Welcome to Part 6 of my Baby Temperament and Sleep Series. If you are just joining us, you may want to start with Part 1, where I define baby temperament. This article will discuss adaptability as a baby temperament trait. At the end of the series, I will give you a quiz to determine your child’s temperament.
Baby Temperament – Adaptability
Your baby’s adaptability is how quickly your child adapts to changes in schedules and routine. Slow to adapt children often cry or fuss when one activity has to end and another one must begin. They also can get upset with changes in routine. Slow to adapt children may also not react favorably to surprises.
As Raising Your Spirited Child states, “It’s the slow-to-adapt child who loses it because you cut his toast in triangles when he wanted rectangles or you stopped at Burger King when he was expecting McDonald’s. Naptime, lunchtime, bedtime, drop-off at daycare…are all daily transitions that are challenging for this child.”
As I’ve mentioned before, my eldest son is spirited and part of what makes him so is that he is slow to adapt. This improves as he gets older, but is still very much a part of him. When he was a baby, we would need to break our errands into separate events. Every time we left the car, left the store, and got back in the car was an issue because of the transition. It took us a little while to figure that out. We’d go to the store and he’d be ok, but by the 3rd stop, he’d lose it,
even if especially if it was a short 5 minute stop.
As he got older, when he could understand, we had to count down everything and I’d give him several warnings. “10 more minutes before we have to go inside” (from playing outside), “5 more minutes”, “1 more minute”, “10 more seconds” and then countdown and he’d STILL put up a fuss going inside. Fun times. Now that he’s older, we can run as many errands as we want and don’t need to give him as many warnings, but he is still slow-to-adapt when our routine changes, sometimes, and when it comes to bedtime, in particular.
Baby Sleep and Adaptability
How might your baby’s adaptability affect her sleep? Your child’s adaptability will most affect sleep when it comes to routines, naps, nights, and just day-to-day routines. Many parents like to follow routines even when their baby is a newborn by following an eat-play-sleep routine, for example. For slow-to-adapt children, this can be your saving grace. As a newborn, you might not know, yet, that he is slow-to-adapt, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to try a routine, especially if your baby seems extra fussy all day. Slow-to-adapt children crave routine and need to know what to expect next. Even though my son is more adaptable now, he still does not like routine changes too much and can melt down in certain circumstances.
As you can probably guess, consistency is the most important aspect when it comes to your slow-to-adapt child. As easy and tempting as it feels to read just one book when you usually read three or switch teeth-brushing with putting on pajamas, it might just erupt into a meltdown or rough night for all. A bedtime routine and sleep schedules are musts. Whether you use cry it out or a no-cry method, your success will be highly dependent on your ability to stay consistent. This is easier said than done, I know. I have been there!
If your child is slow-to-adapt *and* persistent like mine, it will be challenging to set limits, but limits will be instrumental in tackling sleep problems as well as raising a happy and healthy child in the years to come. If you need more detailed recommendations on helping your child with his adaptability, you can read more in Raising Your Spirited Child and Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child, if he is also persistent.
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. In the final part, take an assessment quiz. Figure out your baby or toddler’s temperament and YOUR temperament too. See how your temperaments might be similar or different.