If you have a high-needs baby then I’m so glad you’re here. This guide is gonna give you what you need so that you don’t lose your s**t [like I almost did].
Because I too have a high-needs child I’ve been where you are right now. It was sooooo hard in the beginning. Especially since I didn’t hear a lot of people talking about having a high-needs child so I initially thought it was just all in my head.
It wasn’t until later that I realized that it was not all in my head and that there are so many moms experiencing the EXACT same thing.
This guide was created with you in mind. . . to help you get through it all and get to the point where you aren’t feeling hopeless, frustrated, and at your wit’s end.
I mean what does a high-needs baby really mean Anyway?
It’s basically a baby or toddler that overall demands way more attention and care than a typical baby/child. It really depends on the child but you can determine if you have a high-needs baby by looking out for . . .
High-needs baby characteristics
- constantly crying
- needs extra attention
- constantly holding or soothing
- irregular or unpredictable sleep or feeding patterns
- easily overstimulated by noise or movement
- may or may not like being swaddled [my son absolutely hated it]
- tend to refuse a bottle or pacifier
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How do I know if my baby is high needs?
You’re gonna have to really take a look at your situation and rule out other possibilities. There are a few tell-tell signs that’ll let you know if your little one is high needs. These will vary . . .
1 – Feed frequently
Feeding every 1-1.5 hours for months is extremely exhausting. This was probably the hardest thing for me because it was extremely physically and mentally challenging [remember I exclusively breastfed for the first 12 months].
2 – Overall Demanding
After having a newborn everyone expects the first few months to be tough because you’re taking care of your new little human day and night. Usually [with a non-high-needs baby] things will kinda settle down and taking care of the baby isn’t as demanding. Well with a high-needs baby, it seems like it’s never-ending.
3 – Little to No Sleep
Irregular or unpredictable sleep patterns. Taking 15-30 minute naps is common – or none at all. You may have to hold the baby in order for them to take naps. Wearing the baby can help so much and will be a game-changer for you.
4 – Separation Anxiety
Your baby usually wants to be right up under you all the time. Oh, and did I mention they wanna be held like all day?
5 – Hates riding in their car seat
This may or may not be an indication because a lot of babies don’t like riding in their car seat. My daughter was not a high-needs baby and she screamed bloody murder every time we put her in the car seat. She would scream from the time I put her in the car until we reached our destination. My son on the other hand,
6 – Difficulty when self-soothing
Most babies aren’t gonna be able to self-soothe those first few months however with a high-demand baby it will more than likely take longer.
7 – Always want to be held
And no I’m not talking about being “spoiled”. I’m talking about straight “don’t ever put me down” just out the womb kinda situation.
Side Note: If you’re breastfeeding, the baby will tend to suck a lot for comfort.
How do I get my high-needs baby to self-soothe?
I’m sorry to say but it’s not gonna be easy to get your high-demand baby to learn to self-soothe. This will vary depending on the baby but it will most likely require you to let your baby cry it out.
How you go about doing this is completely up to you but I started out by letting my son cry it out for about 10-15 minutes and then increased that time as time went on. This is not an easy process for him or for me.
And, I don’t know about your baby but mine can cry for a couple of hours – STRAIGHT! It’s nerve-racking because it’s usually a “someone is trying to kill me” kinda cry. It was tough but eventually, it worked for us.
How do I get my baby to stay asleep when I put her/him down?
I wish I could tell you that if you apply every one of the steps listed below you’ll be able to get your high-needs baby to sleep but unfortunately it’s not that easy. Every high damnd baby and situation is so different so you’re gonna have to use these tips to help determine which will help with your little one.
Tips to Get Your Needy Baby to Sleep
- Establish a routine – this was kinda hard for me because my son fed often. I exclusively breastfed him until 13 months. Because of this [and other challenges], it was hard to keep him on a tight schedule. But what I would say did help was doing what I could to establish somewhat of a bedtime routine. It took a really long time however eventually we got to a point where he would wind down.
- Make sleep most comfortable – you’re gonna wanna pay close attention to the temperature in your baby’s room to make sure it’s not too hot & not too cold, how they are dressed for bed, how comfortable their bedding is, are there any distractions, and if there’s light shining in.
- Try different positions – I know that nowadays the safest way that is advised is to have your baby sleep on their back however in different countries and cultures, babies sleep on their stomachs. This is something you’ll want to research and talk to your pediatrician. My daughter sleep on her back however my son would not so I tried sleeping on his stomach and it worked. You could even possibly try having your baby sleep on their side.
- Use a sound machine – this has not only helped my little one sleep better but it also gets your little one used to sleeping with noise. You might think this is a big deal but it most certainly is. Ha!
- Make sure they’re full – the more they’re
- Use a swaddle/sleep sack – because every child is so different, using a swaddle or sleeping sack could definitely really help get your lil one to sleep.
- Use blackout curtains – this is a MUST if you have a high-needs child. I didn’t use blackout curtains before the arrival of my son but I’m so glad that I did. We still use blackout curtains and my son is now 1 ½ years old.
>>> Other posts you may like . . .
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- Misconceptions of First-Time Moms: Can you really overfeed a breastfed baby?
- Dealing with Stay-at-Home Mom Depression in 2020: No One Understands Me
How to Deal w/ a High-Needs Baby
Things That’ll Help You Get Through
This part is easier said than done in some cases (especially in the beginning). Honestly, what helped me the most was learning my baby, having support from my friends who have gone through a similar situation, and taking it one day at a time.
I’m thankful I have support, however, I found it hard to get most of my friends and family to understand what I was going through because they’ve never experienced having a high-needs/high-demand baby.
Only moms who have gone through the struggle understood and could relate.
1 – Give Yourself Grace / Take it Day by Day
Listen, I know this may come off as a little cliche but you have to be able to just let things be sometimes. . . maybe a lot of the time.
Just know that you’re an amazing mother [even though you might not think so at times] and you are also HUMAN. Learn to give yourself grace by allowing yourself to make mistakes. Mommyhood is tough and we do the best we can. Do what you must and keep it moving.
2 – Practice Self-Care/ Journaling
What kind of self-care you decide to do is gonna depend on you, your budget, and your situation but whatever it is, I highly suggest you get in the habit of making time to do things for yourself. Things that make you feel good and just for you.
3 – Establish a Support System
If you think you need a village with a child who’s not a high-demand baby, then you need way more support when dealing with a high-demand baby. You might think you can do it yourself, but I very much doubt it. Only because it’s very exhausting and takes a lot when you’re taking care of a high-needs child.
If you don’t have any friends/family or don’t have enough support around you, make your own tribe. It’ll take some work but you can make mommy friends, talk to the people around you and let them know what you’re going through. You’ll be surprised how many people are there to offer help when you need it.
- Family & Friends
- Significant other
- Mom community – Join a mom community [as many as it takes]
4 – Learn Your Baby
This is something you’ll learn over time. As a mom, you’ll see how your baby reacts to or responds to certain things. Even as a first-time mom, you’ll know when something isn’t right or if your baby needs something.
How long will “high needs” last?
Because every baby and situation is different, it really depends. For me, I noticed my son started settling down around 5 or 6 months. It was [and still is] at times extremely challenging. . . Mainly because he wants what he wants when he wants it and he acts cra-cra if he doesn’t get it right away.
I have been able to calm him down by talking to him and sometimes flat out ignoring him. It’s funny because my son doesn’t act as he does with others [like at school]
Take it one day at a time. It’s tough . . . Trust me I know how you’re feeling right now.
Leave a comment below and let me know how things are going.