LEARN ABOUT MY
Formerly the Welcome Baby Newsletter
By now you're probably watching the outlines of a personality emerge in your baby. Even at this early age, some babies seem hardwired for giggles and action, for example, while others seem more reserved and watchful. Now we're looking at what child psychologists call "temperament" to help you better understand and work with your baby's particular ways of being and interacting with others and the world.
Temperament: Discovering How YOUR Baby Works
All you have to do is put two babies in a room together to see that babies can be very different. Temperament is a way of describing these differences in how children behave. Temperament has been studied since the 1950s, and we’ve learned that when parents understand their children’s temperament it makes the job of parenting easier.
So what is temperament? One way to think of it is as the “how” of behavior, not the “what” or the “why.” If you have a baby who fusses the minute her diaper is wet and your friend has a baby who won’t take a bottle when it isn’t just the right temperature, you both have babies who are sensitive, though they’re expressing it in different ways.
Temperament is made up of several different dimensions, depending on what research you read. The classic description of temperament includes the following dimensions:
Activity level – how much the baby moves her body.
Rhythmicity/regularity – the extent to which things like eating, sleeping, and pooping happen at the same time each day.
Approach/withdrawal - your baby’s reaction to something new, whether it be a person, a food, a toy, a situation, etc.
Adaptability – how easily your child adapts to a change in routine (like taking a bottle from someone new or having a bath at grandma’s)
Threshold of responsiveness – how much stimulation it takes to get a reaction from your baby, how sensitive he is (a baby who cries at a wet diaper has a low threshold, a baby who doesn’t startle at a sudden sound has a high threshold).
Intensity of reaction – is your baby a drama queen? Some babies react mildly, whether happy or upset, and some react with more intensity
Quality of mood – whether baby is generally happy or unhappy, a “smiley” baby or more reserved.
Distractibility – often called "soothability” in infancy, how easy is it to distract the child and get him to focus on something else (some babies will cry without stop when hungry and some can be shown a new toy while mom gets a glass of water and gets settled to breastfeed).
Attention span and persistence – how long your baby will stay interested in an object or activity, or when she starts to move, how much she works at milestones like rolling over, crawling, and the like.
Intensity, mood, rhythmicity and activity level show the most stability over time as babies grow into children and then adults. Temperament seems to be the basis for later personality, with experience playing a role in personality development while temperament seems to have a more purely biological basis.
Perhaps temperament developed in order to help babies get the care they need, partly through being more predictable to parents. By spending some time figuring out your baby’s temperament, you are making your job as a parent easier. Is yours a baby who will quickly reach threshold at a loud party and then become upset? Get a sitter rather than make yourself and the baby miserable. Is yours a baby who tends to withdraw from new people? Don’t hand him around at the next family reunion but hold him close and let him take the time he needs to warm up to new people.
Knowing your baby’s temperament helps you understand your baby’s reactions and not take it personally or blame yourself. A low-threshold child may be sensitive to taste, temperature, and texture and therefore may become a picky eater but this won’t be because of anything you did. An active baby will not be able to sit still in a restaurant for several years, but not because of the parenting she’s received.
Started by two psychologists in Oakland, this nonprofit organization is dedicated to using temperament to help parents understand and more effectively to manage issues and behaviors that may seem troublesome but are normal for their child's temperament. A one- year family membership ($10.00) includes temperament quizzes and
individualized parenting strategies for up to 4 children:
Fill in a temperament questionnaire and immediately see a profile of your baby or child’s inborn traits.
Then see specific behavior issues that are normal for your child.
Finally, learn how to manage those behaviors in ways that are tailored to your baby or child’s temperament.
Now we're sharing developmental milestones for your 4-month old as well as some ideas for playing with a baby who is starting to grab and roll and even "talk" to you!
Month 4 Milestones
At 4 months old your baby:
will probably be able to hold a toy, reach for it, and may grab it.
will "talk" and smile to get your attention.
will hold her head steady when you pull her from lying to sitting
may roll from front to back or back to front
may turn when his name is called.
Remember, though individual babies grow and master skills at their own pace, developmental milestones are things most children can do by a certain age. How your baby plays, learns, vocalizes and acts offers important clues to his development. Tell your child's doctor or nurse if you notice any of these signs of possible developmental delay for this age, including:
Doesn’t watch things as they move
Doesn’t smile at people
Can’t hold head steady
Doesn’t coo or make sounds
Doesn’t bring things to mouth
Doesn’t push down with legs when feet are placed on a hard surface
Has trouble moving one or both eyes in all directions
Playing With Your 4- and 5-Month Old
First thing in the morning is often the very best play time. Your baby is alert and not over-stimulated from a long day. As babies begin to laugh, babble, and grab objects, playing with them becomes more fun than when they were teeny.
You can use pillows or a commercial product to help your baby sit once she’s got head and upper back control. This will give her practice and motivation to achieve it on her own.
Many babies become very interested in books during this phase, particularly ones with photos of babies or animals. Look for books with textures – these are often a big hit as well.
Babies don’t need expensive toys to keep them busy, just a variety of safe objects that will react differently when batted, grabbed, pounded, pushed, mouthed, etc. Your little scientist is drinking in the world, learning all about how things work and what their own impact is. The more experiences you can give her with different things to see, touch, and hear, the more your baby can learn.
For instance, offer your baby a ball of yarn, a potato, your keys, a medicine bottle with some rice in in, and a partly-inflated beach ball. These things will all act differently when your baby explores them.
Put on some music and dance together or put him in the bath with objects that float and sink. Bounce her on your knee in time to a song you sing. Go for a walk with your baby facing out in a sling or carrier and talk about what you see.
Your baby is especially interested in having “conversations” with you now – where he makes a sound, you response, he makes another sound, you respond again, and so on. Try imitating the sounds he makes – this is sure to delight both of you.
Babies this age begin to be interested in exploring other people’s faces – especially the faces of their parents. This is a perfect opportunity to begin to teach your baby about being gentle, by telling her the word and showing her how. This is all part of the learning that comes from play.
At this point, a good night's sleep may still be just a dream for many new parents as they find that their 4-month-old has plenty of energy for play! This week our feature article offers recommendations for age-appropriate toys and games. But we know life with a baby is much more than fun and games; we also feature a wonderful community resource for families who might be experiencing difficult times.
Community Resource: K.A.R.E. Crisis Nursery
KARE provides safe and nurturing care for the small children of families experiencing a difficult situation. When parents are stressed and overwhelmed, KARE is a refuge for their young children.
It’s easy to get more information or help. Just pick up the phone and call the 24-hour hotline: (530) 575-1567
Playthings for Babies: How Much Is Enough?
With so many baby toys now on the market, it’s hard to know what’s best. How much is enough? And what about homemade toys?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following for a 4- to 7-month-old baby:
Unbreakable mirror attached to inside of crib or playpen
Soft balls and textured toys, including some that make pleasing sounds (avoid loud noises that could damage baby’s hearing)
Toys with 2 finger holds
See-through rattles that show the pieces making noise
Musical toys, such as bells or maracas (make sure none of the parts can come loose)
Old magazines with bright pictures you can show her and baby books with board, cloth or vinyl pages.
When choosing toys, be sure they are sturdy and larger than your baby’s fist. Anything smaller could cause choking. Make sure there are no strings, ribbons or cords longer than 6 inches, which could cause strangulation. Toys that can be washed are best, particularly since your baby will be mouthing them!
There are also a number of simple playthings you can make. Try the Discovery Box, a fun and easy suggestion from Learning Games for the First Three Years:
Take a sturdy cardboard box and cut a small hole in the top and a larger hole in the side. With your baby sitting on the floor in front of the box, show him how to drop a small object – a rattle or a small stuffed toy – into the small hole.
Ask him, “Where’s the toy? Can you find it?” If he tries to reach through the small hole, turn the box on its side so he can see the toy and take it out.
You can continue the game with other small toys. Your baby may begin turning the box herself or, once she’s able, she may crawl around to find the larger opening.
Don’t be surprised if your baby wants to play this until you’re exhausted!
Reprinted with permission from Welcome Words, a publication of the Welcome Baby Program of the Durham County, NC, Cooperative Extension.
The first few months with a newborn can be a rollercoaster ride of joy and challenges. Caring for a new baby is hard work! Even if this isn't your first baby, having a new infant in the house while raising other children presents all sorts of new challenges. We are now going to take another look at the post-baby blues, including a quiz and resources for dealing with the postpartum depression.
Is This More Than Post-Baby Blues?
If you are feeling sad and blue, you are not alone. About 20% of all moms experience after-baby blues, or postpartum depression. It is the most common complication of childbirth.
Symptoms can start anytime during pregnancy or the first year postpartum. They differ for everyone but might include the following:
Feelings of anger or irritability
Lack of interest in the baby
Appetite or sleep disturbances
Crying and sadness
Feelings of guilt, shame or hopelessness
Loss interest, joy or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
Possible thoughts of harming the baby or yourself
If you feel you may be suffering from one or more of these symptoms, know that it is not your fault and you are not to blame.
Postpartum depression is temporary and treatable with professional help. You can get joy and happiness back into your life.
Start by taking this short quiz: Is It More Than Post-Baby Blues?
Keep track of the number next to each answer you select and at the end, add up your score. If your final score is more than 10, you would benefit from postpartum depression counseling or a support group.
Remember, a significant percentage of new moms experience postpartum depression. If you're one of them, it's important to get help so that you can move forward, feel like yourself again and enjoy your new baby!
Postpartum Depression Resources
For Assessment and Referrals
Charlene Weiss-Wenzl, Nevada County Public Health: (530) 265-7265
Nevada County Behavioral Health: (530) 265-1437
Local Counseling Services
Anew Day PPD support group (free): (530) 470-9111
Insights Counseling Group (Auburn): (530) 887-1300
Online Support Resources
Nevada County Behavioral Health Crisis Line: (530) 265-5811 / Toll free - (888) 801-1437
1800PPDMOMS (24/7, multilingual): (800) 733-6667