The Sea Your Child Sails On - Woodmam

People are wrong when they think that quiet babies are good and fussy babies are bad. The truth is that some gracious and softhearted babies fuss a lot because they can’t handle the turbulence of the world around them.

Renée, mother of Marie-Claire, Esmé, and Didier

Your baby is like a boat and her temperament the sea she sails on. If her boat is stable (a good self-calming ability), and the sea is smooth (she has a calm temperament), she will sail through infancy. However, if the boat is unstable (a poor self-calming ability), or the sea is rocky (she has a challenging temperament), she’s in danger of getting tossed about. Once children get older and their self-calming ability becomes stable, the turbulence of their passions is no longer such an overpowering experience. But for young babies, a very intense temperament may be more than they can handle.

Luckily, most babies are mild-tempered and easy to calm, like sweet little lambs. But challenging babies are more like a mix of skittish cat and bucking bronco. These excessively sensitive and/or intense babies engage in a daily struggle to keep their balance during their first months of life.

Easy-Tempered Babies—“Mary Had a Little Lamb …”

Mild and mellow from the first moments of life, rather than scream at birth, an easy baby might shyly fuss, as if to say, “Please Mummy, it’s a teensy bit too bright in here!”

Sabrina was one such undemanding baby:

Sabrina’s dark lashes framed eyes the color of the sky. She was extremely alert, watching the world with the peaceful gaze of an old Zen master. Sabrina slept beautifully and hardly ever cried. Even when she was hungry, she rarely made a noise louder than a whimper to get her parents’ attention.

Easy-tempered babies have terrific state control and are great self-calmers. They are easygoing little “surfer dudes” who have no trouble taking all the craziness of the world in stride.

However, babies who are very sensitive or intense—or, Heaven help you, both—and who have poor self-calming skills may not be able to keep from screaming as the world’s strange mixture of action and stillness toss them around like boats in a storm.


Infants with a Challenging Temperament—Little Babies with Big Personalities

Lizzy and her twin sister Jennifer were like two peas in a pod, both super-sensitive to noise and sudden movements. When unhappy, their faces flushed and cries flew out of their mouths with deafening force.

However, while Jenny was usually able to quiet her own crying, Lizzy’s screams pulled her like a team of wild horses. Once she got rolling, she had no ability to rein herself in!

Lizzy’s mother, Cheryl, tried to regain control of her frenzied daughter with pacifiers, wrapping, and constant holding, but nothing helped. “For the first three months, I walked around every day not knowing when the ‘train wreck’ would occur.”

Babies like Lizzy are tough. During the first few months of life, their personalities can be too big for them to handle. That’s why parents often dub these babies with funny names to remind themselves not to take life too seriously. For example, Amanda’s parents nicknamed her “Demanda,” Natalie Rose’s parents called her “Fussy Gassy Gussy,” and Lachlan’s parents referred to him as “General Fuss-ter.”

Two types of temperament can be particularly challenging for new parents: sensitive and intense.
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