I noticed this in Rocket about 1.5 months ago, at 6.5 or 7 months old. He was completely fearless up until then. Nothing and no one bothered him.
Then he started shying away from loud noises, or showing hesitation with things like stairs and playground equipment, that previously were no big deal. There haven't been any specific triggers that he has continued to be afraid of, like the cardboard boxes a previous poster mentioned.
I just let him check out whatever strange object startled him. Or if it was something making a noise, we approach and walk by like it's no big deal. He's gotten over everything except the baby gate.
My kids have a habit of trying to climb over the babygate, no matter how many times I chastise them for it. And the thing is forever falling over and banging on the hardwood floor. I always make sure it is securely fastened, but our babysitter and my husband are not as diligent and somethimes leave it just leaning against the door frame. So now Rocket is very nervous around it. Which, quite honestly isn't a terrible thing in my mind, because he NEVER tries to jump it, and keeps his distance when we are coming through the doorway now instead of rushing the gate.
But I am still hammering it home to the kids that they are scaring Rocket when they knock it over and they need to go around to another door.
Now, at 8 months, he isn't seeming as nervous as he was a month ago (except for the gate).
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I find the leaning baby gate very effective - Charlie stays away for the same reason!
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Proud mommy to Charlie (born 6/6/12)
and my Bristol (10/15/00 - 3/21/12)- gone but never forgotten.