How to Identify Your Baby’s Disposition. Tips from the Baby Whisperer to get to know your baby and know what to expect.
When your baby is first born, he basically sleeps all the time. Once they start to wake up and become more alert (get over the physically draining process of being born), their true personalities start to show.
The temperament of your infant not only affects their mood, but also their adaptability, sleep dispositions, and ability to adapt to new situations, to name a few.
All babies have their own unique personalities. I have written a post on the importance of knowing who your child is as an individual.
We need to know so we have some baseline idea on how far we can ask our baby to go and what to expect from them. It can also help us avoid frustration and not blame ourselves when our baby seems to struggle with certain situations.
What Is a Personality Type
In Secrets of the Baby Whisperer (affiliate link), Tracy Hogg says babies differ in the way they sleep, eat, respond to stimulation or stimuli, and need to be soothed. This is largely impacted by baby’s personality.
This personality emerges between days 3-5 and gives you a good idea of who your baby is and will be. You can know from a very young age what your baby’s personality will be like and can adjust your parenting approached based on this information.
I have found this to be true. With Brayden, my oldest, things were overall hard because I was getting to know him and also getting to know how to take care of a baby.
With Kaitlyn, my second, I pretty much fell automatically into caring for a newborn mode (except for a comical moment when I was first dressing her; I waited for her to push her arm through like Brayden did, then I realized she had no idea what I was doing and lacked the physical ability and coordination to do that).
One thing I realized, though, was that she was a very different person. Her likes and dislikes were very different from Brayden’s. I didn’t realize how different two babies could really be.
Here are some comparisons for illustrative purposes:
- Sleep: Kaitlyn needed more sleep than Brayden did. She had shorter waketimes and longer naps. She has always been that way. She was born knowing how to sleep easily; Brayden required much learning. This has continued into the older ages. She loves to sleep, Brayden hated it even as a preschooler. I would tell one year old Kaitlyn it was nap time, and she would quickly go to her bed. She was excited. I would tell Brayden it was naptime and half the time he tried to talk me out of a nap. I explained to him this is how life has always been for him; he takes a nap every day. The days he didn’t try to negotiate, he was visibly disappointed that naptime had once again entered his life.
- Eat: Brayden started out having some trouble nursing (I am sure a combination of me and him since I had no clue what I was doing). I called Kaitlyn a champion nurser. Brayden loved solid food and ate a TON of it. We never had trouble with him eating what he needed to. Kaitlyn hated baby food, and tolerated it at best. She would take one bite and insist she was done.
- Stimulation: Brayden has always disliked baths. As a baby, he screamed at bathtime. As he got older, he would enjoy himself in the tub once he was there, but he still does not look forward to baths. He gots upset because I insisted he takes a bath. Kaitlyn always loved baths. As a 15 month old, she got upset because I don’t let her take 5 baths a day and limit it to 1. Brayden was never afraid of the sound of power tools or the vacuum; Kaitlyn still cried as a toddler sound of the vacuum and had high sensitivity to the noise. Brayden hated the sound of lots of people inside talking loudly. Kaitlyn loved it.
- Soothed: When Brayden was upset, he did not want to be held to calm down. He needed to really be alone. As a newborn, we would have to lay him on the bed and hold his arms down. He hated to be swaddled. At age 3, sometimes he would want to crawl in my lap and be soothed, but he often only required me to address the problem quickly and then he was on his way. If he was really upset, he would go sit himself somewhere alone “so he can calm down” in his words. Kaitlyn was always been instantly soothed by being held. She loved to be swaddled as a newborn. Physical contact was her thing. A hug and a kiss fixed all.
So they are different. These are just a few examples.
They are different people, and even as newborns wanted things done differently.
I had expected newborn life to be very similar, but they were totally different. Sure, they have their similarities, but they are very different people. They come with their own unique personalities.
5 Personality Profiles for Babies
Hogg has created a personality profile test for babies. This Tracy Hogg Temperament Test will help you identify what your baby’s personality traits are.
This is one of the most interesting and beneficial things in this book. She says babies fall into one of five temperamental types: Angel, Textbook, Touchy, Spirited, and Grumpy. So she breaks babies down into 5 baby personality types.
The “Know Your Baby” Quiz starts on page 28 and asks questions about:
- How often baby cries
- How easily baby falls asleep
- What baby’s disposition is like when waking in the morning
- Baby’s smile tendencies
- How flexible baby is away from home
- Baby’s response to strangers
- How baby responds to noise
- How baby responds to baths
- Baby’s activity level and movement
- Baby’s noise levels
- How baby handles diaper changes
- How baby responds to light
- Baby’s body movement during eating
- How baby eats
- How baby communicates
- The intensity of reactions to large family gatherings
- How baby handles transitions
- Baby’s attention span and how well baby can self-entertain
- Baby behavior
Baby Temperament Summaries
Now for a summary of each temperament:
- Angel baby: An angel baby has an easy temperament. Good as gold. Easy to read cues. Flexible and portable. Eats, sleeps, and plays easily and usually doesn’t cry when she wakes up. Soothes herself easily and easily puts herself to sleep. An angel baby is okay with new things and will have a positive mood in most all situations. Read Baby Whisperer Personality Types: Angel Baby for more details on the angel baby temperament type.
- Textbook baby: A textbook baby is predictable. Fairly easy to handle. Reaches milestones on schedule. Growth spurts on schedule. Can play alone for short periods from a young age. Smiles when smiled at. Has normal cranky periods, but easy to calm. Not hard to get him to sleep. Read more Baby Whisperer Personality Types: Textbook Baby
- Touchy baby: A touchy baby is ultrasensitive. Noises bother him. Cries for no reason at times. Fussy after too much stimulation. Loves to suck. Can have difficulty going to sleep. A change in schedule can really throw them off. Love structure and predictability. This baby wants regularity in life. Read more about sensitive babies in Baby Whisperer Personality Types: Touchy Baby
- Spirited Baby: A spirited baby is born knowing what she likes and doesn’t like and makes it well-known. Vocal and aggressive. Screams when she wakes. Doesn’t like dirty diapers and will want her diaper changed right away. Body language is jerky. Needs swaddling. If she starts to cry without interruption, it leads to more crying until she is in a rage. Grabs toys from other babies when she gets the chance and has the ability. Read more Baby Whisperer Personality Types: Spirited Baby
- Grumpy Baby: A grumpy baby can be a difficult temperament. Old soul. Seems to be mad at the world. Whimpers in the morning. Doesn’t smile a lot. Fusses to go to sleep at night. Hates baths. Hates to be changed. Hate to be swaddled and let you know it. A grumpy baby tends to have negative reactions to most things.
While Brayden turned into a textbook baby while applying Babywise, I often see moments of his touchiness. He has those tendencies, but with a solid schedule and routine that keeps things predictable, he is able to be more accepting of things like being naked for baths. He doesn’t love it, but he does it without a meltdown like he did as a newborn. He also learned to put himself to sleep easily and play on his own.
Different Types of Eaters
Here is what you can expect from your baby and eating based on his personality profile, as found in Secrets of the Baby Whisperer on page 99. This really applies to nursing/bottlefeeding and not as much with eating solid foods.
- Angel baby: Good feeder (true with Kaitlyn)
- Textbook baby: Good feeder (true with Brayden, but after Babywise)
- Touchy baby: Often get frustrated, especially if they are breastfed. They aren’t very flexible. They like extreme consistency. (this wasn’t necessarily true with Brayden. He was always a faster eater through a bottle than the breast, but he was flexible even before Babywise on where I fed him–but he definitely was not a “natural nurser”)
- Spirited baby: Good feeder
- Grumpy baby: Impatient. They don’t like to wait for the letdown. They will sometimes tug at the breast. Usually fine with a bottle if it has a free-flowing nipple.
Can Baby Personality Types Change
Hogg says temperament is an influence, not a life sentence. I agree with that.
There is a debate of nature vs. nurture in the psychological world. Is a child just “who they are”? Does their nature override their life experience and how they are raised?
Or does nurture play a part? Will a child’s natural disposition be changed, or at least tweaked, because of how they were raised?
Nature vs. Nurture.
I believe there is a bit of both from the perspective of how the world looks at it, but mostly nurture from the way I look at it. That is a whole post on its own. Just know that what you do does have an influence on the temperament of your child, for better or worse.
A good friend of mine and I often wonder what our kids would be like without Babywise. We wonder what their personalities would be like without the influence of Babywise in their lives.
I took the quiz for each of my children (found on page 25). I took it twice for Brayden; once for him pre–Babywise, and once for him post-Babywise. Brayden pre–Babywise was a Touchy baby. Brayden after I started Babywise with him was a Textbook baby. He was a dramatic difference also. Here were his numbers.
Baby Personality Pre–Babywise
- Angel baby: 1
- Textbook baby: 4
- Touchy Baby: 7
- Spirited Baby: 4
- Grumpy Baby: 3
Baby Personality Post Babywise
- Angel baby: 8
- Textbook baby: 12
- Touchy Baby: 0
- Spirited Baby: 0
- Grumpy Baby: 0
Kaitlyn was an Angel baby. Here are her numbers:
- Angel baby: 17
- Textbook baby: 3
- Touchy Baby: 0
- Spirited Baby: 0
- Grumpy Baby: 0
I think Kaitlyn would be an angel baby with or without Babywise.
All Babies Are Different
You can’t apply blanket statements to people, and the same is true for babies. You can’t treat two babies the same. They are individuals.
That is a trick, especially for second, third, etc. time parents. You try to apply the same tricks to the new baby you used in the past. It just most likely will not work that way.
You have to adjust your approach. Your two kids are no more the same person than you and your spouse are the same person.
Hogg suggests you treat your children with respect and common sense.
With empathy and understanding, you can make your child’s life and your life easier. You can “help him build on his strengths and compensate for his weaknesses” (page 37).
We all have weaknesses and strengths. We can all benefit from working on these items to become the best people we can be.
Even knowing common temperament traits, you will have to continue to get to know your baby on an individual level. If there were truly only 5 personality types, people and their behavior would be more predictable.
People all have different life experiences. Even something as simple as a touchy baby who is an oldest child versus a touchy baby who is a youngest child will produce two very different overall personalities.
Babies are not only products of their natural dispositions. They will have birth order and life experiences play a huge role.
My Babies’ Personality Types
Brayden started out really quite easy, then got harder until I finally started a baby routine (Babywise). Kaitlyn started out ridiculously easy, and stayed that way. I spent the first three months of her life paranoid that any day she would snap out of it and become a real terror. My husband told me to chill out and just enjoy it for what it was. I took that advice, and I am glad I did!
McKenna and Brinley were also easy babies. They were actually easier than Kaitlyn because Kaitlyn did have reflux and that brings some difficulty with it.
This is a stark reality many of us realize when we have a second child and see we have a lot to learn even though it is our second time around. Each baby has individual needs we need to figure out.
- melissa said…
What a great post, Val. I loved using Baby Whisperer to type my babies too. Both of mine were textbook. It’s funny, because before you even started posting on Baby Whisperer I would read your blog and think – Kaitlyn, now that is a total Angel baby. Its funny though, I’ll bet if you ask non-BW people they would tell you both of your kids are Angel babies. I know my family thought both mine were. I explained that all BW kids sleep well!
August 1, 2008 7:04 AM
Melissa,That is funny. I have always called Kaitlyn my little angel. My friend and I always wonder what our kids would be like without Babywise. I kind of think Kaitlyn would have been an angel either way. It makes me glad she didn’t come first because if so I likely wouldn’t have turned to BW.
August 3, 2008 4:17 PM
This post first appeared on this blog in July 2008.