Draining. Demanding. Intense. Sensitive.
These words describe the high need baby.
Having a high need baby is a challenge and a struggle for parents, but there is a positive side to having a high need baby. They stretch you as parents and you will emerge as a stronger person.
Here’s the story of my high need baby:
In the months since giving birth to my second son, I’ve wondered if the birth experience and environment is a reflection of a child’s personality.
My first son’s birth was relaxed and peaceful. He was an incredibly laid back baby who made my adjustment to motherhood a breeze.
The labor of my second son was peaceful while at home. Once I arrived at the hospital, it was nothing but chaotic from going through transition in the hall to having 6 nurses swarming around me, giving me an IV when I asked not to have one, making me sign papers, and yelling at me not to push when the only thing I wanted to do was push my baby into the world.
After 10 minutes of chaos, I finally was able to push and heard the sweet sound of Weston’s cries. Within a few hours of his birth, I could tell he was completely different from his older brother. Weston’s cries were more intense and so passionate. The first night in the hospital, he was already sleeping with me in my bed — he refused to sleep without me.
The first few weeks continued to be intense. He was fairly content and sleepy throughout the day but at night he just wanted to be with me. Amazingly, at 8 weeks old, he began sleeping through the night which is not typically a characteristic of a high need baby. His sleeping through the night was a huge blessing that provided much needed rest to help me through the long days in the coming year.
He may have slept through the night, but was out of the sleepy newborn phase and did not sleep during the day. This fact, coupled with a 2-year-old big brother who was also refusing to nap made the days very long. Weston really needed to nap. He would nap if we were in the car or fall asleep nursing and sleep as long as I held him. I could not successfully transfer him from arms to crib without him waking, he knew the moment he was no longer in my arms and would protest.
When he was awake, he wanted to be held or right beside me. I could not leave his sight. We did a lot of babywearing, which he loved and this allowed me to actually do the basics, like dishes, laundry and caring for my older son.
The fact that he didn’t nap left me with no time during the day to spend one on one time with my oldest. I was constantly holding the baby and couldn’t play with my big boy like I used to. This factor caused me to feel guilty as a mama. One child needed so much attention that I felt like my other child was missing out on so much.
Weston’s first year of life was filled with calls to my husband with me in tears because I didn’t know what to do, encouraging pep talks from him, calls from friends to encourage me, a trip to a counselor to sort out my feelings with the situation and lots of praying.
It was a long year.
When he turned one, things started to get a little easier. I think his increased mobility gave him courage to become more independent. Then at 15 months, he finally started to feel secure, knowing that I was always there for him. He started playing more with his brother, was engaging in more independent play and started napping. The biggest change definitely was the napping. A daily nap allowed him to get the good rest that he needed and allowed me some time to spend with my older son as well as have a few minutes of quiet to recharge myself during the day.
Looking back, I just remember that it was so hard. The days were so long.
From the outside looking in, it seems like the solution to having a high need baby is simple, just hold the baby. And, that’s what I did, but holding a baby all day is draining.
Now that he’s 19 months old, I’ve had 4 solid months of daily napping and I honestly feel like a new woman. I finally feel like I’ve emerged from a 15 month long newborn fog and that we’re getting into a positive groove as a family of 4.
Looking back, I wouldn’t trade the first 15 months of Weston’s life. I learned so much about loving and serving my children and know that I am a better mother than I was before he was born.
I survived and thrived and am a stronger person because of him.
Having a high need baby is hard. If you’re struggling with your high need baby, just know that there are other mamas out there who understand. You are not alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Talk to other women. I’m pretty sure you’ll find several women who know exactly what it is like to have a high need baby. They will be a wonderful source of encouragement to you during your hard days.
And, remember your high need baby won’t be a baby forever. It is hard but don’t focus on the negatives, seek out the positive qualities of your baby and try your hardest to enjoy this season of life. Even through trials, you can have joy!
Next post in the Parenting Your High Need Baby series: The Blessing of the High Need Baby