To The Mama With A High-Needs Baby: You Got This

by Sa'iyda Shabazz
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy and Mimi Haddon/Getty

It’s 3 o’clock in the morning, and all I want to be doing is sleeping. But nope, I’m wide awake. It’s another long night with my son, who is so small and yet so very awake. As long as he’s awake, I’m awake, so buckle up. Having a high-needs baby is exhausting, especially for moms. If you’re the mom of a high-needs baby, you know that exhaustion. The bone deep level of tired that nothing can ever soothe. I’ve been there, and I feel everything you’re feeling.

When you have a high-needs baby, it’s hard to explain what it’s like to people who don’t. No one really understands what you mean when you say your baby doesn’t sleep as much as other babies. They can’t wrap their minds around why you’re constantly holding them or snuggling them. Even if you want to, you can’t just put them down for a few minutes. It doesn’t work that way. Mothering a high-needs baby means you really don’t get much of an opportunity to do anything else. You don’t get a break from being a mom, ever.

Moms of high-needs babies know the struggle of personal hygiene. How many times do you say a silent prayer that the baby will sleep long enough for you to take a five-minute shower? Having a high-needs baby usually means you’re not getting a ton of time to yourself. You can barely pee without a baby squawking at you. Forget anything more than that. Long gone are regular baths and showers. Everything becomes a luxury, even basic functions like brushing your hair or putting on clean clothes.

Will today be the day you get to eat a hot meal with two hands? Or will you get a few bites in before the screaming starts and you’re eating a lukewarm dinner again? There’s no way of knowing, and that’s truly the hardest part.

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Being the mom of a high-needs baby is overwhelming. Of course, you love your baby. But sometimes, all you want is a fucking break. To be able to put your baby in a bouncer or lay them on the floor for tummy time without them having a total meltdown. Not having to cram everything into a small window of time feels like a luxury. There are only so many hours in a day, and it feels like your baby is using more than their fair share. And there’s no doubt that they are. You can see it when you watch the minutes fly by every day.

A high-needs baby doesn’t know that they’re slowly killing their momma’s spirit. They just know that their needs must be met whenever and wherever. And not just by anyone, but by the one. The mommas. We’re the ones who know just how to make them feel better when everything feels like it’s too much for them. But usually, keeping them happy comes at a cost to our happiness. It’s hard, because you know you have to do everything to make sure your baby is happy and healthy. But about your happiness and health though? It’s no longer a priority.

All you want is a few hours of peace to go grocery shopping. Maybe even squeeze in a date with your partner where you can finally feel like a person and not just a machine. If you have other kids, you probably feel like the shittiest mom ever because you don’t have time. It feels like you never have time for anyone or anything else. No matter how hard you try, someone is getting the short end of the stick. Usually it’s you.

I remember those days so clearly. My son’s little face all pinched and red as he screamed his head off. Nothing was wrong with him, he just needed to make sure I knew that he was having some feelings. My body felt like a lead brick — I had never known that kind of exhaustion before. This was beyond just the physical exhaustion; I felt it in my soul. Everything was tired. I couldn’t even focus on an hour-long television show anymore.

I was breastfeeding, which meant I felt like a human milk machine. My son nursed incessantly, no matter what. So even if I could get away for a few minutes, it was never long. No one else could console him, they didn’t have the equipment. As much as I loved that aspect of our relationship, I resented my high-needs baby. Because I never got a fucking break. After a while, never being off really starts to take a toll on you.

Mommas of high-needs babies are badasses. We sacrifice so much of ourselves for our babies because they need us. This goes beyond just the typical needs of an infant. Our baby’s world revolves around us in a deeper way. Since there are things that are harder for them than their peers, like self-soothing, we can never tap out. You can’t leave a high-needs baby to cry it out; they’ll never stop. Things that entertain less needy babies for hours work on our babies for only a few minutes. It just never stops.

During the early months of your high-needs baby’s life, you feel like a zombie. It’s more than coffee can fix. There are days you wish you could run away from it all. Trust me, I get it. I was the mayor of that city. Eventually, you learn how to find small pockets of peace. You find ways to make the long nights more bearable. Your baby will become a little more predictable. It may not be a lot, but you’ll find ways to get back to your old self. Even if it’s just making time to shower and eat a proper meal.

It might seem like you’ll never get past these days. But you will. Perseverance in the face of a bleak reality is hard. However, if you keep going, you and baby will figure each other out. You’re never alone in this; many of us have been there too. Reach out and find your people. Hang in there, Momma, it’ll get a little easier. I believe in you. I’m rooting for you.

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