Bonding & Beyond
On the whole, infant temperament is about babies' individual 'makeup' and how they react to situations and surroundings. Some babies are described as easy going, meaning that they are seen to be placid: they show little reaction to things that may disturb them, are calmed easily and can self-soothe. Babies who are described as sensitive are seen to be cautious and need to be 'eased' into new surroundings/situations with reassurance. Other babies who are more intense are described as fussy. Like sensitive babies, fussy babies also need to be 'gently eased' into new situations/surroundings but are more likely to be difficult to soothe when crying, and may have difficulty in sleeping and feeding. As you get to know your baby, your sensitivity to ease her reactions to situations will help her to adapt and develop a feeling of security.
How can infant temperament affect parents' interactions and the developing bond with baby?
The section Together as One: The Parent-Baby Partnership Develops shows how a 'happy' parent-baby partnership forms. HOWEVER, if a normally developing baby is fussy it adds extra demands on the parents in assisting the baby to adapt to his 'new world'. If Baby is difficult to soothe, and as a consequence may be crying excessively (see Baby's Crying → Parents' Frustration and Distress), parents may begin to lose confidence because they are feeling as though they cannot fulfil their baby's needs. Parents become stressed, their interactions with Baby become tense, Baby feels the tension and so the 'unhappy' cycle continues. A 'stressed' parent-baby relationship may form.
Importantly, learning about your baby and how he reacts to his 'new world' comes from spending time with him ... slowly and sensitively. From understanding your baby's needs you reassure him by adjusting your interactions accordingly, and giving Baby time to also adjust. For example, the first time you bath Baby he may show signs of distress and therefore needs to be gradually introduced to this routine (discussed in Caregiving Routines → Bath-time). Ease Baby's fears through your sensitive interactions, and with consistency Baby will learn that bath-time can be soothing ... and fun!
Note: Research shows that developing a predictable daily routine assists all babies in becoming secure but is even more important to babies who are sensitive or difficult to soothe.