Welcome to Part 9 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 your baby’s first reaction 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 – First Reaction
When a person is presented with a new food, idea, social situation, person to meet, or a new place to visit, some people will jump right in. Others are hesitant. Your child’s first reaction is how she responds to one of these new concepts. An easy-going child will just jump in. This is not always a good thing if they are jumping into mischief. A spirited child will initially say “no” or be hesitant about the new idea, food, person, etc. The hesitant child might learn better by watching rather than doing or will simply watch before jumping in.
You will likely see this temperament trait very early on. It’s the baby’s first reaction to a bath, a new food, a new highchair, the first day at a new daycare or school or the first day of summer when he has to change from wearing pants to shorts. It is important to know this is your baby or toddler’s first reaction, not a final decision. He may warm up to the birthday party or the new food. Sometimes you just have to keep trying.
If you have read the rest of this series, you can guess that my spirited son also has the tendency to react strongly against a new idea. When he was a baby, around 8 months old, he would SCREAM when visitors came in the house. It seemed to be a combination of stranger anxiety and a first reaction to an unfamiliar person, even if they weren’t a stranger. When he was a toddler, he would sit back and watch the other kids play before he’d jump into playing at the playground or mall play area, etc. When he sees something new on his plate, he says he doesn’t like it before he tries it. As he’s gotten older, he has actually outgrown it a little bit and now jumps right into playing and trying new things. He still has this temperament trait, of course, but it has “lightened up”.
Baby and Toddler Sleep and First Reaction
How might your baby or toddler’s first reaction affect her sleep? If your child is prone to react against a new idea, you likely want to take changes slower. Allow your baby or toddler to warm up to an idea before you “throw” them in. For example, you probably want to spend time in her new room and crib before you expect her to sleep there. You’ll want to put your baby in her crib while you put away laundry or just to play for 5-10 minutes. While you don’t want her to necessarily associate her crib with a playground, she will start to feel comfortable in her room and crib.
Another thing to keep in mind is to be careful about introducing new steps into his nap or bedtime routines. He might not react favorably to that new teddy bear at bedtime, when he’s the most tired. It might be better to slowly introduce the bear earlier in the day and let him warm up to it. With my son, most things new we need to give him warnings about what we are planning.
This is related to both his first reaction and his adaptibility. Combine his persistence and intensity and you can see a 45 minute tantrum about cutting his sandwich into rectangles when he wanted triangles with him insisting on making a new sandwich. It sounds worse than it is (sorta) and we choose our battles wisely. Much of it is about control and therefore I’ve gotten very good at asking him questions that he can control: Triangles or rectangles? What vegetable do you want? (Not *if* he wants vegetables.) It has become an art and it is tiring, sometimes, but manageable. Now that we are outside the height of the “terrible two’s”, things are much much better.
One thing to keep in mind with your baby or toddler’s first reaction, if she is spirited and initially reacts negatively to most things, when it comes to sleep is no matter what method you use, cry it out or a no-cry sleep training method, at first she isn’t going to like it no matter what. So, your philosophy might be more like rip the band-aid off or go slowly, but the key will be to stick with it and 100% commit to the method you choose for at least one week before you give up on it. Consistency is key!
There are many times my son has not wanted to go somewhere or do something, but given time, he has changed his mind. From a baby who resisted sleep, he became a toddler who enjoyed his mornings to himself. (He cried when I came in too soon.) He even, on occasion, asked me to go to bed because he’s tired. (Not too often there, but it has happened and it’s shocking just the same!)
As I’ve mentioned throughout the series, there are good and bad things about all of these temperament traits. I have not minded my son’s cautious nature. I can already see my younger son being very different and I’m a little nervous. He’s a lot more “dare-devil-y” and mischievous, so far. I know that my older son won’t really jump head first into something too daring. I think that might help ME sleep better when he’s a teenager (if he’s still this way). My other son, on the other hand, will probably give me more gray hair. They are both challenging in their own ways.
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 AND your baby or toddler’s temperament and see how it might be similar or different.
Get Sleep Help Personalized For Your Baby’s Temperament!
Your baby’s temperament influences his or her sleep habits in a big way. 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! We’re super 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.