The High Need Baby

The High Need Baby

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

I highly recommend The Fussy Baby Book: Parenting Your High-Need Child From Birth to Age Five. It’s such an encouraging resource for parents of high need’s babies!

Disclosure – This post contains affiliate links that help support this site.


High Need Baby

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responses to “The High Need Baby” 31

  1. Indeed those HM babies stretch our mommyhood skills! My second daughter definitely fell into this category. Although she was born affected by CMV (cytomegalovirus), she is very healthy but with moderate CP. We went through endless days of colicky tears in nearly every waking hour. Talk about exhausting and frustrating. Despite the CMV and CP, she's very low maintenance now at 17yo. But, as a baby…yikes!

  2. Oh bless your heart, Rachel! I salute you for surviving, and I rejoice with you at reaching this new and much easier stage! Sleep and naps are glorious for mamas!

    I spent my engagement planning my wedding while doing daycare for a high needs 5-month-old boy. I remember I could not even tie my shoes without him needing something desperately. He also did not nap well. I remember holding him upright on my lap leaning forward against my arm. In that position, I could trick him into thinking he was still wide awake and eventually he'd slump against my arm, fast asleep.

    What saved me was when we bought a swing and suddenly he would sleep in it for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, which was a huge improvement from 20 minutes max. I also held him a lot. I remember sitting on the floor in our first little house, prepping the awful paneling for painting, hitching myself along with pookie on my lap.

    During those months I remember feeling very thin and grey, like Bilbo–"like butter scraped thin over too much bread."

    And then eventually my little man began to nap more and moved out of that awful first year, and became so sunny and intelligent and sweet. He was the best little companion during the early days of married life, always beside me helping with everything I did. He was smart and funny and adorable and I loved him so much. Now he's 7 and is still a wonderful little person. I see him and it's hard to believe how awful those first months were.

    1. I can't even imagine caring for a high needs baby that wasn't my own. How blessed he and his family were to have someone like you to care for him! And, I'm so glad Weston is now a toddler!

  3. Good post. My son wasn't/isn't a high needs baby. But he is SO attached to his daddy. When my husband is home from work he runs around saying "dahee home?" over and over. Yesterday I was trying to put shoes on him but I couldn't because he was so worried because daddy walked out of the room and he kept saying "dahee?" I had to make my husband come back in the room to reassure my baby that daddy was, in fact, still there 🙂 He just loves him, but sometimes it gives me a little bit of a complex!

    1. Precious! Both of my boys love their daddy, his arrival home is the highlight of everyone's day around here! While Weston is definitely a mama's boy, my oldest loves being with his daddy. When daddy is around, about the only thing Paxton wants me to do for him is read him bedtime stories. Your little one still loves you, daddy is just a bit more of a novelty since he's not home all the time!

  4. Great article! My first is definitely HIGH needs…at 2.5 it is getting somewhat easier. He had all the attributes of your second, plus add never sleeping more than a couple hours straight for first year and a half. It definitely made me delay having a second a little bit more than I would have thought (#2 will be born when #1 is just shy of 3 years old). I think that besides the physical demands, it is emotionally exhausting as a parent to sometimes wonder if you are doing something wrong. Now that my son is older, I can definitely see that it is just my son's personality–he's very cheerful, lovable and sensitive…that's just who he is. And I'm vey happy that we co-slept for so long and that I held him so much in order to meet his needs. I feel more prepared for baby #2 knowing that my second is not likely to be more difficult. 😉

    1. I've read that most high needs babies have siblings spaced a bit further because they are so high maintenance! I think you're awesome, I cannot imagine if Weston had not been a good night sleeper, that simple fact was my saving grace! Congrats on baby #2! You should have a much easier go round this time! From talking with other parents, it seems that they tend to be opposite of their older sibling. That was definitely our case, super easy #1 and high needs #2.

  5. My daughter was not a high needs baby but if you have another little one who does not like to sleep without you (our daughter was that way!) you could try nursing him/her on your bed. Laying side to side, so once they fall asleep nursing you can slip out of the room! My daughter never slept in a crib (what a waist of money!) and we went straight from our bed to a twin (on the floor) when she was just over a year – she did great with the transition. I would have to nurse her to sleep laying down in her bed and like always, slip out once she was sleeping! Do you co-sleep? I would also recommend tha when they are youngert… I know some people are against it but since you breastfeed it would really help! We also have an Arm's Reach Origional this time around (we were going to side carry the crib) and hopefully that would add more room. It is only part time and before we know it they will all be grown up and too cool for us 🙁

    1. I tried everything! I very frequently laid down with him to nurse and try to sleep away. It was like he knew the second my body wasn't 2 inches from his! We did some co-sleeping in the early days since it was the only thing that would work to get him to sleep.

  6. My son refused to sleep without me in the hospital too! He cried whenever I put him in the cot. I should have known then!! Ha! He's now 10 months. We babywear, breast feed and daddy butchered up an ikea cot so it side cars perfectly to our bed. I really couldn't have done it if it wasn't for the co-sleeping, babywearing and breastfeeding. Also my husband has been amazing! James Mckenna has some great supporting evidence on the protective nature of co-sleeping in breastfeeding, non-obese, non drinking/smoking/drug taking families.

    1. Sounds like you are managing well with your high needs baby! Just wear him, nurse him, hold him and know that in a few months it will start to get easier!!

  7. I'm getting caught up, after my break.

    Kiddos with SPD and GERD are always high need, so we've lived the dream. I think it made us much more in tune to Beanie and her needs, because we had to be.

  8. Your story is very similar to mine. My little girl is 7 months and still won’t sleep anywhere without screaming except attached to me in bed. We get plenty of rest this way but my husband is on the couch, doesn’t want to co-sleep and is getting very frustrated. Any advice out there. This is hurting my marriage and I’m lost.

    1. Megan, just know it won't be like this forever. Maybe buy/borrow a copy of The Fussy Baby Book <a href="http:// (” target=”_blank”> <a href="http://(” target=”_blank”>( and read it through with your husband. That book was such an encouragement for me and helped my husband and I both to understand our son better and the things we needed to do to survive and thrive the hard months. And, I know most high needs babies want to be with their mama all of the time but if there is anyway you can leave her with a grandparent/aunt/good friend once a month or so and you and your husband can enjoy a date night/lunch/quality time, that could help strengthen your marriage.

      Here's another post I wrote, 7 Tips for Thriving with a High Need Baby:… (Maybe this will be encouraging to you!)

  9. I was so blessed to make it to #7 before having a high needs baby. He was just like you said – crying unless in my arms (or his siblings' or daddy's), insisting on sleeping with me, lots of babywearing. I don't know how I would have managed without my older children. When I was tired and needed a break they stepped in to hold and play with him. He just turned three and is very close to his oldest sister. He can now go to bed on his own – just a quick prayer, hug and kiss and he's fine. There were times when I thought such a thing would be impossible. It seems so long when you're going through it. Now I look back and see how far we've come. Now I know what other families go through and can be more empathetic.

  10. My daughter was my firstborn and was definitely a high needs baby. It took me 4 1/2 years to have my second because of that. She cried a lot and was never content. She wanted to be held and rocked for the little time that she did sleep. I was up at night with her every night and during the day she wouldn't sleep for over 15-20 minutes at a time. It was very exhausting. I found out through the years that it was just her personality (she is very strong-willed) because she never grew out of it. She is 16 now and it a very opinionated and outspoken person; not in a bad, rude way, but she is very strong-willed and knows what she wants in life. My son was born when she was 4 1/2 yrs. old and he was the total opposite. He was the most content baby that I had ever seen. I would just lay him in his crib and he would go right to sleep. It was definitely a much needed change from my experiences with my daughter. He is 12 now and has always been the quieter and calmer sibling. There is definitely a difference in their personalities still and always will be.

  11. Thank you for the article! It’s great to know I’m not alone and to know that it gets better is a great thing! I have 2 HN babies. My oldest is 2 and has sensory processing disorder and goes to therapy several times a week. My other daughter is 11 months and is just now starting to have times where she sleeps through the night only waking up once or twice. I feel like I haven’t truly slept in years. It gets super frustrating but in the end I will be stronger for it. Thanks for writing this article, it gives encouragement for the hard moments!

  12. Oh thank you for posting this! I cannot tell you how much hope this gives me. I feel like I could have written this myself, as my story is so similar to yours. My second son is now 6 months old and my first is 2 1/2. There are many days I don’t think I can even manage to make it to the end! I feel an awful guilt of wishing the days away because I know my little guy won’t be small and won’t need my forever. He is just so draining. I spent the first 3 months in tears daily and aching to spend the time I used to with my oldest. Now days he’s doing a tad bit better but still won’t nap and still doesn’t want to be alone for a single minute. I think I’m just getting used to it! Your post lets me know I’m not alone and I will survive! 🙂 again, thank you!!

  13. Thank you SO much for this post! I am in the midst of this now. My first daughter will be two next month and the baby is 7 weeks old and so high maintenance; nothing like her sister was. I have been struggling with the guilt for not having time for my older daughter like I used to and the Dr even wanted to put me on antidepressants. As a compromise I have an appointment with a counselor soon. Thank you so much for showing a light at the end of the tunnel.

    1. Heather, this was me 2 years ago. My first two are 20 months apart and I struggled with so much guilt about not giving the toddler the attention I wanted to give him. And, during Weston's first year, I too went to a Christian counselor. It was really encouraging and I learned more about my personality and ways to thrive with my high needs boy. I hope things are a little better for you now!

  14. I’m so glad to have stumbled on this article today! I spent over an hour getting my over-tired high need baby to fall asleep for a nap, then she woke up after only 45 minutes! I thought I was going to lose my marbles.

  15. My 3rd baby was high needs, nothing can prepare you for it. I laughed when I read Mama’s comment to feed bub to sleep on your bed then ” slip away”…. The nano second you move an inch away, a high needs baby screams, i couldn’t even roll onto my other side without her crying and waking and refusing to resettle…but as I said, unless you have a child like that, you simply cannot understand. But sweet of you to try and help. My daughter is now 11 years old and completely fine, but I will never forget those first 6+ months of her life. Once you come to terms with life being very different to what you thought it would be like… You can survive xx

  16. For those mummies currently going through this, hang in there. Things will improve. Try and let go of how you thought life would be like, and drop all expectations . Enlist hubby or grandparents to cook, clean, shop for you. Explain to them that it won’t be forever, but right now you are doing everything you can to just survive. It doesn’t mean that you can’t cope, but unless you are free’d from the burdens of daily living, you simply won’t have the energy to go on. Mums typically experience post natal exhaustion with a high needs baby. For me, it meant lots of napping on the lounge when bubby finally fell asleep, as she slept a maximum of 2 -4hours per 24 hour period. Get bubby checked out medically too. I used to find I could pray and read a little which got me through. Use this time to pray for others too. Try to have 5 mins just to yourself each day. Eat well. Joy is not the absense of suffering but the prescence of God. Remember: this too shall pass.

  17. I know this is an old post but I needed to read it. My daughter is almost ten months old and I can say it has been an amazing ten months and some of the worst. She also has been a great night sleeper and will sometimes even nap for a while. But when she’s awake, she screams and cries unless I’m holding her and usually I have to be standing. She was born two months early as well so she’s a bit behind developmentally. I needed to heat it will get better. Glad I’m not the only one who calls her husband and cries. Somedays I feel so overwhelmed and like a failure. Thanks for the blog.

  18. Sorry I'm just now getting back to you. Finally making time to reply to comments after the birth of my baby girl!

    So glad you found this somewhat encouraging! It will get better!!! Weston's baby days were HARD but he is such a wonderful toddler. At 2.5 he is one cheerful little guy who keeps us all laughing. And, sleep? Well, sometimes he just falls asleep in a chair for a nap and at night, we tuck him in, rub his little head or lie down with him and he's out.

    I highly recommend a Boba 3G/4G baby carrier. It's super comfortable and wearing your baby/toddler on your back means baby is happy and mama can cook dinner!

  19. I’ve just found your site and I finally feel like I am not alone. My son is 5 months and just tonight I’ve realized he is a high needs baby. I’ve spent the last few months blaming myself, spending hundreds in doctors bills(because I was sure something was terribly wrong), feeling guilty for the lack of attention given to my oldest and crying daily. Finding this has brought me more comfort then you know. Thank you for sharing!

  20. Thank you so much for these posts about high needs babies. I desperately needed some encouragement from a Christian mama who understands. My little girl is 4.5 months old, and as a first time mom, without anyone else in my sphere who has a HN child, I was going crazy trying to figure out what I was/am doing wrong.
    Why isn’t my baby portable like theirs?
    Why can’t I get more than 3 hours of sleep at a time at night?
    Why doesn’t she nap longer than 30-45 mins at a time?
    Why doesn’t she want to be put down, why can’t she play independently for more than 5 mins, why do I still have to swaddle at 4 months old, and on and on and on, until I was so stressed that neither of us were sleeping.
    All that to say, a very big thank you from the bottom of my heart for being open and honest and writing these posts

  21. Thank you so much for this post! I just had my 4th baby almost 4 months ago. She is our first high need baby, and our 3rd is/was so relaxed and laid back, I felt so overwhelmed. Things are starting to slowly improve, but it is so nice knowing that another mom has gone through the same thing and there is hope! Thank you for your tips also. Have a blessed day and congratulations on your 4th baby also!

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