No one wants to say that they have a difficult baby, although it is a question asked by a lot of people. New moms all over the world will be asked by strangers if they have a “good baby”. This confused me at first, am I supposed to say no? That she is a little sleep-stealing demon who wants me to lose my mind? The truth is, there are moms out there who have difficult babies. Another term for a difficult baby would be a 'high-needs' baby, who has tendencies that are exhausting and difficult.
Of course, all babies are high needs, especially when they are a newborn. They have a lot of demands that need to be met right away.
That is just how being a baby works, but sometimes parents miss the cues that their baby is actually a high-needs baby. That means a baby that requires even more attention, love and work than an average baby.
The problem is, how do you know? How do you determine what is a normal baby need versus an extremely needy baby? It can be hard, especially if this is your first baby, and you don’t have any other children to use as a comparison. You will likely see all behavior as normal infant behavior. If you look closer, you may be able to distinguish between what is normal and what is a high-needs baby. We have compiled the more obvious signs, and at the end, there are certain things mommy can do to make it easier on herself and her household.
15 “Intense” Behaviour
Intense is sometimes seen as subjective. What is the definition of intense? Everyone has a different definition of the word because everyone has different tolerance levels on what they consider to be acceptable or intense. A baby with intense behavior is actually quite easy to spot, especially if you looked at a hospital nursery.
When all the babies are laying calmly and quietly, there will always be those one or two babies that are crying, screaming and pretty much acting like they are being subject to some weird torture. The nurses will remark that ‘they will be a handful when they go home’ and they are usually right. Intense behavior in a newborn all comes down to a cry. Since that is most of what a newborn does, it is plain to see when their cry is much more than a normal level infant cry. When everything goes right to code red, emergency level, you have a high needs baby on your hands.
14 Hyperactive All The Time
We often think that hyperactive behavior is reserved for those toddler years, when they are running around and mom and dad are just waiting and praying for naptime. Hyperactive behavior can be witnessed in infants as well, just not so obvious. If they get into a hypertonic state, that means that their muscles are frequently tensed as if they are just ready to go. The muscles of infants with hyperactive tendencies never seem to relax.
The most obvious clue that there is some hyperactivity in your baby is if they absolutely hate being swaddled. Most, probably around 99%, of babies love to be swaddled. It helps their Moro-reflux and reminds them of their tight, warm home in the womb. Babies who are hyperactive will absolutely despise being wrapped up tight. They don’t like to be held tight or restrained in any way. They will even arch their back if you try and cuddle them close, as if they were incredibly uncomfortable.
13 Draining: Emptying Mom’s Tank
No one wants to say that their baby is draining, it can almost come across as if mom can’t handle it, or that the baby is indeed difficult. No one wants to say their baby is difficult, babies are a blessing and a joy. Think of it this way; imagine that mom and baby share a gas tank. When the baby’s tank is running on empty, it will take some gas (or fuel) from mom’s tank. This is great for the baby but leaves mom running on empty. Nothing that is running on empty can perform any good.
This is how it feels when you are dealing with a high needs baby. It is a draining feeling. Mom will feel even more intense sleep deprivation and frustration when dealing with a high needs baby. They are constantly in need of something - to be fed or held or changed or moved. This is what makes them so draining, the complete inability to put them down for even a minute.
12 They Demand It … NOW
Patience is not something that you will find in a newborn, and it probably won’t be found until that baby is grown, and sometimes not even then. Difficult babies take this to a whole new level. If you constantly feel that you can not get to your baby fast enough, every single time, it is likely that you have a high needs infant. Most babies have cues when it comes to hunger and fatigue, it gives mom a clear warning that they are about to have an epic meltdown.
This usually buys mom enough time to figure it out, whether to get a bottle ready or start the routine of putting her baby for a nap. High needs babies do not usually give these cues, or if they do, they are so short they are easy to miss. This means that mom has no warning sign and baby suddenly demands food or cuddles to sleep. This type of behavior is one that can drive parents to the brink of anxiety. There is a clear signal of urgency, and you better hope you bring the right object. Bring the wrong one, and you are in for another meltdown.
11 What Is Sleep?
When you have a baby, there are certain things that you just accept. One of the biggest things you know is coming is lack of sleep. Newborns need a lot of attention, they need to be fed a lot and have diapers changed, and they don’t care what time it is, or how little sleep you have had. A difficult baby will awake frequently, more frequently than the average newborn or infant.
One mom who has a difficult baby cannot understand why her baby seems to need a lot of everything, except sleep. A difficult baby who doesn’t sleep can be a large burden. A baby who has higher needs is already taking so much energy from mom, and she doesn’t seem to be able to get any of the rest she needs to be able to keep up with all the demands. This can lead to severe burnout in a mom.
10 “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”
This should be the theme song for a high needs baby. They just can not get any satisfaction. When a mom or dad has a crying baby, it doesn’t take long for them to figure out why the baby is crying. When they are young, there are only so many things that can be wrong. It may take a while, but they usually figure out what the baby needs and are able to calm them down.
As time goes on, parents learn their babies cries and cues and know exactly what the baby needs. When you are dealing with a high needs baby, it can be even more difficult to figure out what the baby needs, because the baby needs more. Moms may figure it out, but because they did not do it well enough or for long enough, it is just not satisfying. This can lead to a mom who doubts her abilities, even when she doesn’t need to.
9 Unpredictable Temperament
It takes a while for a new mom to get to know her baby. Yes, she carried this little one for 9 months, but there is still so much to learn. Newborns, in general, are very unpredictable, it is impossible to get them on a schedule and you find yourself going with the flow. After a few months, a schedule emerges, and mom has learned a little bit about her baby.
They know around the time the baby will be hungry, sleepy and happy. It can make life a little easier. However, a high needs baby will always be unpredictable. There is no way to tell what they want next, or how they will react. Their feeding times will be sporadic, and sleep – well, we already talked about how difficult that is. This can be exhausting to mom and make her feel like she doesn’t know her baby at all.
8 Can’t Put That Baby Down
You can’t spoil a baby, and they need all the extra love and cuddles. Mom will spend a lot of time holding and cuddling with her newborn, and she will love every minute of it. There does come a time when she will need to put that baby down. Whether she needs to go to the bathroom or make herself something to eat or even to just give her aching arms a rest.
Most babies can be put down for at least a few minutes. Enough time for mom to get a little break and do what she needs to do. A high-needs baby, will not let you put them down for any reason and for any length of time. They always need to be held. It can be enough to drive mom crazy, and she won’t be able to listen to her little one scream, so she will learn to cook meals and take a shower with her little one in her arms.
7 Wants All The Food!
If you are a mother who breastfeeds or are choosing to, there are a lot of things to know. There is no schedule when it comes to nursing, as nursing is about more than just nutrition. Babies nurse for food, and also for comfort. They nurse when they are sad, angry and frustrated. It is common for a mom of a newborn baby to nurse 20 or more times a day! If that doesn’t sound tiring enough, it also happens at any time. It is almost impossible to put a breastfed baby on a schedule.
A baby who has higher needs will nurse even more frequently. There may be days when they want to nurse all day, literally. It goes back to high-needs baby needing more of everything, love, attention, and food. They never seem to be satisfied with what they have, and they will always be wanting more. This can be damaging to a breastfeeding mom, as she may mix a high-needs baby with not producing enough milk.
6 Hint Of Anxiety
When you break everything down, a high-needs baby is actually displaying some level of anxiety. They are worried or fearful about something, and they are expressing it the only way they know how. With crying, insomnia and the constant need to be comforted and held. Babies can not talk, so they can not explain to us their feelings. The only way they can express themselves is via crying.
The only difference between a high-needs baby and a baby who is teething or ill is that teething, and illness pass, and you will get your happy, calm baby again. A high-needs baby never ends. If mom doesn’t understand what constitutes a high-needs baby, she may interpret all the signs as a medical condition or her failure as a mother. Both thoughts can be very damaging and may lead to some depression and anxiety in mom.
Five Things Moms Can Do
5 Mom Can: Relax!
So, what can a mom do? What can a mom do when she is faced with a baby who is displaying all the signs of being a difficult baby? If you do not have a high needs baby, you may feel overwhelmed reading this list, and wonder how anyone can cope. The truth is, they can but it is hard. The next 5 entries will cover what a mom can do to make sure she doesn’t lose her mind.
The number one thing that a mom can do is relax. It may be easier to say than do, but with some strategies in place, it is possible. We already know that high-needs babies don’t like to be put down, but mom may have to. If she is at the end of her rope, she may need to place that baby down in a safe space and walk away for just a few moments. A few minutes of crying will not hurt your baby and may do wonders for your own mental health.
4 Mom Can: Speak To Her Doctor!
It is important that mom speaks to a medical professional if she suspects that she has a difficult baby. That is because we do want to rule out any physical issues that the baby may be dealing with. If we can rule all of those out, it will be pretty clear that she has a high needs baby. It will also provide some much-needed peace of mind that there is nothing medically wrong with her baby.
It is also important that mom checks in for herself too, to talk about her mental health and the toll this may be taking on her. Many moms can be fearful of talking to a doctor, because they don’t want to present themselves as a mom who cannot handle their own child. We must work past this fear; the doctor does not think that and if they do you need a new doctor. Doctors are there to help and support you.
3 Mom Can: Call In The Support Team
Now is the time to call in the help. Whether it be a spouse, parent, sister, friend or even a neighbour. People want to help, all you have to do is let them. The number one reason mom’s do not ask for help is because they want to be a supermom and handle everything on their own. It is time to swallow your mom pride and ask for help.
People want to help, because they want to be around the baby. People love a baby that they can give back at the end of the day, so take advantage of the eagerness. If you have a high-needs baby, it is a blessing to have someone to take over with some cuddles while you take a shower, have a nap or do anything that is not related to taking care of your baby. Your mental health will thank you.
2 Mom Can: Understand It Is Not Her Fault
Mom guilt is real, and no matter happens, mom will always find a way to blame herself for anything and everything. This is because we love our babies so much, and we don’t like it when they are in obvious discomfort or pain. The sound of their cries has the ability to cause mom physical pain. Like a knife in their gut, and next thing you know you are crying too.
When it comes to having a high-needs baby, it is very important to remind yourself that it is not your fault. It is how your baby is wired, and no, it has nothing to do with what you ate or what you lifted when you are pregnant. Find close support systems to talk to - friends that you know will reassure you that this is not your fault and that you are doing a good job.
1 Mom Can: Try And Remember That Everything Passes
Everything passes. If you have a high-needs baby, this is your new mantra. Just keep telling yourself that everything passes, and nothing lasts forever. The neediness will fade, and they will gain a sense of independence. Even if they continue to have a demanding personality, there will be different and more effective skills at your disposal. A child is easier to reason with than a newborn.
On the other hand, everything passes also means that they will not be a baby forever. They will one day grow up and not want to cuddle with you for hours, so even if it is driving you crazy, try and enjoy the hour-long cuddle and nursing sessions. It may not seem like it now, but one day you will miss it. Putting this in perspective may help you see things a little bit clearer.