Overhwhelmed with High Needs 2-year-old (LONG) - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 03-16-2011, 06:56 PM - Thread Starter
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Where do I start?  My daughter has ALWAYS, always, always - since she was 1 day old, been super fussy/screamy/clingy, etc.  As she's gotten older, the time that I am able to be physically separated from her long enough to use the bathroom, shower, clean, etc has increased, but sometimes it still feels like I have a newborn.  We are having some major problems right now:


1) Nipple twiddling: she still breastfeeds frequently (10+ times per day/night), and as of right now I want to let her wean when *she* is ready.  However, she constantly has to twiddle/poke/prod/twist/scratch my "other" nipple, even in her sleep.  It drives me effing INSANE, like, makes me absolutely CRINGE.  If I try to tell her "don't touch", or move her hand, she has a meltdown until I give in and let her twiddle it again.  It's making BFing miserable for me, and that is sad b/c otherwise I love it.  She also likes to constantly switch from one boob to the other (like every 10 seconds), and it's like...geez... just stick with one boob for awhile, kthanks!



2) Naps: she will nurse to sleep for naps, but the 95% of the time, the INSTANT I set her down, she wakes up screaming.  Even when she DOES stay asleep, she sleeps for only 45-60 minutes, and then wakes up screaming for me again to nurse.  Either way, I'm stuck in a chair for 2-3 hours per day, holding my bladder, unable to do chores, unable to eat or drink anything... basically debilitated.  I understood this when she was a tiny infant... but a TWO year old?  Sigh.  I occasionally watch the neighbor boy who is the same age, and when he is tired, I just put him in bed, give him a blanket, and he goes to sleep and STAYS asleep for 3 hours at a time.


3) Daytime: she is bored very easily (has TONS of toys - 98% natural, wooden, playsilks, creative stuff, etc - only one "noisy" toy which is a "laptop", and I rotate them in and out so it's not overwhelming), but it seems that the instant I get onto the computer to answer emails (I'm self-employed), do research for clients, update my website, etc, she HAS to have the Boobie right.then.  Or if I decide to do chores, she wants me to pick her up and/or nurse her - and starts screaming and crying if I don't.  I try to involve her in chores as much as is age appropriate, but usually she makes a BIGGER mess while I'm trying to clean it (i.e. she will shove a dirt pile that I just swept all over the floor again with her little broom).  I have a lot of anxiety when it comes to cleanliness, and ever since I've been a mom, my house has been a disaster area.  I can't even catch up enough to get it to the point where I only have a few things to do each day, and I don't have anyone to help (no friends or relatives live nearby).


4) In the Car/Outside: she is guaranteed to scream/cry/fuss every.single.time we are in the car, but even MORE so when no one is in the back with her & it's just myself and her going somewhere.  So I have to go to the grocery store and run errands by myself when Daddy is home.  We can't walk anywhere in this town because it's not walking-friendly.  Too much traffic and no sidewalks.  I do walk her around the neighborhood sometimes, but she tries to let go of my hand and run off.  We don't have a fenced in yard, and she likes to run away from our yard too. 


5) Nighttime: she stays up really late... like 12, 1, 2, 3am....  the time change has made it even later.  Daddy works late, and we are night owls, but I would prefer if she didn't stay up past 10pm.  When I finally think she is ready for bed, I nurse her to sleep  We have our Queen bed side-carred to her crib.  Some nights I go ahead and fall asleep with her, but usually I prefer to get up after she is asleep so that I can have 1 to 2 hours of "grownup" time - time to myself, and time with my husband when she isn't awake constantly needing our attention.  Most of the time I end up falling asleep with her because she keeps waking up every time I unlatch her or roll out of bed out.  Some nights she nurses every.freaking.hour.  It's absolutely exhausting.


If you've read this far, thank you!  I will go ahead and say that I have read a ton of books and blogs trying to find out solutions to these things.  I have read almost all of the Dr. Sears books, I've read The No Cry Sleep Solution, and I recently bought Your Spirited Child (but it seemed like it applied more to older children?).  I do think that we have had a lot of stress in our lives, and that I need to develop a daily "rhythm" or routine with her.  It might help some, but how much?  I need ideas of an order in which to do things with her every day so that she knows what to expect, and that I have some idea of if/when I can get any of *my* needs met or do household and business things that need to be done.dizzy.gif



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#2 of 11 Old 03-17-2011, 06:38 AM
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I was at the same point a couple months ago. One thing I found helpful around this age was recognizing that setting some limits (which may involve some crying) is not the same as CIO. Because DS spent most of his life crying, I was terrified to let him EVER cry if there was a way to avoid it. This meant I pretty much gave into every single request or demand. Now, my attitude has changed some. I still say 'yes' to almost everything, but it's a yes with limits. He can nurse 10x a day, but he can't switch back and forth, and he can't twiddle. He can't nurse to sleep (I found he sleeps way better this way!) and if he really wants to nurse and I just don't want to, he can nurse for 3 seconds. I'm just using nursing as an example but it's the same approach I use in other areas. He can help me clean, as long as he doesn't make a bigger mess. He can walk, as long as he stays with me. This is not a cry-free approach, but there is actually less crying now, with the limits, than there was when I just did whatever it took to get him to stop crying. And obviously there's a big difference between the needy/anxious/scared cries and the sad/angry/annoyed cries, so tuning into that and treating each cry more appropriately helped. I will of course comfort him if he's sad that I won't let him do something, but that doesn't mean I'll let him do it -- I find other ways to calm/distract him -- whereas before, I'd just give in. I found he kind of NEEDED to know what the limits were, he was constantly 'testing' to figure it out but I wasn't giving limits so he just kept 'testing' more and therefore crying/screaming more (and driving me nuts more!)

I can't help much with the nap thing because I have never been able to get DS to sleep anywhere but in my lap nursing... although I do recognize that I play some role in this and I might possibly be able to get him to sleep alone if we were willing to sacrifice for a week or two while he adjusted... It's just not worth it to me right now, because I'd rather have him take a 1-hour nap in my lap than a 5-minute nap on his own (plus I WAH so I need that time to work and I'm going to be sitting there anyway and don't have the energy to make it happen anyway). If it's worth it to you, though, try getting her to fall asleep nursing beside you and then roll away, rather than putting her down? Or for my DS, I know what would need to happen would be NOT nursing to sleep (so sing/rock/whatever) which would probably take us an hour+, and then he'd likely sleep longer without me there... Not positive since I haven't tried it and don't have the patience to attempt it!

Co-sleeping is really wonderful when your child actually SLEEPS!! familybed1.gif
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#3 of 11 Old 03-17-2011, 03:52 PM
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PP makes some really good points.  I especially like the mention of taking a week or two to adjust.


Disclaimer:  Below mostly just brainstorming.  Your daughter sounds a lot like mine.


Does she get enough sleep?  How many total hours is she sleeping?  I don't mean this to irritate you because I also have a child who is difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep.  Is she sugar free?


Just say no to the twiddling.  Expect the meltdowns.  She will eventually learn.  I had to stop DD from doing this also.  I would wait at least 20 minutes before letting her nurse again.


Get a DVD player for the car.  I know it's not ideal, but for me it's been a life saver.  It's the only time DD watches TV, but it makes car trips bearable and non dangerous.  Sometimes you have to give up some things.

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#4 of 11 Old 03-17-2011, 05:14 PM
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I just want to say that your DD sounds like my almost 2 y/o DD about 90% of everything you posted.  One difference is that I've slowly weaned my DD off my lap for naps and can nurse her to sleep on the bed now and sneak away.  The nap still isn't very long in that case, like you said, about 60 minutes vs 2 hours in my lap nursing.  So I try to alternate napping between lap and bed each day.


Anyway, my point is that I don't think your DD is abnormal.  I never thought of my DD as high needs but now am beginning to do so recently.  It's hard.  Really hard.  I am there too.  I had thought about having another baby next year, now I laugh at the idea. 

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#5 of 11 Old 03-18-2011, 09:00 AM
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Oh mama I'm in almost the exact same boat (though I can finally put DS down for a nap so I really feel for you).  The nipple twiddling makes me want to scream.


I'm planning on weening this summer when I have some time off and I will stop any twiddling at the same time.  I figure there will definitely be some crying and melting down but it is time for my sanity to matter a little.


DS is definitely high needs like yours and I just keep hoping that he will grow out of it into a kind, sweet person that doesn't freak out at every little thing.


A few things have helped us and I know you say you've tried/read lots but thought I would throw these things out there just in case.

1. We are no dairy.  He is intolerant and it makes a BIG difference in his moods.  Maybe you have some minor intolerances that are playing a role?  At this point we have no other symptoms beyond behavioral.


2. DS is also somewhat sensory seeking.  He has some minor sensory issues and it helps if I am attentive to those.  He hates shoes, loves being swung around and under piled pillows.  Doing "heavy work" (lots of lifting heavy things, pushing heavy boxes, etc) also helps him calm himself and center himself.


3. Other sleep issues?  It sounds like your little one has a really hard time sleeping.  I would maybe ask for a full vit/mineral panel from your Dr?  DS had more trouble sleeping when his calcium gets low and I know other health issues can dramatically impact sleeping.


Hope that helps.  If nothing else I totally commiserate and will hope things get a little more calm for all of us!

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#6 of 11 Old 03-18-2011, 05:28 PM
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Wow, she sounds so much like my daughter who is 2.5!  Our biggest struggle right now is in the sleep department.  I too am nursing all night long, in a shared bed with the crib on the side. although she just goes down in crib and comes into bed with us, which makes for a really uncomfortable night sleep, plus she is waking almost every hour too!  When I tell her that my boobs hurt (we call it boobie too) that she needs to wait a bit, she totally freaks out, screams, kicks, flings her arms that its not even worth it, i just suck it up and endure the pain until she is finished.  I just don't know how to move forward.  In the past when I've brought up the subject of weaning, she gets soooo upset, hysterically cries about, and has since started to act more and more like a 'baby' since I keep saying it's only for babies.  So, my new approach is to talk to her more about it.  To communicate my feelings about why I think we need to wean etc.  Maybe during the awake hours you can talk to her about why you don't like it when she grabs the nipples?  see if that works, maybe?  There are two books that come to mind that have really helped me deal with my girls behavior and to understand it.  The Spirited Child and Sleepless in America.  They are both by the same author and are excellent.  Maybe your girl is spirited too.


 We have the same issues with the car. She has always always hated riding in the car, since day 1. It has just started to get better in recent weeks.  20 min drives are totally fine and if we do an hour or hour and a half and I am talking to her or singing the whole time, she seems to be able to handle it.  we have started to let her watch stuff in the car which has been a life saver.  she spent 3 hours of a 4 hour drive screaming her head off and since then we don't go anywhere far without some movies to watch.  i never wanted to be that person, but there is no way to have sanity in the car without the DVDs.


Mine seems to get bored really easily too. I noticed that she hasn't really played with anything since Christmas so just this week I packed away a bunch of toys and got rid of some others and she has actually played a bit more.


my girl does not let me go on the internet or talk on the phone without destroying the house while i do either.  it's really exhausting parenting a needy child.  my girl is assertive, strong willed, persistent, and feels emotions intensely. i love all these qualities about her, i am focusing my energy on learning how to nurture them and how to handle the intensity, because they are really great qualities to have as an adult!  The Spirited Child book is really helping with it and is helping me learn how to communicate with her too. Hope this helped and I didn't just ramble.




i dealt with the same issues at nap time and it just made me crazy that I decided to give them up altogether about 6 months ago.  I was so tired of fighting with her and driving her to nap and its been much better, except of course I don't ever get a break, but it is so much better than it was and because she isn't napping she goes down really easily at 645.  if she napped it was often 9 or 10, and it wasn't a fun process.

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#7 of 11 Old 03-19-2011, 07:54 AM
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It sounds like you have a normal, healthy 2 year old who needs to sleep more and have more limits! I really agree with what the first response said. That's what works for my kids, anyway. It just reads like you're afraid of her having a tantrum so you're giving into all kinds of 2 year old things that are not practical for the real world! You're the mom and you know best. Have your list of non negotiable and stick to them. Expect tantrums and drama. That's your 2 year old doing her job. Your job is to enforce the limits.

A simple one if no twiddling/switching. If she does it, stop nursing. If she has a tantrum say "you can't nurse when you switch/twiddle. Let's color" (or whatever). If she wants to nurse that badly she'll stop the twiddling. A tantrum is a part being 2, right?

I'd get the bedtime back to a normal time. I like mine in bed by 7 (they are 4 and 2). Our day starts at 7am. I go to bed say 10 so that gives me 3 hours to rest/wind down. If your day starts later then your night can start later. But I think 12 hours a night is a good goal for sleep.

For the car - give her a snack and put on some good music. Driving is a non negotiable. If she cries, she cries. You'll get where you need to get and she'll get over it.

Chores: If you''re in the middle of something and she wants to be picked up just go "I'll be done with this in 10 minutes. Until then why don't you _____". If it's the first time she's been told 'no' in this context then of course she'll freak out. That's OK. It really sounds like you both need to realize that she's not the most important person in the house. Consider the concept of 'household needs'. That was very helpful to me when I made this mindset change with my first.

She'll really be so much happier when she has less control in the house. It's too much for a little girl!

DS (6.06), DD (10.08), DD (05.11).

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#8 of 11 Old 03-19-2011, 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by D_McG View Post

She'll really be so much happier when she has less control in the house. It's too much for a little girl!
Ok I just love that quote. I have a hard time setting limits/saying no (and sticking to it) to my DD. Next time she has a tantrum I am going to think of your quote smile.gif

OP, your post was very very recognisable to me. I don't have a lot of advice to offer but will be keeping my eye on this topic smile.gif

(i've posted in a few similar threads recently that I did notice a positive change in DD since she has been sleeping better - which in our case means since she was weaned. Nursing to sleep seemed to be causing her more stress than anything for some reason lately. The fact that her constant switching sides & twiddling drove me crazy probably did not help... but even apart from that, it just seems that for our dd, nursing to sleep = numerous night wakings - now she STTN)

Mommy to DD bouncy.gif born August 2008 

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#9 of 11 Old 03-23-2011, 03:00 PM
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I don't have much advice but went through most of the same things with DD around that age too. I second the DVD player in the car option. I found that her being upset stressed me out so much, it was hard to concentrate on driving. I too limited TV watching to ONLY in the car when she was using the DVD player.


As for night time - I still haven't figured it out myself but was once told to have daddy put the LO down. Just the change in the person will help, and she won't want to nurse from him too. HAHA I was never able to try it because of DH's schedule, but thought I would throw it out there for you. Big hugs mama! In just a few short months things improved here and I hope they do for you too.

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#10 of 11 Old 03-23-2011, 05:21 PM
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i agree with the pp's. figure out what YOU need as a mama and go from there. set limits and be firm. she is 2 years old, not a baby anymore and she can handle some limits.. also, having a good structure/routine to your day will help. a book that helped us tremendously was "Sleepless in America." gave great ideas for daytime structure to maximize sleep and happier flow to our day

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#11 of 11 Old 03-24-2011, 07:56 AM
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Hugs to you, mama! I don't blame you for being overwhelmed. My DD has been driving me up a wall and while I consider her moderately high needs, she isn't as bad as your little one!


First, I agree with the suggestion by a PP to look at possible food sensitivities, especially since you say your DD has been whiny, fussy, and clingy since birth. My DD was always super clingy, too, and an awful sleeper. I removed dairy and gluten from her diet and saw some rapid improvements in behavior and sleep. For example, DD had such bad separation anxiety that I couldn't walk out of the room she was in without her throwing a major fit. Once I eliminated gluten, that disappeared pretty much completely. Sleep improved too once dairy and gluten were out, and removing chocolate and oranges helped even more. She used to wake 8-10 times on an average night and often was awake for a couple hours in the middle of the night. Now she wakes 4-5 times on average and almost never stays awake in the middle of the night. So, that might not be the answer for you, but I would think it would be worth a try. Placing limits on the problematic behaviors might get a lot easier once you remove any foods that might be bothering her.


Second, I do think developing more of a routine to your day would probably help a lot. It sounds like you're just waiting to see when your DD looks ready for bed, but I would start doing a bedtime routine that starts at the same time every night. Earlier is usually better to take advantage of how daylight programs our biological clocks. If your DD isn't getting to bed until after midnight, chances are (unless she's also sleeping until noon) that she isn't getting enough sleep, and that's probably at the root of a lot of the crankiness and clinginess and tantrums. I agree with PP that Sleepless in America is an excellent book for learning about how to create a rhythm for your days that encourages good sleep. Some things that have also helped us with sleep:

-Epsom salt baths as part of the bedtime routine (1/2 cup or more of epsom salts added to a tubful of warm water nightly--decrease the amount if you notice loose stools)

-Nursing her down for a nap in her bed, then rolling away and leaving the room. That way you don't have to move her once she's asleep. My DD used to wake every half hour when I did this, but I would just go in and nurse her back to sleep and leave again, and eventually she started sleeping for longer stretches. Now if she wakes but still seems tired, I often bring her out and nurse her on the couch while I do stuff on the computer, and she often dozes off for a while. That way I get at least part of her nap to do what I want to do.

-DD used to go to sleep reliably in the Ergo, so I would often get her to sleep in there, then move into her bed and nurse for a couple minutes to get her back to sleep so I could slip away.


I also agree with PP that you could be doing more to set limits, but I wouldn't do that without also working on setting the conditions for good behavior by working on the sleep stuff and possibly the food stuff too. I find that for myself and my DD, at least 50% of good discipline involves me setting her up for success by not feeding her foods that bother her and by making sure she's getting enough sleep and has a predictable rhythm to her days. If I'm doing well on those fronts, then she is naturally more agreeable, less needy, and happier to do what I ask. It doesn't eliminate all problems, of course, and that's where the limit-setting comes in.

Living the good life and walking a path of peace with DH and DD (4/09)
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