By Nicole A. Johnson
Temperament is defined as how a child naturally reacts to situations and stimuli, her mood, her ability to calm herself and her activity level. Many researchers believe that temperament is biological which means this is how a child is wired to be and it is not a result of his environment.
A baby’s temperament will affect which sleep training method a parent might choose to help their baby sleep better. A child’s temperament and personality will determine whether a no-cry sleep training method will take 1 hour or 3 months or, if choosing a cry-method, whether he is he more likely cry for 5 minutes or 2 hours.
From the first day after they are born, the way a baby reacts to being wet, hungry or tired may not be like a neighbor’s baby. Where one baby might be low-key and not get very upset another baby may scream loudly. This is also the reason why one sleep training method works well for some babies and will not work for others.
Three common temperament and personality types are listed below with a brief synopsis of how they can affect a baby’s sleep.
A baby or toddler’s intensity is how strongly she emotionally reacts to something. This could be in a good way or a bad way. Because high-intensity babies react strongly, it means they might be squealing loudly with joy or crying loudly because they are wet. For babies who are low intensity, it may mean they hardly ever cry or fuss when they are uncomfortable.
How might a baby’s intensity affect her sleep? If a child is a low intensity baby, this means that it may really be much easier to put baby down drowsy, but awake from a very early age and help her learn to fall asleep on her own.
If your baby is a high intensity baby, it will be hard to leave her upset for anything longer than a couple of minutes when she’s young. A high-intensity baby might get more upset when she wakes up between sleep cycles and cannot go back to sleep. It may also take longer during the bedtime routine to help soothe a high intensity baby before sleep. If attempting to use a no-cry sleep training method, a high intensity baby will likely still cry and it can be very hard listening to a screaming baby while trying to break sleep associations and it will be a lot harder to stick to it when she gets upset. If using a crying sleep training method, expect loud and long outbursts and screaming.
A baby’s persistence is how easily or difficult he can stop a task if told to and how strong-willed they are when they get their mind set on something. Persistence might reveal itself when a baby wants to nurse and he won’t take no for an answer without erupting in tears and will not settle down with any other soothing method.
How might a baby’s persistence affect her sleep? If a child is a less persistent baby, this means that it probably will not be difficult to get better sleep out of her. Typically, less persistent babies and toddlers accept no for an answer and do not stay upset very long when there are changes. Most parents will just need to commit to making changes in order for baby sleep change to happen.
If a baby is a very persistent baby, it will be harder to get more cooperation out of him when he has his mind set on something. If using a no-cry sleep training method, it will likely take longer than those with less persistent babies. If deciding to use a crying sleep training method, expect long crying bouts, unfortunately. Depending on his intensity level, this may or may not be difficult to get through.
A baby’s perceptiveness is how much a child notices things like people, colors, and noises. A perceptive child may forget directions or instructions given to her because something else has caught her attention. In addition, she might notice many things that other people may not, such as a rock in the grass that other kids would walk past. Perceptiveness and distractibility is not the same as ADHD.
How might a baby’s perceptiveness affect his sleep? Your child’s perceptiveness will most affect sleep when it comes to napping, routines. A nightlight in a perceptive child’s room can also affect their sleep more than it would for less perceptive children. When doing the bedtime routine, a toddler may not be able to follow multi-step instructions, and will usually benefit from breaking the routines into smaller steps.
It is likely she might take longer to fall asleep than a child who is not as perceptive simply because she notices more in the room. For this reason, a more perceptive baby will need to be put down for bed at least 10-15 minutes early to allow them time to unwind.
It is important to know that a parent can learn and understand their child’s temperament and be able to predict how he will react to certain things. Parents who understand their baby or child’s temperament can help to support the child in ways that work well with that their temperament. Once parents know their baby’s temperament, it can help reduce some of the stress related to helping their baby learn to sleep better because they won’t constantly be trying to figure out why he is reacting a certain way. Even though a child’s temperament is biological, it does not mean that what parents do does not matter. Parents will be able to emphasize their child’s strengths, help understand his own temperament, and help him learn how to handle his own reactions as he grows up. To attempt to make him ignore his temperamental traits is not only very difficult, it teaches him to not be himself.
While many feel the only choice is sleep deprivation or crying it out, there are a variety of choices for teaching a baby to sleep. Taking into account a baby’s temperament will help to determine the method best suited to teach a child healthy sleep habits.
The Baby Sleep Site offers additional information on other baby temperaments (sensitivity, adaptability, regularity, first reaction, energy and mood) and their effect on baby sleep as well as take an assessment quiz to find out your baby’s temperament. The Baby Sleep Site seeks to offer baby sleep help to tired parents everywhere with personalized sleep consultation services (http://babysleepsite.com/services) and baby sleep products (http://babysleepswell.com).
Nicole Johnson is a sleep coach and the owner of The Baby Sleep Site (TM) specializing in baby sleep products and consulting services. Nicole is a wife and the mother of two boys. With a B.A. degree from UC Berkeley and an MBA from Ohio State University, Nicole has also received an honorary degree in “Surviving Sleep Deprivation,” thanks to her son’s “no sleep” curriculum. She has become an expert on infant and toddler sleep and has made it her mission to help other parents solve their child’s sleep problems, too.