Bub won’t sleep? An expert reveals a huge upside

Posted in Sleeping.

We’ve all heard it; “my baby is so determined”, “my baby is so alert”, “my baby doesn’t want to miss out on anything”, and many other reasons why a baby might be in the ‘tricky’ category when it comes to sleeping. But aren’t some of these qualities valuable? And might they be what we want our child to have?

Sure, when they’re not sleeping, it’s not much fun, but don’t we want to have a child who is determined, or a child who is interested in what is going on around them – a child who is social?

As children grow, their personality develops. However, temperament is something that babies are born with: it’s how they react to the world around them. It’s their own personal style.

For example, some babies seem to take change in stride while others become distressed at the slightest change in their routine. This can mean that some babies are trickier than others when it comes to caring for them. 

Understanding your baby’s temperament

Understanding your baby’s temperament can help explain why she reacts to certain things in a certain way. For example, why she doesn’t like to sleep without you in the room, or why she finds it difficult to wind down at bedtime, or why she wakes up early and wants to get the day started.

When studying temperament in babies, psychologists use these variables:

Activity level

  • Is your baby squirmy and active, or relaxed and laid back? (There’s some evidence that very active newborns are the ones that mothers complained about as kicking a lot before they were born!)
  • How predictable are your baby’s eating and sleeping cycles?


  • How does your baby respond to new situations and people? Does she brighten when she sees something new or does she recoil?
  • How well does your baby handle changes in her schedule or minor disruptions in activities? If she becomes upset, does she recover quickly?

Sensory threshold

  • How sensitive is your baby to bright lights, loud noises or scratchy clothes?
  • Does your baby appear to be basically happy or generally upset and angry?
  • How loud is your baby when she is excited or unhappy? Does she seem extroverted or subdued?
  • If your baby is hungry, for example, can you stop her from crying temporarily by talking to her quietly or giving her a pacifier?
  • Does your baby play with a simple toy for a long time, or does she prefer to move quickly from one toy to another?

Sleeping baby holding mother's hand - feature

Work with your child

It is good for parents to understand their child’s temperament as this means you can work with it rather than fight against it, which helps keep life at home a little calmer.

As a child grows, her personality develops, and the personality traits she has as an adult tend to form out of the temperament she had as an infant. Temperament doesn’t change as children grow. So, having a tendency to want to be social and not wanting to miss out on things as a baby can translate into an adult who is social, fits in easily to new situations or workplaces, and is approachable. Having a baby who is determined or persistent can lead to an adult who is focused and conscientious, with an ability to get things done. All great qualities!

The silver lining

So when you are lamenting in the middle of the night about your baby who just won’t go back to sleep, or, if you are frustrated with your toddler who you have to sit with for hours at bedtime, remember this: right now it feels like you will never sleep again, but your child’s temperament is fixed – and perhaps, just perhaps, they will use that gritty determination to push through the many barriers they may face when achieving their dreams as young adults.

Hopefully, that will give you some comfort in those wee hours of the morning. Hopefully!


Jo Ryan is a baby and toddler sleep expert who has been helping families with their tots’ sleep troubles for nearly 20 years. If you need some expert help with your child’s sleep, you can book a one-on-one video consultation with Jo via Parent School.


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