I knew early on that my baby was going to be a “handful”. While no baby is “good” or “bad” some babies are more difficult than others. And I had a difficult one on my hands from the get-go.
Being my fourth baby I mistakenly assumed she would be chilled. After all, the fourth child just fits in, right? Wrong. She is more work and extracts more energy than the other three combined. There’s nothing Zen about this one. “Intense” best sums her up.
We had breast-feeding troubles from day one. She writhed, wailed and arched her back in distress. She must have colic, I reasoned. I bought every colic and wind potion available in a desperate bid to calm her. They didn’t work.
Her discomfort at the breast, tummy pain, and constant irritability led me to a paediatrician who diagnosed reflux. I left armed with a prescription; buoyed by the prospect of a happier baby. But the medication had little effect. Breast-feeding issues persisted and after seeing four lactation consultants I got a new diagnosis. She had upper lip-tie and posterior tongue-tie. Finally we had an answer that would change everything. Only it didn’t. We had her ties released and although breastfeeding improved, her unsettled behaviour continued.
Cows Milk Protein Intolerance (CMPI) was the next possible cause. Her symptoms indicated intolerance to something, but an elimination diet proved unsuccessful. I gave up coffee and chocolate for her reflux, and went dairy and soy-free, but there was no significant change.
When I saw my MHCH recently she suggested that perhaps there was actually nothing wrong. She explained that she could be a “high need” baby, a description coined by the physician, Dr. Sears.
Hard to feed, hard to read, hard to please! Parenting a high needs baby is hard work. They don’t just merely request feeding and holding, they demand it — urgently! Crying escalates quickly and it can take herculean efforts to settle them. High need babies are serial cat-nappers. It’s not unusual for me to spend 40 mins rocking, patting and shooshing her to sleep, then silently commando-roll out of her nursery, carefully avoiding the creaky floorboards, only to return 4 minutes later to start the whole process all over again.
While most babies enjoy being swaddled, many high need babies protest restraint and physical contact. They stiffen their limbs and arch their backs when you try to hold them. My baby is physically strong and turns breastfeeding into a gymnastic event!
They also crave motion. All. The. Time. Holding my baby is not enough; I must keep moving. If I want to sit down, it can only be on something that moves, like a fit ball. Car journeys are a special kind of hell. As soon as she is strapped into her seat the wailing begins. She doesn’t like the pram unless it’s in constant motion. “Invest in a baby carrier” is the advice most often received. I have tried three. Like all restraints she is vehemently opposed to this perceived form of torture.
High need babies are easily bothered, quickly stimulated, and super-sensitive to their environment. A leaf falling from the tree can wake my baby. I kid you not. Frequent night-time waking? You betcha!
Life with a high need baby is hard work. It is exhausting, confusing, and all-consuming. But I have found that there is relief.
3 ways to cope with a high needs baby
She is now six months old and I don’t think things are going to change soon. And that’s OK. I have reached a place of acceptance about it and I am no longer trying to “fix” her. I know it won’t always be this way and so instead of tying myself in knots about it, I accept it, because ‘what you resist, persists’. My advice is to embrace the good moments and shake off the bad ones. Acceptance is a powerful coping mechanism.
When you have a high need baby it seems every other mum has a chilled-out baby. You will envy the relaxed mum at the café as she sips on her latte, breastfeeds with ease, seemingly without a care in the world. But comparing your situation with others will drive you nuts. Each child is wired differently and in the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Don’t do it.
Adopt this mantra
In many ways my baby’s behaviour echoes that of my second-born. The difference between then and now is my attitude. Then, I thought it would never end. Now, I know it will. Then, I felt I was somehow to blame. Now, I know I’m doing nothing wrong. Then, I wondered if she would always be this way. Now, I know like all things, this too shall pass. Now, repeat after me.
“This too shall pass.”
Have you had a baby who’s hard to please? How did you cope?