All babies are different and can be difficult at times, but having a high needs baby is an experience few understand until it is their reality.
In 2012, I delivered my second child, who was complicated and clingier when compared to my first child. My first was Miss Independent from the start. She loved to lay on the floor and kick. She loved everyone, and she still does eight years later. So, when my clingy second child arrived, I was baffled.
We made it through and went on to have our third child. He was such a relaxed baby. It was a relief after my second, but nothing prepared me for my fourth and final child.
My Days with a High Needs Baby
Dealing with a high needs baby is drastically different than having a baby who is happy and easy. My days look so much different, and everything is a hundred times harder than it should be otherwise.
My day starts off with my daughter and I waking up together because we never are separate. She nurses, and she might be happy for a few moments until I drag myself out of bed. I put her into the highchair or an exersaucer so I can go to the bathroom and make coffee – my lifeline – and she typically screams the entire time.
You see, my daughter hates to be apart from me, at all. Looking at me isn’t enough; she has to be in my arms. Sometimes, being in my arms isn’t enough because I’m looking somewhere other than at her.
Most of my chores are completed with her in a baby carrier because setting down on the floor without mom right beside her isn’t an option. If I decide to sit down on the floor while she plays, she is content, but having 4 kids and homeschooling means I’m busy often!
We make it through, hour by hour. When I’m able to put her down and she is happy to play with her siblings, I race around like a nutcase trying to accomplish things.
Other times, I feel utterly trapped by her. I love my daughter wholeheartedly, but it is hard to be the only thing and person who she enjoys. She loves her dad from afar, but he may NOT touch her. She screams as if she is set on fire unless I hold her. That means it is rare for her not to be in my arms at family parties, the store, the park, or anywhere.
She is with me constantly.
Some days, I beg her eight-year-old sister to hold her so she doesn’t cry, allowing me to get a shower. The only person she likes other than me is her sister. Her brothers are amusing from afar, but they aren’t allowed to touch her either.
Before anyone asks, my daughter is perfectly healthy and happy. She squeals with delight half the day and loves to play with her toys. She laughs, rolls, sits up, and exceeds her milestones, but everything must be done under her terms. Her terms aren’t easy to follow!
You Can’t Make a High Needs Baby
One thing I face often is people telling me that I created a high needs baby. But, that’s a lie and impossible. You might be able to tell a first-time mother that and she believes you, which is a great way to make a mom feel terrible, by the way. However, I am a seasoned mom with four kids, and I’ve parented all of my kids the same way. They’re all different, and it is entirely dependent on their personality and their wiring.
Both of my high need kids started at birth – literally. They cried more. They hated to lay down in their bassinet, and getting them to sleep anywhere other than my arms is literally impossible.
All of the tricks and tips you read don’t help. You can babywear all day, use probiotics, visit every chiropractor in a two hundred mile radius, and it won’t matter. None of these things will change your child’s personality and unique needs, and the only way to survive is to ride the wave the best that you can.
It Does Come to an End
Despite the fact that my fourth child is even needier than my second (which I didn’t think was possible), I know that this season will come to an end. All seasons come to an end.
Truth be told, it’s the only way I survive some days.
People tell you to enjoy the snuggles – which I do – and to let the dishes sit dirty – which I do too often, but none of those are helpful. First, it makes me feel like crap because sometimes I don’t enjoy the snuggles, because I already cuddled for the past five hours straight. I’m tapped out.
Two, I let the dishes sit dirty often. I put off chores because she is having a rougher day than usual, but all that does is increase my anxiety as I want the clutter created by six people to build up.
Telling me to babywear more doesn’t help; I already do babywear for several hours per day. It’s nice to not be touched sometimes.
So, if you are blessed to not know the demands of a high-needs baby, don’t disregard someone who tells you their child is difficult. Instead, ask them what you can do for them. If you need some ideas, try one of these:
- Hold the baby so mom can get a shower.
- Offer to wash dishes and clean up the kitchen.
- Take the baby for a walk.
- If the baby is with mom, ask if you can grab her a cup of tea or run the vacuum.
If you were trapped by a baby all day long, what would you love if someone did for you? Think about it, and offer to do one of those. It will be greatly appreciated.
Sometimes, we believe that positive and attachment parenting will help reduce the ‘neediness’ of our babies because we anticipate and meet their needs as they occur.
But as Dr. Bill Sears tells us, to some degree, every baby is a high-needs baby. In fact, most babies have high needs in some area (at least one) of their life, but some babies have more high needs areas than others. Dr. Sears says that new parents are not as realistic to expectations becuse they don’t have experience with which they compare, while more experienced parents may have wider views of what a baby is ‘typically’ like. The reality is, just as our author said, your baby acts as your baby does because it’s her wiring and her personality, not necessarily your parenting.
Which can be hard to remember sometimes, when you put so much time and effort and thoughtful parenting into play when it comes to your high-needs baby. You may wonder what it is that you’re doing wrong, particularly if you compare to other babies. That goes for comparing your little one to her siblings, even.
In the over four decades of his practice, Dr. Sears has come across many high babies. He and his colleagues have put together some profiles of different high needs babies to give you a better idea of what may be going on with your baby. None of the personality traits make one baby’s needs better or worse to have; they simply show differences in babies, and recognize that these differences may make it hard to parent them.
Dr. Sears says the ultimate goal when parenting high needs babies is to identify these unique features in their children and to help teach the child to use their traits to work toward their advantage. It’s important for you to recognize these traits in your children for both your sanity and their development, and doing so can help you feel less alone and more empowered.
Photo credit: Eugene Kocherva/Shutterstock