Ever since our first night in the hospital with Kayleigh, I had this strong feeling that she was going to be a needy baby. She cried and cried (loudly and with a sense of urgency) those first few days before we came home, and only being held in my arms would console her.
Just as I had predicted, Kayleigh has since been a fussy, demanding baby. Even now, at 5 months old, she is still very needy. When she wants something, she wants it NOW.
She has got the BIGGEST pout I have ever seen on a child. Seriously. Within just a few seconds, that pout turns into full on crying scream. Crying scream then turns into “huff huff huff huff”, with fists clenched, feet kicking, and head thrashing around, until she finally gets what she wants.
And, if I’ve guessed wrong about what it is that she wants, and do something like give her a bottle, when she really just wanted her binky, she will arch her back and throw her body backwards in protest.
Kayleigh is the baby that won’t put herself to sleep. She won’t fall asleep unless she is being held and comforted. The moment she wakes up, whether it be from a nap, in the middle of the night, or in the morning, she needs to be picked up. She will not lay in her bed and entertain herself. Not even for one minute. Immediately upon waking, she screams until we come for her.
When she is hungry, she lets us know it. She won’t give us even one minute to fix her bottle. She will scream and scream until it’s near her face, and then she will frantically grab for it with her hands and try to pull it into her mouth.
She relies heavily on her binky to soothe her, and she constantly wants to be held. She will tolerate tummy time, or sitting in her bouncy seat or bumbo for about 10-15 minute intervals, if I’m lucky. My parents bought a very nice, expensive swing for her, and she absolutely hated it. Most other babies I know LOVE swings. We ended up giving the swing to my niece, who sits in it all the time.
My parents think I spoil Kayleigh too much, by catering to her every whim. I feel like I’m simply taking care of my baby’s unmet needs. I don’t like the “cry it out” method, but I’ve tried it a couple of times just to get my parents off my back. It didn’t work. I think Kayleigh would just cry for forever if I let her. I’d rather figure out what I can do to make her happy again.
My Dad is a counselor who has dealt with many out of control children. He keeps warning me that if I let Kayleigh control me now, she will continue to control me when she is older. I don’t agree.
Just because I respond to my daughter’s every need right now, doesn’t mean that she is going to be a spoiled child. There is a big difference between holding a baby because she feels lonely, and buying your child that expensive toy at the store because they have to have it NOW. That is not a need, that is a want. Babies need to feel loved, safe and secure in order to thrive.
I know I’m probably in for a rough period with her during the toddler years when she is going to try to test me. I hope when that time comes I’m strong enough to put my foot down and not let her walk all over me. I don’t think that right now is the time for that, though.
I recently read an article by Dr. Sears, 12 Features of a High Need Baby, and Kayleigh exhibited almost all of them – Intense, Hyperactive, Draining, Feeds Frequently, Demanding, Awakens Frequently, Unsatisfied, Unpredictable, Super-Sensitive, Can’t Put Baby Down, Not a Self-Soother, and Separation Sensitive.
The part that stood out to me the most in this article, was when Dr. Sears stated that babies’ demands equal communication, not control over their parents.
“Mothers of high need babies often say, “I just can’t get to him fast enough.” These babies convey a sense of urgency in their signals; they do not like waiting, and they do not readily accept alternatives. Woe to the parent who offers baby the rattle when he is expecting a breast. He will let you know quickly and loudly that you’ve misread his cues. The concept of “delayed gratification” is totally foreign to infants, it must be sensitively and gradually taught when the child is developmentally ready to learn it.
It may be easier to cope with your baby’s demanding signals if you understand why high need babies have to be demanding in order to thrive. Suppose baby had high needs but did not have a strong personality to “demand” that these needs get met. Suppose he did not use the kind of persistent cry that ensures a response. This would be a lose-lose situation: baby would not thrive because his needs would not be filled, and parents would not get enough practice at cue reading to ever pick up on the baby’s real need level.
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. A high need child with a corresponding demanding personality will, if nurtured and channeled appropriately during the formative years, exhaust teachers as she did her parents; yet she will also be able to extract from adult resources, such as teachers, the level of help and education she will need to thrive in academic and social endeavors. This is why it is so important not to squelch an infant’s expressiveness. The ability to know one’s needs and be able to comfortably express them is a valuable tool for success in life.”
John and I have already sensed that Kayleigh is a very intelligent baby, and believe that she will be a very bright and driven child. She certainly does know how to express herself, and I’m not about to keep her from doing that.
Eventually, she will learn how to talk to John and me, and hopefully will be able to communicate her needs without having to cry and scream. I want to be the kind of parent that my children feel comfortable talking to about anything. I think it’s very important to keep those lines of communication open.
Growing up, I often felt like I couldn’t talk to my parents about a lot of things. I was not really allowed to be expressive. My Mom was such a neat-freak that she would not even let me play with play-dough, finger paints, or anything else that would make any kind of mess at all in the house. I believe that allowing a child to use their imagination, even if they make a bit of a mess in the process, is so very important.
I sometimes wonder if I am an introvert because I was not allowed to express myself as a child. I remember quite a few occasions as a small child when I was shushed for speaking out in a group of people. Then, I got to be about 6 years old, and was so reserved that I barely spoke two words to anyone, including my own family members. Perhaps if I had been allowed to express myself, I would not have closed myself off like that, and would not be such an introvert now.
Only time will tell what this life will bring for Kayleigh, but for now, I will continue to be there for her as much as I can. Others may talk bad about my parenting style, and try to convince me that I’m doing things the wrong way, but I am her Mom, and I will rely on my instincts to raise her.
Every child is different, and just because one parent did things one way, it doesn’t mean that is going to work for you and your family. My advice is to just do what feels natural to you.
Do you have a needy baby? Do you ever feel like other people unfairly judge your parenting style because they just don’t understand your baby’s personality?