Welcome to the final article of my Baby Temperament & Sleep Series. If you are just joining us, you may want to start with Part 1, where I define baby temperament.
During this series, we have reviewed 9 temperament traits that make up all of our personalities and seen how they might affect the way you help your baby or toddler sleep better. I’ve grouped some of the temperaments together to give you some ideas on helping your baby or toddler sleep better.
Adaptable, Regular, and Positive First Reaction
If your baby or toddler is adaptable, she is probably a little more easy-going than other babies. If she skips a nap, she might not get cranky and will take it in stride. Her regularity makes it easy to plan play dates around her nap schedule and potty training might be really easy if she pees and poops at the same time every day. It might even be easier to master elimination communication, where you can gradually reduce the number of diapers you use for your baby by learning their rhythms and signs before they “go”. If your baby or toddler also typically has a positive first reaction to a new person, food, event or change to routine, she will likely not skip a beat to many changes in her sleep routine at once.
A baby with these temperament traits will likely respond well to a nudge from mom and dad when it comes to solving her sleep problems or breaking sleep associations. It will likely be a lot easier than you think to break some habits and get on a good routine and sleep schedule with your baby and all you need is a little confidence, time, and patience. All you have to do is take the first step and try.
Sensitive, Perceptive, and Adaptable
If your baby is sensitive, he will be more apt to wake up from noises, care more about being hot or cold, and be in tune with your own emotions or stress. Your baby might also notice a lot more around him and things might keep him awake by catching his attention if he is perceptive.
When it comes to sleep, combining sensitivity and perceptive-ness, your baby might be a little more “high maintenance” than our adaptable and regular counter parts above, but if he is also adaptable, he might be able to change his sleeping habits fairly easily. You may just need to go through extra steps helping him sleep through noise, be comfortable (especially during things like teething), and make sure his room is dark enough that it will not distract him too much from the task at hand (sleeping). Some of his other temperament traits will be a factor in terms of how easy or difficult it will be to break problematic sleep associations.
Intense, Persistent, and Energetic
Probably one of the most difficult temperament traits is the intense child. She does not whimper or fuss, she wails and SCREAMS! When she’s happy, she’s HAPPY but when she’s not WATCH OUT! She will let you know loudly how she feels about something. Combine this trait with her persistence and you can have fairly long and loud temper tantrums when she doesn’t get that cookie or toy in the store.
When it comes to sleep, the intense and persistent baby or toddler will probably be much more challenging to help learn to sleep. Disclaimer: I could be partial to saying that because my eldest son, who inspired this site, is both intense and persistent, of course. He also has a lot of energy. This combination of temperament traits are most likely a part of the babies you hear “cry all night” if the parents let them. My son did not, so I know there are more intense and more persistent babies out there. Cry it out is not the only option for these babies, either. It highly depends on your baby and your own temperament, too.
These are arbitrary temperament trait combinations I put together and obviously this list is not exhaustive (doing the math because I’m a nerd, it’s 512 combinations if we assumed a trait is on or off, which obviously is not true so chew on that for awhile and just think how long that article would be!). Although you believe your baby will be the hardest there is, the chances are actually small and you might really be surprised how small a nudge you might have to give your baby to encourage her to sleep on her own. I talk to MANY parents who are pleasantly surprised how much “easier” it was than they originally thought it would be.
Taking the first step, making a “sleep coaching” plan, to help your child sleep is the hardest part, especially when the “easy” answers haven’t worked for you in the past when that neighbor says “I just put her down awake and she went to sleep”. Not so easy for all of us. Some parents are also so judgmental about the method some parents choose to help their child sleep, but unless you have “that” temperament kid, you really don’t know what that other person might be going through and since all babies are a unique combination of these traits, you won’t ever have someone else be able to walk in your shoes or vice versa. Don’t be so quick to say what you think you’d do in the same situation. Even if you have a tough sleeper, how YOU react to sleep deprivation will be different.
While many feel the only choice is sleep deprivation or cry it out, there is A LOT in between, depending on your baby’s temperament. Don’t let sleep deprivation be the choice you make. You owe it to yourself and your baby or toddler to get the rest you both need to function at your optimum!
So, tell me, is your child easy-going, spunky, or spirited? What about you? Take my quiz and find out!
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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.