Could Some Babies Be Easier Than Others?
Few things are more disheartening than hearing your little one fuss and cry when you’re doing your best to meet her every need.
It can be even harder when you’re walking your fussing little one during playgroup only to look over and see another mother sitting calmly while her little one sleeps ever so soundly – just like last week.
Are you doing something wrong?
Maybe you should have read that baby book your mama friend gave to you?
Are you spoiling your little one by answering each cry?
Or is it possible that some babies are simply easier than others?
Do Babies Have Different Temperaments?
If you take a little time to observe your friends and family, you’re likely to find that each individual has a unique temperament. Some adults are quite extroverted; they enjoy spending a lot of time in large groups and don’t find crowds or noise to be bothersome. Others find crowds a bit overwhelming and prefer to limit their time at parties, curling up with a favourite book instead.
You might have a relative who runs marathons, goes rock-climbing, and has backpacked through Europe. Another relative enjoys painting in her backyard. Every adult is a unique individual.
If you’ve ever observed kindergarteners on the playground, you’re likely to see a variety of temperaments, just like among your adult friends. Every child is unique too, and infants are no exception.
What is temperament? Well, it’s part of what makes people who they are. There are many characteristics that make up one’s temperament, some of which include:
- Sensory threshold – response to stimulation
- Activity level
- Rhythm – some people seem to have a natural predictable pattern
- Approach and withdrawal
- Attention span
A difference in temperament means one baby might be a bit easier than another, during day to day activities. If your baby’s temperament makes her sensitive to stimulation, for example, being overly active could lead to lots of fussing. On the other hand, you might have an infant with a shorter attention span, combined with the need for a lot of physical activity. This might make you feel as if you’re a nonstop activities director – starting from the first few weeks, until he’s able to practise some independent play.
An infant who isn’t very sensitive to stimulation, and who has a fairly natural eating and sleeping pattern, might seem rather easy during day to day activities. If your friend has a baby like this, you might be wondering what her secret is and what books she’s read. However, it’s most likely due to baby’s natural temperament.
Read more about your baby’s temperament and find out if you affect baby’s temperament.
Do Some Babies Sleep Better Than Others?
Ah … sleep. One of the biggest topics when it comes to infants. Nearly every parent feels a bit sleep deprived, and some feel as though they haven’t had a decent night’s rest in years.
I’ve been gifted four wonderful little boys, none of whom slept through the night consistently before a year. However, as a postnatal doula I’ve helped several families whose babies slept five to seven hour stretches quite early on. Friends and clients would ask me how to help their babies sleep better, and though there are some wonderful things that can help, a lot of it comes down to babies’ unique make up. It seems my children inherited a non-sleeping gene!
In fact, my second son was quite well known for his baby pterodactyl-like scream, which happened at random times, but most often when it was time to settle for sleep. I have yet to have a client whose baby came even close to being as difficult to settle as he was. I racked my post natal training brain, ruled out medical conditions, and in time we just realised he simply had a big personality. Meanwhile, I helped several families develop a restful sleep routine for their infants.
Some adults lie on their pillows and drift off instantly. Some of us just stare into space thinking about that one time we tripped up in high school, and how embarrassed we were, or we compose the grocery list, or wonder what we will do for our four year old’s sweet sixteen party. Some sleep soundly all night, while some of us get up for water, a trip to the bathroom, or maybe a midnight snack.
If adults have a variety of sleep patterns, it stands to reason that infants do as well. Some infants need several night time feeds to grow and develop properly; others have few night time needs. Many, probably the majority, need reassurance that a caregiver is nearby to keep them safe. While we might know baby is safe, their time on earth has been quite short; instinct tells them they’re vulnerable and they need a caregiver’s touch.
Do Easier Babies Just Have Better Parents?
In short, no. Babies are unique individuals with a variety of needs, patterns and personalities. While our behaviour, moods, and parenting techniques can greatly affect our children, we mustn’t assume that someone whose baby seems easier is doing a better job than we are.
Sometimes parenting can make a baby easier. How? Well, if you get to know your baby’s temperament you can proactively plan your day to create the best conditions for keeping you and your baby contented.
If your baby is sensitive to stimulation, take some breaks in quiet areas to avoid overstimulation. If your baby isn’t sleeping through the night and you’re both struggling, try napping together or practising safe co-sleeping.
Keeping an appropriate perspective, and understanding normal infant development and behaviour, can also mean an easier baby. While those things won’t actually change your baby, understanding what normal infant behaviour is, might help you realise that your ‘difficult’ baby is in fact a very healthy and normal baby. It can also help you structure your day to be more baby friendly, which might help avoid some of your baby’s difficult behaviours, such as crying from fatigue and overstimulation.
If your baby seems to be challenging, be sure to discuss any concerns with your paediatrician, to rule out any potential medical causes. Sometimes an incredibly fussy baby is dealing with an undiagnosed medical condition. However, in many cases, what makes a baby easier or harder is simply temperament.
If you’re struggling with lack of sleep or trying to understand more about infant development, you might find these BellyBelly topics helpful:
- Baby Week By Week Series (weekly articles for each week of babyhood)
- 6 Awesome Baby Sleep Experts Worth Following