High Needs baby, fussy baby, intense, and demanding. They will feed frequently and refuse to be put down. Here’s what it means to have a high-needs baby and four tips for how to cope.
Before your child was born, you knew that raising a child would be challenging. You were ready for not sleeping at night and breastfeeding multiple times per day.
However, not for a single second did you imagine that you would be spending every waking moment trying to soothe her.
There are hours and hours of not sleeping, followed by hours and hours of fussiness. She’s extremely sensitive, a terrible sleeper, needs to be parented through every step of everything, and when she doesn’t get what she wants, she’ll go into a tantrum.
You tried everything, from rocking and bouncing to shushing and white noise. Nothing works!
Are you doing something wrong? Why are some babies sitting quietly in strollers and falling asleep easily while yours is the complete opposite?
What you may be dealing with is a high-needs baby.
And you’re not the only one.
Parents around the globe have experienced the same issues.
Here’s what it means to have a high-needs baby and four tips for making it better.
What is a high-needs baby?
A high-needs baby is a term coined by Drs. William and Martha Sears. It’s used to describe fussy babies that involve more than just uncontrollable crying and include exhibiting a personality/temperament where they need more attention and interaction than other babies.
The term doesn’t indicate a negative thing, but a positive, describing babies who aren’t sick or difficult but highly alert and requiring more attention.
Drs. Willian and Martha Sears describe 12 attributes of “high needs” babies, some of those traits including:
- Intense. These babies invest more energy into any activity they do.
- Hyperactive. The muscles and minds of high-needs children rarely relax.
- Draining. High-needs babies drain a great deal of energy from their tired parents.
- Feeds frequently. High-needs babies are often comforted by feeding.
- Demanding. High need babies don’t just want to be fed and held; they demand to be, and they’ll tell you loudly.
- Can’t be put down. High-needs babies crave touch. They want skin-to-skin contact in your arms, at your breasts, in your bed.
- Super-sensitive. High-needs babies are fans of a secure and known environment, and they become upset when they’re in an unknown environment.
How do I cope with a high-needs baby?
Implement a nap and bedtime routine
A nap and bedtime routine can make kids feel safe when they know what to expect. Routines and rules help bring structure to the home and make life more predictable.
When your child follows a consistent bedtime routine, she knows what to expect and is aware of her boundaries. When you bathe her, dim the lights, and start reading her a book, she knows it’s time to get ready to sleep.
But how many hours should your little one sleep at night? How many naps per day does she need?
The best bedtime and naptime for your child depends on her age. For example, newborns need around 15 to 18 hours of sleep, while eight months old need around 12 to 15 hours of sleep. Read this bedtime chart by age for babies and toddlers for more info.
Many parents have found sleep training to be an effective technique for teaching their babies how to self-soothe and sleep independently.
In essence, it’s about changing the sleep associations your child has to fall asleep; for example, nursing to sleep.
This can lead to sleeping longer stretches at night, sleeping more soundly, and having better behavior overall during awake times.
You can try introducing a gentler technique that involves gradually teaching your baby how to sleep independently. There are periods of comforting and periods of distancing.
The core of the gentle sleep training technique is to move so slowly that your child has time to adapt to each change in her sleep routine.
Hiring a sleep consultant can be a practical and cost-effective solution to your problems as sleep training services are HSA and FSA eligible.
High-needs children need constant excitement and stimulation. Unfortunately, the confines of your home may not be stimulating enough for them.
One way of getting your child more stimulated is by putting her in a stroller and simply going outside for some fresh air.
The change in light, air, and temperature, and the introduction of new sights, sounds, and smells are likely to get both you and your child in a better mood.
Take your baby out and try to be around other parents, preferably with parents who have similar kids.
The kids will get to play with each other, while you will get peace of mind knowing you’re not the only one with a high-needs baby.
Come to terms
At the end of the day, the most helpful thing you can do is come to terms with the fact that your baby is not the easygoing baby you thought you would have. Embrace your baby’s sensitivity, passion, and intensity, knowing that these traits will serve her well when she grows up.
Finally, here’s one great quote by Dr. Sears:
“To your baby, you are the best mother.”