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Understanding Your Baby
The word temperament describes the basic emotional wiring of your baby, and he or she will express that wiring through her personality. Every baby is a unique person, and the kind of person he or she becomes depends on inborn temperament (nature) and your response to it (nurture). Temperament isn't "good"or "bad" it is simply the way your baby is - they came hard-wired that way. Some babies are content to experience the world by observing and just being while others need to taste, touch, smell and try everything on for size. It's important to understand that a temperament is an influence, not a life sentence! Sometimes babies and parents have the same kind of temperament, sometimes they are at opposite ends of the spectrum. As a parent, it's your job to understand your baby's temperament and figure out how to respond to it.
So what is your baby's temperament? Is she easy going and laid back? Does he cry a lot and is difficult to comfort? Is she cautious or suspicious about anything or anyone new? While these personality characteristics will tend to endure into adulthood, your child's personality is also formed by what happens to them and the way that others - especially you and your partner - respond to them. It's not particularly useful to label your baby, as labels in general are very limiting and tend to focus your attention on the label and not on you baby's unique qualities. Instead, tune in to your baby's temperament, respect and accept that they are who they are, and remember that there are no good or bad temperaments. Some of the things that might make you want to tear your hair out might make your son or daughter a stronger, more self-reliant adult!
Your baby's temperament is one part of the equation, the other part is your temperament. Parent and baby need to find a way to fit. Some pairs fit together more easily, while some mothers and fathers and their babies have to make a few adjustments along the way to improve the fit. If your baby has high needs and a persistent personality that demands that those needs be met, and you are a person who loves to be in control and have your life run in a smooth, predictable way,both you and your baby will have to do some adjusting. A goal of parenting is to allow baby and parent to shape each other's behavior so that personalities mesh rather than clash, and eventually you will bring out the best in each other.
No matter what temperament your baby has, a predictable environment helps to build confidence and encourage learning. That means creating rhythms and rituals that a baby can count on. A nighttime ritual is a great example. A bath, song and story each night let baby know that it's bedtime and that they can expect to go to sleep for the night. When babies can count on a predictable environment, they spend less time crying and fussing and more time learning. Predictability is especially important for "high needs" babies, as the rhythm of their day helps to keep them calmer and more relaxed.
Above all, be responsive to your baby's needs. A responsive, flexible parent is a good match for any temperament. Accept your baby's temperament, learn to understand what helps him or her to feel calm and secure. The hours that you spend each day in nurturing, responsive parenting will help you and your baby become a perfect fit.
Tips For A High Needs Baby
Keep exploring various soothing rituals. You will find a routine that works for your baby. Some things to try may be over-stimulating and will rev up baby even more, but you'll learn from these experiences. Sometimes you may find the best way to relax baby is to create, as much as possible, a total back-to-the-womb experience.
• Wear your baby in a sling or wrap
• Create a quiet environment
• Sing softly or put on lullaby CD
• Speak softly
• Take a deep breath and try to calm yourself down
• Put baby in car seat and drive
• Try a warm bath
Remember the 5 s's
• Swaying (gently jiggling)