From about nine months, your baby realises his attachment to you and will begin to experience anxiety when separated from you. It's a real challenge for both of you.
Somewhere in the middle of the first year, a baby begins to take the initiative. He does this by reaching out for toys, starting conversations, rolling over, or by sitting with balance.
One very significant area of taking the initiative is that of mobility . The baby begins to move away from his mother. As you can imagine, this creates quite a dilemma for the baby and a challenge for his parents.
How your baby handles separation and establishes an effective attachment relationship with the primary carer, is the major issue for the baby in the last quarter of his first year.
The amount that a baby learns and the number of skills he acquires in his first year is very impressive.
His physical achievements are wonderful and there for us to see, but what happens internally is something we respond to almost without thinking. For example, by about the ninth month, your baby begins to look for things which are out of sight, because he now has a more developed sense of memory.
He is also aware that others can think the way he does. He can look toward a toy out of reach, look at his mother, look back at the toy and point to it, then look back to mother, with the expectation that she will know what he is thinking and get the toy.
In fact, trying to get those who care for him to understand what is going on in his mind and respond accordingly, is a crucial activity for him at this time.
It is around this time that the baby fine-tunes the regulation of his feelings in response to his perception of the feelings of his mother. This is not only expressed in words and vocal emotional expression, but also in facial expression, posture and behaviour.
You have probably already noticed that sometimes when your baby falls and is not quite hurt, but may be just a little taken aback, he will look to you for your response before crying or giving a smile. The intensity of the response can also be modified - either heightened or reduced - by how the baby reads the intensity of the parent's emotional response.
The extraordinary thing is that this is the beginning of an activity that will continue for the rest of your baby's life: that of interpreting human actions in terms of the mental states behind the actions.
Your baby is also becoming more aware of how important certain people are to him, and how he feels most comfortable with those closest to him.
For many months you have been caring for your baby constantly, 24 hours a day, sometimes without many breaks. You can see your baby pushing up on all fours and perhaps beginning to crawl , and you think that maybe there will be a lessening of the constancy of your involvement with your baby. But no, suddenly (and it can be quite sudden) your baby wants to be with you.
Your baby's attachment to you has been developing over the past months. The difference now is that he is much more aware of your emotional importance to him.
I see it as similar to our very first experience of falling in love, probably in our teens. The object of our love is suddenly seen in a completely different light and we want to be with that person every moment of the day.
So, for your baby, it is a realisation of how significant you are to him and so he wants to be with you every waking moment.
While this awareness is developing - that with you he feels more comfortable or secure - your baby is learning to crawl or walk . With this physical achievement he is confronted with the ability to take himself away from you.
He has two drives occurring simultaneously:
At home, in familiar surroundings, your baby wanders off to another room, while you are in the kitchen and perhaps calls out when he realises he has gone out of visual range. Sometimes your verbal response will be enough to satisfy his anxiety about being out of range. At other times he will call until you appear and reassure him by your presence.
On another occasion, you might think your baby is happily playing with something, apparently engrossed, so you will slip out to the toilet, or perhaps to the clothesline.
No way! Your baby is very sensitive to you, your presence in the room and the fact that you have left. He wants to be with you and feels anxious when you are suddenly not there.
Of course, it is not practical for your baby to be with you every minute. However, it is important to tell your baby what you are doing and to acknowledge that it is painful for him when you're apart.
Letting your baby know that you know what he is feeling is very reassuring for him and helps to allay his anxiety while you are separated.
Trying to sneak out on a baby of this age to avoid the fuss, only makes the baby more anxious. In fact, your baby may become so anxious about the possibility of you going, that he will not be able to relax in your presence. He needs to get on with the business of discovering his environment within your watchful gaze.
Even at this age, it pays to be honest with your baby.
Very often, parents' motivation for sneaking out is that they don't like to see their babies sad, or they don't think their baby will notice if they are gone.
Both lines of thinking deny their importance to their baby. Remember, at this age your baby is very conscious of your importance to him. You are the most important person in the world to him and he knows it.
If you share the pain of separating with your baby, he senses that you know how he thinks - and he can hold that in his mind while you are gone.
Successfully managing the comings and goings of both mother and baby is quite an accomplishment, which is why it takes a while to achieve.
By Beulah Warren. Beulah is a registered psychologist in private practice, with particular focus on families with young children.