Thursday, July 31, 2008

Baby Whisperer: Know Your Baby

Kaitlyn is angelic to the core
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 phyically draining process of being born), their true personalities start to show. Brayden started out really quite easy, then got harder until I finally started 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 advise, and I am glad I did!

All babies have their own personalities. I have written a post on the importance of knowing who your child is as an individual (see Get To Know Your Child's Personality: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/02/get-to-know-your-childs-personality.html). In Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, Tracy Hogg says babies differ in the way they sleep, eat, respond to stimulation, and need to be soothed. She also says this personality emerges between days 3-5 and give you a good idea of who your baby is and will be.

I have found this to be true. With Brayden, 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, 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. 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 hates it. I tell Kaitlyn it is nap time, and she quickly goes to her bed. She is excited. I tell Brayden it is naptime and half the time he tries to talk me out of a nap. I explain to him this is how life has always been for him; he takes a nap every day. The days he doesn't try to negotiate, he is visibly disappointed that naptime has 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 baby food and ate a TON of it. We never had trouble with him eating what he needed to. Kaitlyn hated baby food, tolerated it at best. She would take one bite and insist she was done. Both have turned out to be good eaters of normal food, though.
  • Stimulation: Brayden has always hated to be naked. He still does. He 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 gets upset because I insist he takes a bath. Kaitlyn doesn't mind being naked. She has always loved baths. At her current age, she gets upset because I don't let her take 5 baths a day and limit it to 1. I just can't win :) Brayden was never afraid of the sound of power tools or the vacuum; Kaitlyn still cries at the sound of the vacuum. Brayden hated the sound of lots of people inside talking loudly. Kaitlyn loves 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. Now at age 3, sometimes he does want to crawl in my lap and be soothed, but he often only requires you to address the problem quickly and he is on his way. If he is really upset, he will go sit himself somewhere alone "so he can calm down" in his words. Kaitlyn has always been instantly soothed by being held. She loved to be swaddled as a newborn. Physical contact is her thing. A hug and a kiss fixes all.
So they are different. 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.
Hogg has created a personality profile test for babies. This is one of the most interesting and beneficial things in this book. She says babies fall into one of five tempermental types: Angel, Textbook, Touchy, Spirited, and Grumpy.
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. Hogg says temperment is an influence, not a life sentence. I agree with that. There is a debate of nature vs. nurture in the phsycological world. 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 temperment of your child, for better or worse.
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.
Pre-Babywise
  • Angel baby: 1
  • Textbook baby: 4
  • Touchy Baby: 7
  • Spirited Baby: 4
  • Grumpy Baby: 3
Post Babywise
  • Angel baby: 8
  • Textbook baby: 12
  • Touchy Baby: 0
  • Spirited Baby: 0
  • Grumpy Baby: 0
Dramatic difference.
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. Now for a summary of each temperament:
  • Angel baby: 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.
  • Textbook baby: 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.
  • Touch baby: 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.
  • Spirited Baby: 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. 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.
  • Grumpy Baby: 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.
While Brayden turned into a textbook baby while applying Babywise, I often see moments of his touchiness. He has those tendencies, but with Babywise principles 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.

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.

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Reader Comments:
  • 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
    Plowmanators said...
    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

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