Express Sleep Plan

Baby Temperament and Sleep Series: Intensity

Baby Sleep & Temperament: Intensity

Welcome to Part 2 of my Baby Temperament and Sleep Series. If you are just joining us, you may want to read Part 1, What is baby temperament? Today we start talking about the nine different temperamental traits. At the end of the series, I will give you a quiz to determine your child’s temperament.

Baby Temperament – Intensity

Your baby or toddler’s intensity is how strongly he emotionally reacts to something. This could be in a good way or a bad way. Because high-intensity babies react strongly, that means they can be squealing loudly with joy or crying loudly because they are wet. There are babies who barely squeak when they are “crying” and then there are those who scream like you are chopping their arm off. I have a LOT of experience with the screaming kind, unfortunately. Both my boys were (and still are) screamers and what I would call high-intensity (my first more than my second…so far).

Many people will tell new parents to “put your baby down before he is asleep from birth” and you won’t have any sleep problems. Now, if you have the squeaker, this might be really good advice and I certainly encourage new parents to at least try it. But, if you have a screamer, that just isn’t realistic and frustrates those of us that simply can’t take this advice. I am sure there are many parents who simply feel like I made a mistake not doing this from birth, but we all must realize our babies all do not react the same and most new parents aren’t going to let their newborn scream for even 2 minutes from birth! I know I wasn’t willing to.

From birth, both my boys reacted very strongly to things they were upset about whether it was being hungry or too hot (my first son screamed in the car because the car seat would heat him up too much and we’d have a jacket on him because it was winter, until we learned better), tired (especially tired!), over-stimulated, etc. When my son was about 2 1/2 I finally learned where “don’t cry over spilled milk” came from because when he’d spill his milk when he was learning to drink from a cup, he’d start screaming! I finally had to use that saying and really mean it! Ha!

It is not all bad to have a highly intense child. It’s loads of fun when we’re having fun, for one thing. But, another positive spin to your high-intensity child is that you know how he feels. There is no guessing. In that light, I find that I am very in tune to his mood and I feel good when he is happy. He is enthusiastic and full of energy. Not saying that low intensity children are not happy (I’m sure many of them are!), but I can see that more laid back children may not be happy about something, but never speak up, too. Even my second, being the less intense one, tends to need to wait on things because my more intense child is a “squeakier wheel”. I feel bad about that and try to be as fair as I can.

With any of these temperamental traits I will review, there are good things and bad things about all of them. As parents of a high-intensity child, we can learn how to help our child react strongly at appropriate times and learn how to help him diffuse his strong reaction other times.

Baby Sleep and Intensity

How might your baby’s intensity affect her sleep? If your child is a low intensity baby, this means that it may really be much easier for you to put baby down DROWSY, BUT AWAKE from the very beginning and help her learn to fall asleep on her own from day one. Your baby may fuss a little or not at all before drifting off into dreamland. When your baby is no longer a newborn and decides to protest things she doesn’t like, her protests will likely be fairly low-key. If you decide to sleep train with a no-cry sleep training method, you will probably find it easier to not give in to a little fussing. If you decide to sleep train using a crying sleep training method, you may not have a hard time listening to a little fussing while you do the dishes or keep yourself occupied.

On the other hand, if your baby is a high intensity baby, you can bet that it will be hard to leave him upset for anything longer than a couple of minutes when he’s young. If he is like my babies, you won’t need to turn on your monitor at night to hear him down the hall when he wakes up for his midnight feeding when he’s 4 months old. Your high-intense baby might get more upset / angry when he wakes up between sleep cycles and can’t go back to sleep, like mine. You may also need to take longer during your bedtime routine to help soothe him before sleep. If you use a no-cry sleep training method, you will likely have a very hard time listening to a screaming baby while you try to break habits and it will be a lot harder to stick to it if/when he gets upset. If you decide to use a crying sleep training method, you can expect loud outbursts and screaming, which will be difficult. You may be a parent who needs to go take a shower to “get away” for a few minutes.

As always, there is a wide spectrum in between low-intensity and high-intensity and we would all probably have a different opinion about what is low and what is high. Once you know your baby’s temperament and intensity level, you can take it into consideration when you choose how to help her get more sleep. You may or may not want to use cry it out to help your baby sleep, but once you know your baby’s personality, that can help us come up with a plan.

Something else to keep in mind is that YOUR intensity can affect your baby’s, too. If you get really upset about something, your baby might follow suit, depending on how sensitive she is. Both my husband and I are pretty intense, but mostly just happy (and neither of us have a hot temper), so we are working hard in directing my son’s intensity in the positive direction, too, and showing him many things aren’t worth getting upset about and it’s working. The other day I spilled my drink at dinner and I got a little upset and he said to me “It’s okay. It’s okay.” and I said back “Thank you for reminding me it’s ok. We’ll just clean it up. No reason to be upset.” It didn’t stop him from getting upset 10 minutes later when he, too, spilled his milk (we were both tired and clumsy that day!) and I politely reminded him back. Together, we can help diffuse each other’s upsets in life. Thankfully, he is a happy child…when he’s getting enough sleep.

Explore each of the 9 temperament traits, Intensity, Persistence, Sensitivity, Perceptiveness, Adaptability, Regularity, Energy, First Reaction, and Mood, focusing on how they play a role in your baby’s sleep and in the final part, take an assessment quiz to help figure out you and your baby or toddler’s temperament and see how it might be similar or different.

Get Sleep Help Customized For Your Baby’s Temperament!

Your baby’s temperament influences his or her sleep habits in a big way – and that means that the sleep coaching you do with your baby will need to be suited to your baby’s unique temperament. That can be tricky – but not to worry! Our consultants at The Baby Sleep Site® are experienced in creating Personalized Sleep Plans™ that are customized to your baby or toddler’s temperament. Even better, once you have your Personalized Sleep Plan™, your consultant will walk you through each step of implementing it at home.
Browse our list of consultation package options here.

Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!

Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

Sleep Resources Designed To Work With Your Baby’s Temperament

bss_ebook_3stepsystem_leftFor those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
bss_ebook_masteringnaps_leftIf you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.


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Is your child low or high-intensity? Share your story.


  1. says

    My son is high intensity and we had lots of sleep challenges with him…including night terrors. Our daughter is low intensity and needless to say she slept and continues to sleep much better!

    Arunis last blog post..Give A Man A Fish, He Eats For A Day…

  2. kathryn says

    My little darling is a low intensity child, who was always put to bed “drowsy but awake” as we are told to do. That has not stopped us from having numerous sleeping problems.

    Fortunatly, as each issue arrises, as it does FREQUNETLY, it doesn’t take too long to get him back on track.

    He is very routine driven and if he wakes up randomly at 3am one night, he will quickly incorporate it into his routine and continue to do so every night, until I “re-train” him.

    It’s very frustrating.

  3. Danielle says

    Wow. You have NO idea how grateful I am that I found this site! I have been searching for something like this for quite some time!
    I have the most sensitive, high intensity baby out of anyone I know! I was totally unprepared for how loud my 17 week old baby cries! When I am in babies-r-us and he cries, EVERYONE turns and looks at me in shock! If he hears a loud noise and gets started, he will SCREAM like he is in serious pain! Doesn’t surprise me though, I am a super passionate and sensitive mommy :)

  4. Carol says

    I’m thankful to find this site…

    My 14 month old still ain’t sleeping through the night, he wakes up every two hours to feed. When he was 6 months old, we tried to let him cry-it-out after reading some books. He cried for 9 hours only stopping to feed, it totally break our heart…still he’s not falling asleep on his own. We always thought we did something wrong or didn’t do something…

    I’m still praying & hoping for a miracle!

  5. says

    @Carol Wow!! Waking every 2 hours to feed is most definitely a sleep association and not all babies / toddlers will outgrow it. Crying for 9 hours is wild! I would recommend working on breaking the sleep associations without cry-it-out. If you haven’t signed up for my free nap sessions, you should do that or enter my giveaway for a sleep consultation. I’d love to help you further!


  1. […] My eldest son snacked a lot, too, taking 2 ounces here and then another 2 ounces an hour later (or nursing one side and then the other an hour later) and the snacking was a bit hard to handle, sometimes, but he was only eating at night twice at 4 months and once by 7 months, on his own. To this day, my older son (now 3 1/2) eats rather often and gets cranky when he’s hungry. His afternoon snack is close to the size of a whole meal. My younger son (17 months now) snacks a lot less than his older brother. So, in general, I try to accept that they are just different, but neither could go too long without eating when they were very young. I am honestly not sure how people wait 3 hours to feed because my sons would cry so hard, but I also attribute that to their intensity. […]