What to look for: Does your baby make her feelings known -- loudly -- with earthshaking cries? Or is she more liable to whimper if something is bothering her?
How to deal: While you're going to want to soothe your little drama queen's every cry, don't feel guilty when you can't. This is how intense babies show their feelings. If you can't stand it anymore, put her in the crib and take a time-out yourself. And take heart: One day that same intensity may make her an excellent student because she'll put all her energy into that, too.
Life may seem easier with a less intense baby, but you have to work harder to understand what she's thinking. Pay attention (watch for scowls or signs of boredom, like looking away) and talk your baby through her feelings -- "Oh, you don't like that noise!" -- so she knows you're there and involved.
What to look for: Does your baby wake up with a smile and keep it almost all day long? Or does he tend to start his day with a scowl, whimper, or whine?
How to deal: What's not to like with a happy baby? You can bond with him just by having fun: singing songs, blowing raspberries at each other, and playing silly games.
Don't beat yourself up if your baby frowns more than he grins -- it doesn't mean he doesn't love you. Do your best to make sure he isn't uncomfortable or ill, and make sure to provide him with plenty of smiles and affection to help him view the world more optimistically. As he gets bigger and learns to express himself better, his crying jags should diminish. The secret to keeping these children happy is to let them be just who they are.
What to look for: Can you soothe your baby quickly by changing the scenery or giving her a new toy? Or is it harder to calm her down if she's not getting exactly what she wants, when she wants it?
How to deal: It's a cinch to keep an easily distracted baby out of trouble or avert temper tantrums. Simply steer her away from the light socket and she'll forget about it. But keep in mind that things may also distract her in a negative way -- for example, a noisy room may disrupt her feedings -- so when possible, keep such stimulation to a minimum.
If she's more focused, she may not notice, say, lawn mowers when she's settling down for a nap, but be prepared to act fast -- with toys or extra pacifiers -- when distress strikes.
What to look for: Is your baby the type who doesn't give up easily, whether he's trying to reach a toy or resist a diaper change? Or does he cry when he can't master a toy and tend to flit from activity to activity?
How to deal: Let your tenacious baby take a rattle to the changing table, or change his diaper wherever he's playing. Keep him engaged by increasing the complexity of his toys -- by introducing the shape sorter when the stacking ring is no longer a challenge, for instance.
If your baby isn't as persistent, do the opposite: Don't rush into toys geared to older babies. If you need to get stuff done, have lots of activities on hand to occupy him.
What to look for: Does your baby fuss at the slightest provocation: too much noise, too many people, a soggy diaper, or cold crib sheets? Or is she seldom set off by changes in her environment or routine?
How to deal: Keep the environment soothing whenever possible for your sensitive baby: low lights, soft music, and not too much company at once. Talk to her in a low voice, and avoid too much activity before bedtime or she may have extra trouble settling herself.
If your baby is more thick-skinned, check her regularly to make sure her diaper's clean and she's comfortable. These babies may not even react much to pain, so they may become subdued or lethargic when sick rather than cranky or irritable.
Regardless of your baby's early inclinations, try not to get too caught up with labels in the first few months. Almost all temperamental traits can be positives when you learn to work with your child's particular constellation. That's what's known as goodness of fit: the ability to accept your child and help him adapt. In the end, it's your perceptions and reactions to his traits and behavior that will go a long way toward shaping your baby into a happy, well-adjusted child -- which in turn will bring you more satisfaction. The part of the mother-child bond that makes you want to feed and protect him is in place even before birth, but the real strong love evolves as you get to know and read each other and become secure in your abilities.
From The Babytalk Insider's Guide to Your Baby's First Year: Expert Advice That Tells It Like It Is -- Plus the Secrets That Nobody Else Reveals. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing, New York, NY. All rights reserved.