Baby Temperament and Sleep Series: Part 1

Baby Sleep & Temperament Article Series

This is Part 1 of my Baby Temperament and Sleep Series. This series is about your baby’s temperament and how it might affect his sleep and/or how you solve sleep problems.

Across this website, I mention temperament a lot and how it DOES affect what sleep training method you might choose to help him sleep better. His temperament and personality will drive whether a no-cry method will take 1 hour or 3 months or, if you choose a cry-method, whether he will cry for 5 minutes or 2 hours if you let him. It may also affect how difficult it is to wean him from breastfeeding, wean him from the bottle to a cup, how many errands you can run on a Saturday, how many tantrums he has as a toddler, and many many other things parents face on a daily basis. Just a reminder, I am not a doctor, so this is based on my experience, as well as my reading/research about temperament and how I believe it affects your baby’s sleep and what methods may or may not work well when it comes to sleep training. Remember sleep training is NOT cry-it-out! Let’s get started!

What Is Temperament?

I get my definition of temperament from the book, Raising Your Spirited Child. The author uses the terms coined by Drs. Stella Chase and Alexander Thomas, “because of their positive, parent-friendly approach.” Even if your child is not spirited, the temperament traits will apply to all babies. At the end of this series, I will give you a quiz to find out whether your child is “spirited” or not and what his or her temperament is.

Temperament is how your child naturally reacts to situations and stimuli, her mood, her ability to calm herself and how active she is. It is said that researchers have found that temperament is biological, meaning your child comes out of the womb this way. This means that from day 1, the way a YOUR baby reacts to being wet, hungry, tired, etc. may not be like your friend’s baby. Yours might be low-key and not get very upset or your baby may scream loudly. You are not making it up that your baby might not be “laid back”. You might wonder what you did or didn’t do to cause this. I remember one parent saying her husband thought her postpartum depression after the birth of their son caused their baby to not sleep well. What a burden to bear! Let me assure you, I did not have postpartum depression, was not depressed during pregnancy, or anything close to that and my son had a lot of sleep problems! You have no control over your baby’s temperament. You can only “blame” your genetics and they are still figuring out how it is all intertwined.

One thing that is important for you to know, though, is that you can get to know your child’s temperament and be able to predict how he will react to certain things and you can set him up for success. If you know your child has trouble with transitions, for example, you will be able to help him with those (I will get more into that throughout the series). The best part of this is that you can reduce some of the stress once you KNOW your child’s temperament because you won’t constantly be trying to figure out why he is reacting a certain way. Most of all, you should know that just because he is born this way does not mean that what you do does not matter. You will be able to emphasize his strengths, help him understand his own temperament, and help him learn how to handle his own reactions as he grows up. As Raising Your Spirited Child states, “By adapting your parenting techniques to fit his temperament and his style, and teaching him the skills he needs, you help him to live cooperatively with others and to be all that he can be.” To attempt to make him ignore his temperamental traits is not only very difficult, but it also teaches him to not be himself.

In the next 10 parts of the series, I will review each of the 9 traits of temperament, Intensity, Persistence, Sensitivity, Perceptiveness, Adaptability, Regularity, Energy, First Reaction, and Mood, discussing baby sleep along the way 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.

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Sleep Resources Designed To Work With Your Baby’s Temperament

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14 thoughts on “Baby Temperament and Sleep Series: Part 1”

  1. Hi,

    I could really do with some information or even reassurance. I’m a soft hearted mamma but after long periods of sleep deprivation I decided to start check and console. It’s been 4 days now and I’m only seeing very little progress she cries anything from 45mins-1hr and then will fall asleep, once asleep she may or may not wake up in the night but thankfully does self soothe and wakes at 6-6.30.
    What’s really thrown me however is that now when we start her bedtime routine she knows what’s coming and starts to cry before we’ve even finished bathing her. I’m scared I’ve introduced a fear that wasn’t there before. Will it get better. I’m desperate for an answer before I pack in the training and live like a zombie for however long it takes ?

    • Hi @Chandni Patel, thank you for writing to us. I am so sorry to hear you’ve been struggling with sleep, and that you are also now struggling with sleep training. I know the feeling of having your sweet baby cry! It can take some time to adjust for sure, and we typically suggest going forward with your plan for about a week or a little more before your change it up. Here is a link to a free guide with tips to help your baby sleep through the night (which would include getting her to sleep as well) if you are interested:
      Hang in there and please let us know if you need anything!

  2. Hello,

    First off, thank you so much for your site, it has been a tremendous resource for us! My daughter is 6 months old, I have waited to sleep train her until now because I’ve read this time is best. She gets very sensitive if overtired or among too many people- inconsolable crying at times. We tried yesterday for the first time, we did the same thing we did with my first daughter (she slept great after only one night) – sit next to her and touch her but not pick her up and slowly move farther away until one day we just set her down and leave… well, she cried for about 30 min before gong to sleep, but woke up 45 min later and she was hysterical- she cried so much she actually threw up (so I couldn’t take it and nursed her to sleep) She is breastfed and has been sleeping poorly for the past 3 months … she wakes 5 times a night. we have tried co-sleeping but still wakes up a bit, and has to be rocked or nursed back to sleep. She is like I said a bit sensitive and I want to make sure I don’t push her beyond her limits. Can I sleep train her

    • @Rebeca – Thank you for reading and for sharing with us. 6 months can definitely be a great age to start working on a formal sleep training plan, and you can definitely sleep train her (assuming there are no medical issues). You’ll want to come up with a plan that you can stick with then work that plan consistently. We’d welcome the opportunity to work with your family on developing a personalized sleep plan just for your family and daughter. If you’d like to learn more about our services (from DIY to full-support via emaail or phone), please read here: Hang in there, Rebeca.

  3. Hello advise please. I started CIO with my son at 8 months he did great, I mean it for the first time he cried 10 mins. And after that it was less then 1 minute. I did his naps and nights together for 1 weeks he was soothing himself within mins. During first week he was sick for about 4 days and still it didn’t phase him. 12 hrs of sleep a night 2 or 3 feedings (BF). Now it’s been the end of week 2 and hes having a difficult time taking a lot longer, I find myself having to go in and reassure him at 15 mins of crying and he starts to fall asleep and wakes up crying over and over during the 15 min period. I have gotten almost to the max number of reassurances for the night. Any clue what could be diffrent? He was always nursed and rocked to sleep. Now he doesn’t nurse to sleep at all I lay him down awake or half awake do the same talk same routine. Hes not as sick as he was so I am wondering if that would make a diffrence.oh and hes always been on a set schedule with feedings naps bed time routines.

    • Hi Erica,
      Thank you for using The Baby Sleep Site as a resource, and congratulations on your *huge* progress! I’m sorry to hear you’re experiencing some bumps, though. First, it can be normal for a baby to progress very quickly with sleep training at first, and then to regress a bit. We have an article on that here:
      However, since he’s almost falling asleep and then waking himself up, I do wonder if he’s struggling with an undiagnosed medical issue, like an ear infection, or teething pain, which are making it harder for him to put himself to sleep. It may be worth checking in with a doctor, or if you suspect teething, asking his pediatrician about whether ibuprofen or acetaminophen might be safe to give him before bedtime. I hope this helps, but please let us know if you have any other questions!

  4. hi. i would love to hear answers with regard to my 18month old daughter whom i’m breastfeeding until now. I really wanted to wean her to bottles but my husband and i are having difficulty doing it. if u can share your past experience and techniques i would appreciate it. thanks a lot

    • Hi Gina,
      Are you working on weaning your daughter from breastfeeding all together or just for night feedings? If it’s related to night feedings and wakings, you might want to read through this four post breastfeeding series which also talks about breastfeeding and night weaning. You can find all four posts here:

      If you are weaning completely, then you might want to do a search on this search for additional help and ideas for how to approach that:

      Breastfeeding is also a source of comfort for many babies and toddlers, so it might take some time for her to adjust. You might try limiting breastfeeds a little more each day or let her know that feeding with mommy will only be before naps or before bedtime so that she starts to get used to the idea of fewer feedings.

  5. My son is 13 months old and I just took that quiz for him and it says that he is spunky,but what of the 9 temperment trates does that fall under?

    • @Jessica If you take the quiz and enter your e-mail, it will give you all the questions and your answers. It really just depends on how you answered the questions and what makes him “spunky”.

  6. This is a great site! I esp. appreciate the summaries of the different sleep training methods. I’m also glad to hear that I’m not the only one with a baby who refuses to learn from “crying-it-out”! I am a new mom with a 2 month old, and he has had trouble getting to sleep since he was born. Now I’m getting to know him better (Intense, Sensitive, Persistent boy!), but it was really rough at first and continues to be a new challenge everyday!

    • @Jennifer Typically, 2 months is too young for cry-it-out anyway as their ability to self-soothe is limited. No amount of crying will help any baby, regardless of temperament, if they do not yet have the ability to self-soothe so they really can’t learn how. Usually, it’s closer to 4 months old that this can work. It depends on the baby. At some point, you can work with your baby to help them learn how to fall asleep and at some point you will realize what they once NEEDED to fall asleep, now they simply WANT it and they do have the ability now. Thank you for commenting and I’m glad you’re enjoying the site! Good luck!

  7. I really appreciate this series, I’m enjoying reading all the different traits of temperament! Right now I’m going through an awful sleep time with my 11-week old son, and it’s interesting to try to figure-out his temperament and compare it with my 2 year-old daughter’s who was also a horrible sleeper at this age. I get so frustrated when people take a one-size-fits-all approach and simple things seem to work for their easy babies and it seems like I must be doing something wrong because those things don’t work for my difficult babies. (I mean “spirited!”) It doesn’t make me any less tired, but it is comforting to know that I’m not doing anything wrong, it’s just how they’re wired, and that’s ok.

    • @Emily I feel the same way when people would give me simple things to try like I hadn’t already tried them. The worst was when people told me to keep my son up so he’d sleep better. Not!!! Very frustrating, so I’m glad you don’t feel as alone, now.

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