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Rebecca Chicot PhD

Child development expert with a Phd from Cambridge University. She has worked on several best-selling books and BBC documentaries. She is the proud mother of three children.
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Stage 4 – 9 months

Your baby’s personality type

Psychologists have studied baby personality types in infants who are only a few months old and found big differences between the little 'extroverts' and the little 'introverts.' Some babies are temperamentally very timid and easily startled. These babies are more likely to be introverts. Other babies are very placid and unflappable and nothing seems to bother them. They're the extroverts. This particular difference in temperament is called behavioural inhibition and seems to be quite hard-wired and remains pretty stable during a person's life. Introverts are energised by time playing alone and their imaginations and extroverts are energised by time with others. One is not better than the other and our society is made up of amazing people who lie along the spectrum from very extroverted to very introverted.
Video Tutorial
In Short
Babies show signs of timidity or boldness very early on.

Timid and introverted children are energised by some time alone and their imagination.

Bold and extroverted children are energised by social situations and taking physical ‘risks’.

Parents should embrace and support their child’s temperament and personality and be sensitive to their baby’s needs.

In our video, identical twins Jasmin and Scarlet, who are a few weeks old, are already behaving quite differently.

Your guide to your baby’s personality

As a new parent, it’s fascinating to realise that even newborn babies display temperamental differences that go on to form their developing personality. It only really strikes parents when they have more babies, how different the first baby was from the second or third baby but developmental psychologists have known this for a long time.

Embrace your baby’s personality and enjoy her unique traits. You will become the expert in her temperament and you’ll bring out the best in her – understanding and accept that aspect of their little personality are really around from birth.

Parenting extroverted and introverted children
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If your baby or toddler seems boisterous and more accident prone than your friend’s babies it can be exhausting and worrying. Try to embrace their energy and give them lots of opportunities to run and climb and take safe ‘risks.’ When they’ve had plenty of social time and physical play, you can then encourage some quiet time to focus on fun crafting or sharing a book or chatting. If you are worried about your child being very timid it is best not to force them to do things that they find very stressful. Instead, lead by example and gently introduce them to experiences that they can cope with. With lots of practice and reassurance, more timid children can take on new experiences at their own pace. If you realise your baby is an extrovert from birth, get ready for the calming influence you might need to have later on!

Similarly, if you are worried about your child being very timid, it is best not to force them to do things that they find very stressful, lead by example and gently introduce them to fun experiences that they can cope with. With lots of practice and reassurance, more timid children can take on new experiences at their own pace. Each time they try something they are slightly afraid of and enjoy it they will be rewarded with the experience, sharing the moment with you and a release of dopamine. If you take it slowly you will be able to help your timid child enjoy taking safe physical risks, approaching safe animals and taking part in small social activities.

Physically the girls are really alike. They are only a few weeks old so at the minute I can tell them apart only by the marks that they’ve got on their faces, we call them stork marks. So this is Jasmine, she’s got quite heavy marks on her right eye and Scarlett, she’s got quite a strong mark there on her upper lip. It’s quite shameful actually that that’s the only way we can really tell them apart. I think they have quite different personalities, I think Scarlett’s a lot more laid back than Jasmine. I think Jasmine tends to be a little bit more of a whinger, who knows, time will tell whether that’s going to carry on.
Chereene, mum to identical twins Scarlett and Jasmine 9 weeks old

Labelling babies – don’t over do it just be guided by them

Whilst it can be tempting to label babies as either easy or difficult, it can be counter-productive especially if everyone around a baby begins to believe they are “difficult.”

Try to remember that babies have all had different births, some may have reflux or other medical problem that is making them sad, feeding may be going well or proving difficult to establish.

For example, if a baby has a tongue tie it might be hard for them to breastfeed which could make them frustrated and fractious. Fortunately this can be treated easily nowadays.

As a new parent, you may also have had a traumatic birth, you’re feeling exhausted with low mood in the early days with your new baby.

Try to be kind to yourself and your new baby. Don’t label yourself a ‘failure’ or decide that your baby is just ‘difficult’ or decide that they do not like you (babies are incapable of feeling dislike and blame towards other people).

If your baby does cry a lot and seems difficult to settle it is worth talking to your health visitor or doctor to rule out some of the common problems that can unsettle babies. Ask about signs and symptoms of silent reflux, colic or a feeding-related problem such as tongue tie

In the early days after Oscar was born he did a lot of crying and it was difficult not to feel helpless and to feel that he was going to be a difficult baby. Luckily, we spotted a pattern in his crying. He tended to go down to sleep okay but then wake up crying about 40 minutes later. We took him to a paediatrician and described the pattern of his crying he was able to examine him and saw signs that Oscar had really bad reflux. We were able to change his formula milk to a special formula designed for babies with reflux and the doctor also prescribed a baby antacid medicine. Our so-called difficult baby began to sleep really well and become really cheerful and so glad we were able to get to the roots of this problem and help him.
Diana, mum to Oscar
References and further reading

Kagan et al (1998) Galen’s prophecy: Temperament in human nature. Personality and Individual Differences 24(3) March

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DISCLAIMER
This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.