Wednesday, June 8, 2011

High Needs Baby

**I wrote this post a few days ago but wasn’t sure I wanted to make it public.  I feel like some moms (or even non-moms) might think I don’t know what I’m talking about or that I’m doing something wrong (and blaming my parenting skills, or lack thereof, on my baby).  But you know what?   That’s okay.  You may babysit Lyla (or another high needs baby) for one day (and one night) and THEN get back to me.  Haha.

Oh Karma, how you love to bite me in the behind. 

36 weeks pregnant--that was the easy part!
Morning sickness aside, I feel like I had one of the easiest, least traumatic pregnancies a gal could ask for.  Shiny hair, perfect skin, AND bigger boobs?  Yes, please!  I left the hospital already back to my pre-pregnancy weight, having only gained about 9 lbs. total (yes, feel free to send me hate mail).  I caved and had the epidural, so my labor was easy as pie. And then I was holding the tiniest, sweetest little being that ever existed.  I thought to myself ‘I could do this again verrrry soon!’ 

Lyla at about 2 tiny but SO loud
Fast forward three weeks later.  After a few very intense crying fits, Andrew asks me (hypothethically) “How long before you know if your baby will be a colic baby?”  I laugh, “Honey, babies cry.  She doesn’t have colic!”  And then the fits get worse.  The screaming is daily.  Peaceful moments are few and far between.  We spend our evenings pacing the floors, taking turns shhh-ing and bouncing our tiny girl.  We wake each morning to gut-wrenching crying.  We make numerous visits to the doctor.  We don’t want to say it out loud, for fear that it is true.  Our baby has colic.  So we can expect the screaming, crying misery to last for at least the next couple of months.

The three month mark came and the fits subsided.  Lyla became more manageable.  We could leave the house without fearing a meltdown.  But despite all our small victories, our baby is still not like most.  I’ve been beating myself up for so long; blaming all our setbacks on my lack of parenting knowledge.  I can’t get her to sleep through the night.  She doesn’t want to nap.  She still constantly wants to be held.  She despises swings, bouncy chairs and the likes.  I recently came across this article and it describes Lyla to a tee.  I now realize it’s not my fault.  We have a high needs baby.

Here’s a little rundown of the characteristics of high needs babies (via
1. INTENSE- meaning, cries are more urgent (Andrew and I always say “zero to sixty…”) and there’s not stopping until she gets what she wants.
2. HYPERACTIVE- if she’s laying down (awake) she is in constant motion—slamming her feet into the ground, flailing her arms.  If she’s being held she wants to be facing out, while you WALK (no sitting allowed!).
3. DRAINING- attention required every.  second.  of.  the.  day.
5. DEMANDING-  a quote from the article: “He will let you know quickly and loudly that you've misread his cues.”
6. AWAKENS FREQUENTLY- that too.  Try every hour and a half at night. 
7. UNSATISFIED- some days nothing will settle her.
8.  UNPREDICTABLE- what worked to soothe her yesterday inevitably will not work today.
9. SUPER-SENSITIVE-  both emotionally and physically. 
10. CAN'T PUT BABY DOWN-  though she’s getting better,  Lyla certainly prefers to be held as much as possible.
11. NOT A SELF-SOOTHER-  she just can’t figure it out (or doesn’t want to).  We try giving her a pacifier, her thumb, etc. but Lyla refuses to calm down without our help. (usually this ends up being: my boobàher mouth)
12. SEPARATION SENSITIVE-  this is the ONE on the list that describes her the least.  As long as her needs are being met (being fed on demand, held in a comfortable position and walked/bounced) she is usually okay.  Though she is starting to show some preference toward momma and daddy.

I know not everyone will agree that “high needs babies” exist and I feel like a lot of people will say that we are “spoiling” Lyla by always responding so quickly to her cries.  But until you have lived with one of these babies you really can’t grasp the urgency of their cries.  Her tantrums escalate extremely quickly and her stamina is mind blowing.  ‘Crying it out’ is just out of the question.  So we do our best to meet her needs with what she wants, when she wants it (within reason!  We still are parents and we obviously set boundaries).

My sleep deprivation cure is seeing that smile!
So, though I joke about my good pregnancy karma being answered with a difficult baby I don’t want it to be mistaken for un-thankfulness.  I love Lyla more than I could ever imagine.  For as much stress as she brings to my life she returns it with joy times ten.  Her intense moments of crying are followed by equally intense moments of happiness.  Those moments are filled with the biggest dimpled-cheek grins and belly laughs (and snorts!) that slay me.  Part of me feels so blessed to have such a difficult baby.  Like God handed her to us with a wink and said “This one’s special….not just anyone could handle her.  But I know you can and I promise it will be worth it.”  And it totally is.



Rici said...

Darlin' don't you DARE let somebody tell you what you are doing is wrong and that you are spoiling your child. You are the mom (and dad) and you guys know what works best for your family. Things will settle out in time. Do what is right for you guys right now. Lyla is blessed to have parents that will appropriately "deal with" (I hate using that term) a high needs child. You show her love, comfort and care and that is what any baby needs.
Keep your head up! This will pass. Just remember you are a great mommy!

Rici said...

I did forget to tell you that I do hate you for the lack of pregnancy weight! ;-)

Amanda said...

This post made me cry! I am really so proud of you and Andrew.

It's not easy raising any baby, but a high needs baby obviously moreso. I feel bad I am not around to help more when you need a break!

Love you all!

Cara said...

Don't get discouraged!!! I can't pretend to know how hard it is to have a high needs baby but I'm sure you guys are doing a fabulous job. Lyla is just the cutest little bug and I love that you share the good moments as well as the ones that make you feel crazy - that's just life!

Sending lots of good thoughts your way. :)


Maggie May said...

I don't know you but I'm REALLY PROUD of you for meeting your babies needs. I totally, totally get it, and sweetie you are doing the absolute right thing. My first born was colicky- (looking back I think it was because of food intolerances through my nursing- My daughter Ever was 'almost' colicky but I stopped dairy chocolate and most bread and she was fine, but who knows) and I did nothing but nurse and hold and walk for the first months of his life. I hope you guys find a few things that help. For my son it was the sound of the dryer, the shower and being held facing down in the football hold. You guys are doing an amazing, loving job, and it's not your fault your baby is high needs. I can tell you that in my experience often times babiest that are like that are also exceptionally interesting and sensitive and awesome kids. Hang in there

Maggie May said...

ps I was going to say, if you are breastfeeding I recommend highly taking high doses of fish oil and regular dose of B vits daily. Often babies that are colicky have underdeveloped/overstimulated nervous systems, and they need those fatty acids and b vits to help their brains grow correctly and calmly. Also, seeing a great naturopath/chiropractor could really help.

Jenarcissist @ the closet narcissist said...

You are NOT a bad mom. No one can know your child like you do. Motherhood guilt sure starts early, as in, for me, before conception! Then you carry it with you in pregnancy as you carry the baby, though I try to keep it in line because I want to have a positive, healthy attitude during my pregnancy. I imagine once you have the baby, you struggle with it 10 times more because you never know if you're doing the right things. I can only judge by my pet parenting skills (parent of six of them), but I used to struggle with motherhood guilt SO bad with them. I learned to tame it over time but will probably have to start all over with the baby once she's here - guilt not only over all decisions I make for the baby but also trying to make sure the pets still get enough attention. :) But like anything in life, it requires balance so the guilt doesn't run you. You can only do the best you can do, and you have to forgive yourself for the rest.

Here is what I keep going back to. My mom has passed on, but she told me long ago that if you love a child enough and give them enough affection, they'll forgive you just about anything. She's completely right. Now that she's gone, it's not her faults or slip-ups I remember the's the way she loved me so completely and unconditionally and the kind of compassionate person she was/is. It's become my mantra too. You will make mistakes. But Lyla knows how much you love her, so it's going to work out.

I think this was an important post you wrote. Women everywhere are scared to death to come clean about their innermost fears, thinking people will judge and ridicule them. Some people will, yes. But many will relate. And when you find out other women identify with what you're going through, you don't feel alone anymore, thereby releasing a LOT of the power the thing held over you when you kept it stuffed inside. Just saying something out loud to people makes the thing lose some of its power.

Every pregnancy and every child are different. People always have an opinion about it they just haaaave to share. But don't let those things get ya down! All that matters is YOU know you're doing your best!

Anonymous said...

Great post, very much "real mama drama"... and I love that. You are a great Mom, it will get better. Enjoy all the moments, because someday you will be able to laugh at all the rough times and realize that it made you a better Mom and that you have the most wonderful lil girl.

Team Dean said...

As a momma I know how hard it is when you feel like everyone is watching to see what you will do. You are doing a great job and never let anyone make you feel otherwise. Everyone always says every baby is different and they are right but they are forgetting that every parent is different too. Being a mother is the hardest job but its the most rewarding job. I read a great article (that I can't find now) about how important it is to hold your child as much as possible. Our society has programmed us to believe that we are spoiling them if we do but that just not the case. It talked about how they told a bunch of mothers in africa that women in the US think we are spoiling our children when we hold them to much. The women laugh (I'm sure they were all carrying/holding babies) and sad we must be crazy and that if you hold child when they ask eventually they grow up and and stop asking to be held. Here is a similar article and if I find the one I'm talking about I'll post it too.

Coedith said...

I just happened to stumble upon your blog and this post made me smile. That may sound strange but it did. A little over 14 years ago we had our first daughter and thought we were prepared. It is hard to admit even now but we were miserable for her first 2 months. Our pediatrician recommended Dr Sears book 'The High Needs Child'. It was a lifesaver. All the pieces came together and I learned to do what worked for us. (regardless of other people's opinions) Some people still do not believe me when I explain what it was like to have a high needs baby. Please be encouraged because we met her needs, never ignored them and after about 18 mos. she became an angel. We have had 3 more children since our first and I could not believe how easy they were in contrast, high needs babies are real. I promise it will be worth every moment.

Emily Kate said...

Poor mama! My kids were both easy as pie babies and now my oldest is three and a tantrum throwing wild man. I thought I was best mom ever because they were so easy, turns out I don'rt think you can judge your parenting on your child's behavior until they're like 25!:)