Everyone has heard of the babies that sleep peacefully through the night at 8 weeks or something ridiculous. What about the babies that nap regularly like clockwork? Or what about the babies that nurse perfectly 5-6 times a day or take a bottle with no fuss, finish it in a timely matter and burp on queue? Well, those babies will not be discussed here.
Most people would be correct in assuming that all babies are high needs to some extent. They are completely dependent human beings that rely on their cries to get the attention they need to have their needs met. However, high needs babies are in a different boat altogether.
High need babies will never be described as easy going or low maintenance. They are not the babies who will allow anyone to hold them or are comforted easily. They are what some would describe as needy and their parents are what others would describe as sleep deprived. While it’s hard to find an absolute definition for a high need baby, several issues are always at hand in each study on the subject: excessive crying, excessive wanting to be held, trouble sleeping and feeding, and trouble with adjustments. Most of the presentations of this list have more to do with the parent’s ideas of what it means to have a high needs baby along with some of the solutions (if available) they have found to cope.
Every baby cries here and there, every baby usually prefers mom and dad, and every baby will change mom and dad’s lives forever more, but here are 15 signs it’s a high need baby!
16 Never The Silent Treatment
High needs babies seem to cry non-stop. In the past people referred to this as a baby being colicky or fussy. Recently the term high need is being thrown around for the endless criers. These babies not only cry but they tend to cry loudly and things usually escalate quickly if something is not done to rectify the situation. Many parents use the word “intense” to describe the personality of a high needs baby. Some saying their baby begins this sort of behavior while still in the womb. These babies were the rib kickers and the gut punchers. They seemed to jump on their mom’s bladders.
It’s almost as if they were telling the world “you better get ready”. It doesn’t take much to set off the shrill cries of a high need baby, unlike some other babies that only cry when hungry, wet, or lonely, these babies seem to be crying just to cry at times. The best advice parents with a high need baby seem to agree on, is to try to calm the cries before they get out of hand, because once baby goes nuclear everybody’s going to need earmuffs.
15 Forget A Schedule Or Routine
High need babies can be described as unpredictable. Many parents agree that it’s hard to find a routine because they never know what they are going to get on any given day. High need babies are not known for waking up around the same time every day or napping around the same time in the morning or afternoon. One mom said her high need son would wake up any time between 4 and 6:30 in the morning, and she never really knew what to expect. She said it drove her crazy because she was always unsure of how to schedule her day.
It can be difficult for parents to operate on different levels of sleep each night and have to plan out their days on a whim. The days they expect their babies to sleep in a bit are the days the babies seem to want to catch the early bird and vice versa. This can be a tough challenge to overcome and it’s best to keep the calendar light in the mornings.
14 Can’t Keep Still
One feature that is present in most high need babies is hyperactivity. There is an almost constant need to move and if they can’t move on their own yet, they want the parents to do it. They want to be rocked, bounced, jostled here and there. Stillness is not a speed they appreciate. A high need baby will typically not be content laying in a non-rolling stroller taking in the scenes. Some babies sit back and relax in their strollers and carriers while their parents eat lunch or stop and browse at stores; not a high need baby. As soon as the motion stops they will begin to get cranky and the crankiness within seconds will turn into a cry fest.
The best advice given for parents that want to sit down or slow down is investing in a baby swing or some sort of contraption that will keep the baby constantly moving. Although for many high need babies they don’t want to be anywhere but in mom or dad’s arms, which brings us to our next point.
13 Parental Preference
Most high need babies prefer one parent and her name is mommy, although there are some cases where dad takes the cake, it is rare. High need babies want mommy and they want mommy all the time. While all babies usually prefer their moms and dads over others, they will go to grandma or grandpa or the sweet lady at church and so on. Not a high need baby. He or she has his or her eyes set on one prize and that, my friends, is momma. Dad needs to back up, they don’t want to hear what grandma is talking about and grandpa doesn’t stand a chance.
This can be extremely tough on moms, feeling their child is miserable unless they are in their arms. The best way to deal with this is to find different ways to hold and carry the baby. Baby carriers are ideal because they free up mommy’s hands while still allowing baby to feel safe and secure and oh-so-close.
12 Easily Overstimulated
While a high need baby is usually very active and very loud, they do not want anybody or anything else to be. A day spent at a mall with people hustling to and fro, or a busy family gathering will more than likely leave mom and dad with an extra unhappy camper. No baby probably likes tons of people staring or poking at them, people constantly trying to make them smile or laugh but a high need baby will definitely not deal with it well. Many parents of high need babies agree that after a busy day, they will usually have a busier night with even more tears and frustrations than usual.
Something about the overstimulation during the day can linger long after the crowds have dispersed. Unfortunately, there is no tried and true solution to this one, moms and dads will eventually have to leave the house and they will have to be around other people and will sometimes find themselves in chaotic situations. The best bet is after a busy day to make sure the next one is calmer to help balance out the baby’s mood.
11 But Also, Not Stimulated Enough…
Wait, what? Yes, such lovely confusion. Some high need babies can also need more stimulation. It really is the luck of the draw. The day itself will have to tell its own tale. Some parents of high need babies say the only way they survive is to get out of the house. This goes hand in hand with the need to stay on the move. As much as some high need babies like to be rocked and rolled and bounced and swayed; they also need to see and do and smell and hear. This truly puzzling stimulation situation can only be explained by a parent who has gone through it with their child.
One mom says somedays her baby needed to be home, with low lights, low sounds, all day snuggling, and others her baby was bright eyed and searching for things to see and do. The positive spin for this one is, the better parents know their children, which happens with time, the better they can decide which kind of day the baby seems to be having.
10 Feeding Frenzy
She’s always hungry. This is something a parent with a high need baby might think or feel. The breast-feeding moms like themselves to living breathing pacifiers, and they really are. High need babies are well known for their constant need to feed. This is more about comfort and less about hunger. These babies rely on bottle or breast to soothe them more than anything else. Which is fine for breast fed babies, but formula fed babies might run into weighty issues (pun intended). Breast milk lacks the increasing calories when done in some constant spurts. The foremilk is much less dense than the hind milk, whereas formula can pack on the pounds if babies drink it constantly.
One important thing to note, there are places in the world where no babies are considered high need and many rarely cry at all. There is also a prevailing theme among these places, the babies are worn and nursed constantly throughout the day. Sometimes 20 or more times a day! The feeding frenzy aspect of high need babies is one where breast feeding truly does come in handy.
9 Always Lonely
Forget showers, forget personal time, forget even using the restroom alone. A high need baby will want to be right by mom’s side at all times. They will not go for the crib, or car seat, or carrier. They do not want to feel alone. Regardless of how true the loneliness actually is. Mom might be driving the car, but to an infant, mom is gone and they are strapped into some seat facing the back of the car. Any baby will fuss a little in these situations but a high need baby will likely not be able to regain composure until they are “reunited” with mom (who was less than two feet away).
This attribute of life with a high need baby can be especially unpleasant. Anyone can tell you, sitting in the car with a screaming baby is no fun. It’s the same vibe when the baby is placed in the crib for a second or strapped into the stroller or carrier. Baby is not having it.
8 Non-Self Soother
A high need baby has major difficulties learning to self soothe. They are not going to lay in their crib and find ways to calmly put themselves to sleep. Pacifiers also rarely stand a chance. If parents of a high need baby are able to get their child to take a pacifier, they better pray it does not fall out, ever. As discussed previously, high need babies tend to prefer mommy’s breast as the best tool for comfort. Not much else usually works. Binkies, thumbs, pacifiers, stuffed animals, special blankets, you name it, and it probably will not work.
Mom is the key here, as far as providing comfort is concerned. The world can churn out the most creative of baby gadgets, it can sing, flash colors, play calming music, or display beautiful pictures but a high need baby will prefer mom (and sometimes dad) above them all.
7 Regularly Irregular
Ever heard a parent say their baby always poops at a certain time of the day? Maybe after breakfast, they just know that their child will be grunting and red-faced, sitting in their high chair because they are as regular as the Sunday paper. Well, not a high need baby. They don’t really do anything on schedule or regularly. Many parents who believe their children are high need all seem to note that their child is inconsistent with bowel movements or wet diapers.
Obviously in breastfed babies, there are periods of irregularity, but for some high need babies, the parents never know what they are going to get. The child might go frequently or seem to be constipated and sometimes both happen within the same day. This tendency is related to the fact that high need babies can also be finicky eaters which is our next topic.
6 Picky Eaters
A high need infant will more than likely develop into a high need baby, toddler, and so on. Once past the strictly breast milk or formula part of their lives, parents of high need children tend to find it hard to feed them. While some children suffer allergies to milk, gluten, and other widely known allergens, high need babies struggle from these and more. One mom pointed out that her daughter could only eat rice and drink water, along with breastmilk. She also had to cut tons of stuff out of her diet just to provide breastmilk that would not make her child sick. Even when a high need child doesn’t have allergies, they may just choose not to eat at all from time to time.
Many parents say it’s very hit or miss. They claim sometimes their children eat too much and other times they won’t eat at all. This can be very troublesome for parents. Babies should not be forced to eat but parents can make an effort to increase breast milk, formula, or cow’s milk when their child is not eating much else.
5 Early Episodes Of Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety for most children does not really set in until after the first year. Some babies, if distracted enough will not even notice the absence of their mother or father for quite a while. But don’t try to pull this on a high need baby. They will always have their eyes locked on momma. If she disappears for a second, be it into the restroom, while driving the car, while checking on another sibling, the high need baby is going to let everyone have it. A high need baby will become increasingly distressed almost to the point of being inconsolable when their mom leaves their field of view.
It does not matter if she is in the room or nearby, it matters whether the child can see and touch her. This can be especially tough on parents that are in desperate need of a break from their children. One mom said she could never find a babysitter because the baby’s reputation as a screamer had gotten around the neighborhood.
4 No Swaddle Zone
One easy clue in that a baby is high need is their resistance to being swaddled. Universally most babies prefer to be tucked in nice and cozy. They like to feel almost as if they were back in the womb, which is the purpose of the swaddle and the reason it works so well to stop episodes of crying. Again, not for a high need baby. Just like they behaved in the womb, they will fight and kick, in an effort to get more room to move. A high need baby will likely cry louder if they are put into a firmly fitted swaddle, it doesn’t matter how cool or breezy the material, they just want to be able to move their limbs.
The best suggestion for this “problem” is a baby wrap or carrier that is worn with the baby’s limbs able to dangle. It will allow mom or dad to still get things down, while keeping baby “held” but also “free”.
3 Need It NOW
One of the most frustrating aspects of a high need baby is the demanding nature of their communication. A lot of parents already struggle with feeling their children somehow control them. Think of all the ways parents are presented to regain that so called “control”: feeding schedules, sleeping schedules, sleep training, weaning methods, the list goes on and on. A high need baby will struggle against any of these methods not because they seek control but because their needs are higher than other babies. The cries of a high need baby seem to have an urgent ring to them. If their needs are not met right away the cries get louder, more intense, more desperate, and it happens quickly.
Any parent with a high need child will tell you that it’s important to try and find out what the need is before things escalate. Some moms have a quick checklist they go through when their child starts to get upset. They will try feeding, then changing diapers, then rocking or walking or some form of movement. Sometimes the quick thinking pays off and the crisis is avoided.
2 Up All Night
High need babies tend to need help getting to sleep. Even when they are asleep they rarely stay that way. These are the babies that wake frequently through the night, crying loudly, frantic, or upset. While some babies might stir slightly when they need to be nursed or given a bottle, a high need baby is likely to wake up completely and become upset quickly. Also, when a high need baby sleeps, they often move all around the crib or bed, they bang up against the sides or rails, and sometimes that is what ends up waking them.
They can also be sensitive to moist diapers, so while most babies may continue to sleep if their diaper is a little wet, a high need baby will notice immediately and wake up wanting to be changed. This is one of those times people are right to say "sleep when the baby does". A mommy running on 1 or 2 hours each night is no good to anyone.
1 Tired, Drained, Exhausted Parents
What do you get when you add together a baby that does not sleep through the night, feeds all the time, only wants mom, needs to be held, doesn’t like to be alone or swaddled and the rest of the things mentioned in this list? You get very tired parents. Parents who are drained and stressed and confused why their friends don’t seem to be suffering through baby-hood as much as they are.
The neediness of a high need baby can be draining. The baby can seem to take all the parents energy away, even when the parents feel their tank is dry. Having a high need baby can be difficult but there are ways to make life easier. One of them is cutting out unrealistic expectations, the strict schedules and training routines will probably not be successful with high need babies. Also, try to learn their cues and triggers, it may seem hard but look for things that signal hunger, thirst, or spend the extra few bucks for the diapers that signal when they are wet. So that problems can be avoided before they begin. Find out what they want or need and do it. Forget about control and think about keeping the peace.
Also try to get out of the house, ask for help, and make sure mom and dad are truly supporting one another and each pitching in fair shares of help. Finally, remember, babies aren’t babies forever. Believe it or not most parents miss the sound of their baby crying one day, they miss nursing, rocking, and all the other things that feel so never-ending. Ask any mom with an empty nest…
Sources: TodaysParent.com, AskSears.com