Celebrating the wonderful ups and challenging downs of this journey called motherhood...
When my son was just a few days old, we quickly learned that he was going to be a high need baby. He wasn't like his cousin who would just sleep all the time and would be quiet once a pacifier was in his mouth. My boy doesn't like the binkie. He wouldn't just sleep on his own either. And he was a crier.
Being a new mom, I wanted to understand my baby. I wanted to figure out why he was what he was. In my research, I came across this article from Ask Dr. Sears website: 12 Features of a High Need Baby
It's a very interesting read. After reading all 12 features, I can say that Henson is a 5 out of 12. He's Intense, Hyperactive, Draining, Demanding, and Not a Self Soother (I will include some snippets here from the website, but I recommend reading the whole article to see which one applies to your baby.)
My baby's cries usually start off a whimper, then it becomes a normal cry, and if you don't attend to him, it escalates into a full on uncontrollable wailing.
"The cry of a high need baby is not a mere request, it’s an urgent demand. These babies put more energy into everything they do. They cry loudly, feed voraciously, laugh with gusto, and protest more forcefully if their needs are not met to their satisfaction. Because they feel so deeply, they react more powerfully if their feelings are disturbed. “If I don’t feed him as soon as he fusses, he falls apart” is a common statement from the mother of such a baby. You can read the intensity of the baby’s feelings in her body language. The fists are clenched, back arched, muscles tensed, as if ready for action."
I used to be so rattled and panicky every time my son was in one of his intense crying moods, but now I've learned to handle it better. It also helps to read about stuff like this (from Ask Dr Sears website):
"Intense babies become the intense toddlers, characterized by one word — “driven.” They seem in high gear all the time. Their drive to explore and experiment with everything in reach leaves no household item safe. Some high need toddlers maneuver around the house carefully, but most do not. These babies run headlong toward a desired object, seemingly oblivious of everything in their path. Soon it dawns on you that the same behavioral trait that can exhaust you will also delight you. The same drive that gets your toddler into trouble also leads him to a level of creativity toward which other children may not venture. Your job is to help him drive more carefully and on roads that he can handle."
"They stiffen their limbs and arch their backs when you try to hold them, and they are frequently seen doing back dives in your lap, turning breastfeeding into a gymnastic event."
My boy always arched his back as a baby. He just loved doing it. If he was upset, he would arch his back. When I changed his diapers, he arched his back. When I carry him or put him on my lap, he doesn't stay still. Most of the time he would be climbing me or digging his toes on my lap. He takes after my husband who's constantly on the go. I actually don't mind this trait, I mean it can be tiring sometimes, I must admit, but it's his personality and there is nothing wrong with that.
"Experienced mothers learn to operate in what one woman calls “the mother zone.” It’s like the “Twilight Zone”; you feel a bit fuzzy, somewhat sleep-deprived; you simply function in low gear for a stretch of time. It’s a season that passes; and while you’re in it, try not to fight it or resent it. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself that you didn’t get enough sleep, just don’t expect as much from yourself that day. Of course, you’re not completely rested — you are the mother of a baby who needs you."
I think this trait has eased up quite a bit since my son grew older, it was worse when he was a baby. I still have times when I feel like I'm in the "Twilight Zone", sleep-deprived, fuzzy, and just plain exhausted. But just like Dr. Sears said, being in the "Mother Zone" is good for both mommy and baby. I just need to learn not to expect too much from myself during these days. Household chores can wait, I'd rather focus all my energy on my baby. Some days are less difficult than others and I just recharge my energy on those "easier" days.
"High need babies don’t just merely request feeding and holding, they demand it — loudly. This feature more than any of the others pushes parents’ buttons, causing them to feel manipulated and controlled. Adults who are stuck in the “parenting equals control” mindset may have great difficulty realizing that babies’ demands equal communication, not control."
This is one of the most difficult trait we had to deal with. We called my son, "Little Hulk" because he would just cry so hard when he needed something and you need to hustle and give him whatever he needs RIGHT AWAY. It was hard at first, but this is something that I've learned to accept and learned to manage well as time passed. It also helps to know that babies don't do this to control us, this is just their way of communicating. They don't know anything about manipulation. It's hard to train our minds especially if we're wired to think that way. But it gets easier if we constantly remind ourselves of this fact.
"If the child feels that she can trust her caregivers, she will eventually learn to make her demands in a more socially acceptable way, rather than wildly overwhelming the whole caregiving environment. With parents who both respond to and wisely channel her demands, the high need child develops into a person with determination, one who will fight for her rights. The child becomes a leader instead of a follower, one who does not just follow the path of least resistance and do what everyone else is doing. Certainly, our country needs more of such citizens.
Being demanding is the trait of high need children that is most likely to drive parents bananas, but it is also the trait that drives children to succeed and excel."
For mommies out there that have a demanding baby, there's a silver lining in all this. When you're frazzled because it seems like you're always on the go and having to deal with a baby's demands, just think that this time and energy you invest, will help your baby become successful in the end (with correct parenting and guidance along the way of course).
NOT A SELF-SOOTHER
"Another unrealistic expectation new parents often have is that babies will soothe themselves to sleep with the help of a pacifier, a music box, or some baby-calming gadget. High need babies are smarter than that. They want to interact with people, not things. Parents will often report, “He just can’t relax by himself.” High need babies need help to fall asleep. They must learn to trust their parents to help them. This will help them learn to relax on their own, a skill that has value for a lifetime. Crying oneself off to sleep is not a good way to learn to relax. The best way for a baby to learn to relax and fall asleep is to have his behavior shaped for him by a parent. Once a child learns to relax on his own, he’ll have no trouble falling asleep, when he’s tired, on his own."
In the beginning, I bought my baby a few pacifiers because I thought all babies needed one. I didn't realize that some babies actually rejected them. As a baby, my son would sometimes take it, but most of the time he would just drop it. As he got older, he completely rejected them. He also has a white noise gadget from Fisher Price, the Select-A-Show Soother. And it actually helped him sleep more peacefully and we used it all the time at night and during the day while he's napping.
He also can't fall asleep on his own, so I rock him to sleep all the time. He falls asleep sometimes on his stroller while we're out for a walk when he's really tired and also in the car seat, but he can never just fall asleep on his own in his crib. I don't know if that's harmful in the long run having a sleep aid, but I just don't know what to do. I know a lot of moms do sleep training, but for some reason, I just feel that it's not for us. I guess for now, we're just winging it and hopefully he'll learn to fall asleep on his own and self soothe some time soon.
What about you mommies? Do you have a high need baby? If so, which ones in the list describes your baby? I'd love to hear all about it!