Baby Temperament and Sleep
Babies are genetically predisposed to specific personality traits, and once your baby enters this world he or she will begin to exhibit these tendencies. Sometimes from even hours after your baby is born, you will start to notice various patterns in behavior. Until recently, doctors and scientists simply waved away these perceptions about a baby’s personality so young. Now, however, they are realizing that these initial intuitions about your baby’s demeanor are actually on target and shed valuable insight into the person your baby will become. Your baby’s temperament is even genetically predisposed before birth, and is passed down from parent to child (haven’t you ever heard that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?).
Your baby’s mood can be gauged on how your baby reacts to the world around her. It’s a personality style, a trait, a preference. Some babies may become inconsolable and alarmed from sudden noises, while others simply startle and bounce back to resettle themselves very quickly. One baby may take changes in happy strides while another will be thrown off by even the slightest shift in her regular routine.
No matter what your baby’s temperament is, however, you want to learn how to work with your baby’s style rather than fight it. It is so important to do this because your baby’s mood has a direct impact on her sleeping patterns. If your try to push your baby in a way that goes against her nature you will in essence be fighting who she is and only cause more disruptions to her sleep. So be aware and let yourself get to know this precious little bundle! Recognize the cues that your baby is giving you so that you will be able to better assist her in her sleep challenges and overall well-being.
Before being able to learn how to work with your baby’s temperament, however, it is crucial to first really understand who she is and how she responds to her surroundings. Only from there will you be able to help her by learning how you can understand her existing temperament and its affect on her sleep and overall well-being.
There are obviously many different types of combinations with personality and environment that help to determine what a baby will act like. I’ve found, however, that babies fall into 6 main categories: The Intense Baby, The Sensitive Baby, The Adaptable Baby, The Free-Spirited Baby, The Energetic Baby, and the Combination Baby. Once you’re able to understand the different categories of personalities and moods, you can then channel and work with your baby’s natural tendencies. You may recognize that there is an overlap with your baby with some of these categories, and that’s O.K. There is no ‘one size fits all’ baby and you may see some characteristics that your baby possesses in more than one category.
When trying to determine what category your baby falls under, try evaluating the following aspects of your baby’s responses and reactions to a normal day:
• How active is your baby? Some babies are often more fidgety and squirmy, while others seem more on the easy-going, relaxed side. (There has actually been some interesting evidence that have linked active newborns to mothers that complained about a lot of kicking in utero!)
• How predictable is your baby? Are your baby’s eating and sleeping patterns predictable or more sporadic and spontaneous – varying day to day?
• How social is your baby? Think about how your baby responds to new situations and people. Does she get excited when meeting someone new or does she recoil and seem more fearful and withdrawn?
• How well does your baby adapt to new situations? How well does your baby handle changes to her normal routine? If there are minor disruptions to her daily activities does she recover quickly or become upset?
• How sensitive is your baby? Some babies are more sensory oriented, and respond stronger to loud noises, bright lights, certain types of clothes and various other stimuli.
• How is your baby’s general mood? Babies have natural dispositions, so it’s important to know if your baby is generally happy or more on the touchy side. Some babies are very easy going while others seem to get upset and more irritable on a constant basis.
• How intense are your baby’s emotions? When happy or even upset, some babies may be more passive while others are VERY loud and expressive with their responses. Does your baby seem to have strong emotions or seem more on the subdued side?
• How distractible is your baby? If your baby is upset about a pacifier that dropped or a toy that was taken away, can you easily distract her? Some babies can be soothed fairly easily while others take much longer to calm down.
• How determined is your baby? Does your baby seem to remain interested in a simple toy or game for a long time, or prefer to go quickly from one activity to the next?
Determining your baby’s temperament by asking questions like these can help you solve some of the most common issues that can arise. You’ll be able to better understand your baby’s reactions and know how to work with her responses. For example, if your baby is more sensitive or has sensory issues, you may notice that she becomes hysterical if the lights are turned on in her room or music is too loud. She may not want to eat something because the temperature is too cold or too warm. You may think it’s a perfect “cuddle time”, but she may push away due to her strong sense of touch. Babies like this often are not calmed by being rocked to sleep as it’s simply too stimulating, while a baby without sensory issues will love it! Understanding your baby and recognizing these key points about her is the first stepping stone in tackling any sleep issue because she may respond in a different way according to her own natural tendencies.