Identify your baby’s temperament and learn how to best serve your little love bug.
Any mom with more than one child will tell you that no two babies are exactly alike—they come into this world with diverse temperaments and inclinations. As you interact with your little guy, watch his reactions, learn his habits, and get to know the essential him. The sooner you decipher your baby’s distinct traits, the sooner you can learn to give him just what he needs, physically, emotionally and socially, so peruse our persona roster and determine which type of baby is sharing your abode.
The sunshine baby
Did you bring home a tiny ray of joy from the hospital? Some babies are naturally good-natured and easygoing in every way. Chances are, your sunshine baby is strong and healthy, and she’s a good to great eater and sleeper. (Babies who feel good often show it through sunny dispositions.) Your little miss sunshine may be perfectly content with whatever comes her way—hugs from strangers, trips away, new situations—but remember that even the most low-maintenance, happy baby needs reliability and lots of hugs and attention from her mom and pop. Also be sensitive toward friends with babies who aren’t quite so compliant—bragging (intentionally or not) can make others feel resentful.
The grumpy baby
Does your baby ever seem more like a grumpy old man than a sweet little cherub? Does it seem as if no matter what you do, it’s never enough? Some infants simply aren’t as easy to please, and that’s no one’s fault! If baby has been declared healthy but still seems down in the dumps on a regular basis, just do your best to be patient and loving.
Meet baby’s physical needs first—make sure he’s well-rested and well-fed—and then work to create a calm, predictable environment by sticking to a schedule that’s comfortable for him. Recognize that a grumpy baby may be more difficult to take new places or keep out past bedtime, and accommodate his needs as best you can.
The moody baby
If your baby seems to lose it at the drop of a hat (or the sound of a loud noise or the sight of someone unfamiliar), you may have an ultra-sensitive child. Some might label your baby “colicky,” but according to Dr. Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, “Colic is exactly what normal crying is except these kids have more passionate temperaments, or they’re more sensitive, so they cry louder.” The moody baby is often a perfectly healthy kid who was simply born with an extra dose of passion—he is likely very bright, very conscious of his surroundings, and easily overwhelmed by various stimuli.
Be aware of how your baby reacts to new or uncomfortable scenarios. Keep to a predictable schedule when you can, and guide him gently through unavoidable transitions, large and small, by readily offering comfort. For example, talk to him before and as you walk into a room filled with strangers; let him know what to expect and show him that the newness is OK. Offer plenty of quiet one-on-one playtime, and gradually ease your baby into friendships with short play dates in non-threatening environments. Of course, check with your doctor to make sure your baby’s moodiness doesn’t stem from a physical issue such as an ear infection or acid reflux.
The energetic baby
Some babies seem to be movers and shakers even from their first stirrings in the womb. If your newborn is eager to move, kick, yell and shake it like a Polaroid picture, it’s safe to say you have an energetic baby. Expect her to be rather demanding and vocal and possibly reach physical milestones early. With an energetic infant, you will want to babyproof ahead of time—there is no way of knowing how soon she’ll start rolling or crawling and getting into things. Do give your independent child room to explore and grow in a place where she won’t get hurt or destroy valuables. Help her develop those restless muscles by giving her supervised tummy time and frequently holding her up so she can practice balancing on her legs. Try a bouncy chair that allows her to see the world as she kicks and wiggles to her heart’s content.
Because attaining quiet time for eating and sleeping could be a struggle, find activities that are calming to your baby. Does she like to hear you sing? Read a book with you? Take a calm bath? At bedtime, some energetic babies like to be swaddled—a soothing swaddle constrains limbs that are constantly going and helps baby to settle down. However, if your baby gets angry when swaddled, try dressing her in a sleep sack instead.
The predictable baby
There is no completely “typical” baby, but many babies are fairly predictable in their desires and actions. A predictable baby will reach milestones by the book—not too soon and not too late. Her moods will usually make sense; for instance, she’s going to get fussy if she’s tired or hungry, but she generally won’t cry without reason. This baby will go with the flow, more or less, and take to a routine fairly easily. Baby books are filled with advice about this common type, so you will have plenty of help along the way.
One of these definitions may sound exactly like your little fella, or maybe he’s a combination of types. What does it all mean? Well, baby’s temperament may stick and set the tone for his life, but then again, it may not. Rahil Briggs, PsyD, Director of Healthy Steps at Montefiore and co-founder of thebabydoctors.com, says, “Temperament is thought to be relatively stable, yet children are full of surprises! A previously shy and quiet baby may later become boisterous and outgoing at his favorite summer camp.” Recognizing your child’s innate tendencies will prepare you to guide him as he grows up, helping him to find his strengths and overcome his weaknesses. That’s where nature meets nurture and your child’s true personality emerges.