Every baby has a unique personality; while one baby is quiet and reserved, another could be boisterous and the life of the party at daycare.
Over your baby’s first few years, he or she will develop a unique personality type - just one of the many baby milestones you have to look forward to!
Learn how a baby develops their personality, and get actionable tips for encouraging a healthy and happy temperament in your child.
Jump to a specific section to learn more about what makes your little one so unique:
Personality vs Temperament
Before we get into examining baby personality traits, it’s important to discern between personality and temperament.
- Personality: A child's personality is determined by several different components, including environment, character, and you guessed it—temperament.
- Temperament: Temperament refers to the genetic, inborn traits that control how your baby approaches the world. These traits can affect how your little one learns about his or her environment, and how they react to it.
Temperament Traits Your Baby May Exhibit
Researchers believe that every child begins life with a hereditary set of temperament traits - 9 of them! Researchers say these traits can contribute to your baby’s personality being easy or challenging.
Let’s take a look at these traits in a little more detail:
Calling all wiggle worms! This temperament trait measures your little one’s extent of motor activity.
If child has a low activity level, he or she might be easily overwhelmed by excessive physical play.
If you’ve got a highly active baby on your hands, he or she has a high threshold for stimulation - expect your little one to start walking sooner than you might have anticipated.
Does your baby love a set schedule? Or do you fight tooth and nail to get him to stick to the routine?
This temperament trait looks at your little one’s rhythmicity. In other words, does your baby follow a regular eating, eliminating and sleeping cycle?
If your son or daughter struggles to go down for a nap (despite exhausting your list of lullabies for babies), try not to be too rigid with his or her schedule.
On the other hand, if your baby thrives on structure and gets cranky if she doesn’t eat at the same time every day, plan your daily activities around her schedule.
- Initial Reaction
Initial reaction measures your baby’s response to being introduced to a new person or object.
Does your baby reach out with a smile for every new family member or friend who comes to visit? Encourage her sociability by giving her plenty of opportunities to meet new people.
If you’ve got a shy little guy on your hands, don’t force too much, too soon. Watch for his signals and let him ease into situations.
Never fear - even if your baby is reserved, he’ll warm up to new people with time.
How easygoing is your baby when it comes to change? This trait measures your baby’s ability to adapt their behavior based on changes in their environment.
Easy-going babies can go with the flow and take on changes with little concern. It’s easy to travel with these little ones, as they can sleep just as comfortably in their travel crib in your hotel room as they would in their own bed at home.
Little ones who aren’t as open to change can shy away from new situations and may struggle with abrupt changes in environment. As you introduce new things, go slowly, and help your baby with travel anxiety by bringing along comforts of home - teddy, blanket, or nightlight are all a good start.
How well does your baby respond to stimuli? The sensitivity trait determines how sensitive they are to the environment around them.
If new noises or too many people give your little one fright, you’ve got a sensitive baby on your hands. Keep lights and volume low, and don’t overwhelm your baby with too many visitors at once.
When your baby is unhappy, does he yell and scream loud enough to shatter glass? Or does she cry more quietly?
This trait measures how intense your little one’s reactions are. If your baby is more intense, temper tantrums may take on a new meaning.
A less intense baby may not be as forthcoming with their feelings, so you may need to watch for smaller signals that she’s upset.
Mood looks at your child’s disposition - would you call your baby cheerful? Or does she have a grump face that you’ve photographed 100 times?
Happy babies start and end their days with a smile, but don’t fret if your baby is slower to giggle and coo. Let your little one be who they are, and be sure to flood them with affection to ensure they know they’re loved.
This trait measures the degree of your child’s distractibility from what he or she is doing or feeling.
If your baby is hard to distract, you’ll find it more challenging to calm him when he’s fussy.
Maybe your baby can be distracted with ease - a game of peek-a-boo, and suddenly all is right in the world.
- Attention span and persistence
This trait measures your child’s attention span, and how long he can persist in one activity.
If your child can play with one toy for hours on end without distraction, you’ve likely got a focused little guy on your hands.
What are the three basic types of infant temperament?
As you examine your baby’s personality, consider how they fit into the three categories of baby temperament.
- Easy or Flexible Temperament
According to research, about about 40% of children fall into this temperament. Typically, the easy child is good with a set schedule, can adapt to change with ease, and generally happy in mood.
A baby with an easy temperament is typically easy for caregivers. When displeased, an easy baby personality may express their dissatisfaction quietly, often through quiet tears.
- Difficult or Feisty Temperament
About 10% of children are categorized as having a difficult or feisty temperament. This child may have difficulty sleeping through the night, may not follow a set schedule very well, and may adapt slowly to any new people or places.
A baby with a feisty temperament may express their dissatisfaction verbally, and could have temper tantrums more often.
- The Slow-to-Warm-Up or Fearful Temperament
About 15% of children fall into the third temperament: slow-to-warm-up or fearful. Most often, you’ll hear these little ones referred to as shy. If your baby’s personality falls into this category, you may find he or she is slow to adapt to new situations.
They may hold onto Mommy or Daddy’s hand when taken to daycare for the first time, and if they’re pushed too quickly into “scary” situations, their shyness can worsen.
If your baby doesn’t fit perfectly into one of the above categories, that means that they are like roughly 35% of children, who have a combination of multiple temperaments.
Nature Vs Nurture
It’s an age-old debate, but when it comes to your baby’s personality, it seems that both nature and nurture play a role.
On one hand, your little one may be naturally hardwired to exhibit particular personality traits. For example, some babies can handle change better than others, some are quicker to smile, and some are quicker to try tackling new challenges - crawling, walking, and talking for starters.
However, there are also traits that are fostered by the way you care for and interact with your child. Your consistent love and support can be a deciding factor in your baby’s personality development.
For example, if your child is shy around strangers, forcing them into “scary situations” at a young age could reinforce their hesitation. In contrast, allowing them to warm up to new faces could help them become more at ease.
Bottom line: A balance of nature and nurture help craft your baby’s personality.
Your baby’s personality is all their own - while sometimes he may be shy, he could be the life of the baby party at other times.
Understanding your baby’s temperament traits and how they affect your baby’s personality will help you recognize the child your baby will grow to become, and help you alter your parenting style to his or her needs.