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At what age can I expect my baby to be more independent?

The infant starts out in life as a completely dependent being. She relies on her parents (usually the mother) for such fundamental things as nutrition and the regulation of bodily processes. In many ways, the infant is born “unfinished”, being delivered at 40 weeks’ gestation not because she’s really ready to be born, but because the human mother is not physically capable of delivering a larger infant. She needs to be “attached” to her mother to fulfill these needs. This attachment allows successful development into later phases of growth.

Over time, the infant becomes capable of voluntary movement. She starts to control her body in ways she wants to; it’s no longer up to her own random or reflexive movements. And with this voluntary movement comes the spark of the ability to be mobile, and to communicate.

Movement away from the parent requires a means of communicating over distance with that parent: When you crawl across the room, it’s nice to be able to say “Doggie!” and to point at the doggie, to get your parents’ attention. Communication becomes more necessary when the child can move away from the parent. And communication is a symbolic way of continuing attachment. We can tell older babies, “I love you!” And their ability to understand abstract communication helps them to feel the love, without being physically held. It’s not that physical comfort is no longer necessary, but rather, the baby now has a new, more advanced way to be attached; through communication. And that allows the baby to become more independent, and venture out, away from the parent. And moving away from the parent is really the point of development, isn’t it?

Of course this does not mean that our 2-year-olds are completely independent; we shouldn’t be expecting them to bring home a paycheck any time soon. But it does point out the slow modification that our parenting approach needs to make over time; the understanding that the increased ability of the infant to handle (and explore) independence requires us to give them room to do so. The infant starts out needing complete “attachment” to the parents, and gradually needs less and less attachment over time in order to develop independence.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.