep chatting to her about all you see. Provided the shop is not too crowded you may be able to buy a newspaper or some fruit and leave. Once outside praise your daughter for managing to stay calm and thank her for letting you get your errands done.

To help her get used to shopping try to go out every day and go into one or two small shops each time, even if just to look around. The step from getting her used to local shops to the supermarket is quite big but if you give her time, and remain calm and upbeat yourself you may decide in a few weeks she is ready to go with you on a supermarket trip. The more familiar she becomes with shops, lights, people and the general busyness of the world the less likely she is to get upset. Keep talking, and praising her and gradually go into bigger, brighter, busier shops as her confidence grows.

For the first trip to the supermarket don’t attempt to achieve a mammoth weekly shop. Have five or six items on your list. If she is happier in a carrier or being held, rather than being in a buggy, take her in that way and buy things you can easily put and carry in a basket. Until she is more familiar with the supermarket don’t attempt to put her in a trolley with a child seat. This step will come later.

If you can, try to choose a quieter time of day for your first visit together. Mid -morning or afternoon before the schools come out may be ideal. Keep talking to her about where you are going and what you will see. Remain confident and happy yourself. If your supermarket is very large and bright pause as you get inside the door and let her look around to take in where she is. Just as you did with the first trips out, draw her attention to what you are looking at whether it is the fruit and vegetable counters or the cereal aisle. Reassure her and praise her for being such a quiet girl and letting you get your shopping done.

If your daughter does start to get upset when in a shop try to calm her and carry on. If she refuses to be comforted then leave as soon as you can and reassure her all the way out. Don’t let a setback this put you off trying again. The more experiences she has of going into shops and busy places the quicker she should get over her fears. It may take a while to get your daughter to the stage where you can put her in the trolley and get the whole week´s shopping done but, taken slowly and in stages, your daughter should get more used to the noise and bustle of shops. The longer you both remain at home and don’t address the problem the longer it will take her to get used to new surroundings.

The same techniques should be applied to visiting friends. Carry her into their house, or remove her from her buggy and hold her as soon as you get inside. Sit with her on the floor and hold her on your knee as she gets used to being in a different place. The first few visits may be spent entirely sitting on your lap observing all that is going on around her. Don’t put her down on the floor amongst other babies until you are sure she is ready. Again, move slowly towards the stage when she will play on the floor alongside other babies. Once she seems content and happy to watch the others, lie or sit her up close beside you, where she can see your face. Reassure her all the time, show her one or two toys and let her gradually get used to being with other people. Around this age separation anxiety can begin so it is best to accept she may need to be held or sit close to you when in strange surroundings. This phase will pass more quickly if you deal with it in a sympathetic and reassuring way, rather than trying to leave her on the floor in a strange house and move out of her sight.

Some babies are very sensitive to bright light, loud music, different smells and surroundings and react to new experiences with fear. Providing you stay close to her and reassure her that she is doing well and how pleased you are with her, her fears should begin to subside. The more you take her out and about, but acknowledge that she will need to be close to you and need a lot of reassurance to get used to new situations, the quicker you will both be able to enjoy both shopping trips and visiting friends.