When Your High Needs Baby Finally Turns A Corner

by Katie Cloyd
Originally Published: 
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Y’all. My third baby almost took me out. Three or four months ago, I was honestly starting to question whether I could continue to survive on the amount of sleep I was getting. My baby is what a lot of people call “high-needs.” I can think of a few adjectives that feel a little more accurate, but “high-needs” sounds nice and kind of scientific, so we can stick with it.

For most of her life, my baby has needed near-constant attention. She’s been a terrible sleeper, an unbelievably frequent nurser, and just spends her time stuck to my side like she’s glued there.

She is absolutely nothing like my first two kids. My first was a classic trick baby who taught me absolutely nothing about parenting whatsoever. I used to pick him up because I felt guilty that he had been playing happily on the floor by himself for so long. He never cried at night. He would wake up to nurse, root around a little until I noticed he was awake, and then I’d feed him, lay him right back down, and he’d sleep soundly until the next feeding. My first baby was a dream, and I thought I was an awesome parent.

Thanks for that, universe.

My second was a regular baby, but after my trick baby, I thought he was tough.

2020 me is laughing in the face of 2016 me. I was so wrong. My second baby had a few rough patches, but he pretty much raised himself in comparison to this third one.

From six months to about ten months, my daughter quite literally never wanted anyone or anything but me. Never. That’s not an exaggeration. She would tolerate my husband or her brothers for a few minutes once in a while, but the minute that whine started, we knew it was over. There was no consoling her. She wanted her mother, and nothing else was going to make her happy again.

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Believe me, we tried. My sweet, wonderful husband wanted to spend time with his baby, and wanted to give me a break. I would try to take a bath or even just go into another room to work. I could hear him dancing around the living room, singing her songs from Cocomelon while wearing her in a carrier. She would be fine for a few minutes. If we were lucky, she might even fall asleep for a little while.

But when she had enough, that was it. He tried so hard to settle her back down, but she would just wail and wail and wail. When my heart couldn’t take any more, I’d go get her from my husband, and she would immediately quiet down. She just wanted me.

More than once, I sat in a rocking chair in the middle of the night, wide awake, sobbing over her beautiful, sleeping face. I remember cradling her sleeping body one night and thinking, “If I had you first, your brothers would not exist. You are so much.”

The memes about third children are REAL LIFE, people.

Then she started crawling. She was late to the party, not really learning how to get herself around until 10 months, but once she got good at it, it was like the heavens opened up. My whole world began to change. I definitely wouldn’t describe her as laid back or independent now. She’s still a handful.

But now she can explore on her own, then come find me without having to depend on anyone else. It’s like knowing she has 24/7 access to me made it less imperative. She can play for a while without touching me.

She’s started nursing less often, too. She decided cups are actually kind of fine, and now she will drink some water a few times a day instead of clawing at my shirt and screaming, “BOOBIE!” until I want to cry.

Sleep is still a whole thing, but she gives me two or three hours in a row at least once a night now, so we are moving in the right direction at least.

I don’t want to jinx it, but I think we might have actually survived the worst of it. It’s been about a month now since I’ve looked at my husband and said some version of, “This one is a lot, right? She’s a lot? I’m not an awful parent—she’s just really needy. Right?”

If you’ve got a brand-new little nugget that is just more work than you ever bargained for, hang in there.

I know that when you hear that piercing cry your heart is moved and you want to help your baby.

I also know that you can feel your jaw clench and your shoulders tense up because you feel like you can barely meet one need before your little boss baby is demanding something else.

You can be the best parent in the world, but a super high-needs baby can bring even the most patient, gentle parent to their knees. It’s not your fault that you’re overwhelmed. You’re not alone.

Ask for help if you need it because all those things old ladies tell you about how the baby phase passes in the blink of an eye?

Yeah. Ignore that. You first year with a high-needs baby is not going to feel fast while you’re living it.

You’ll blink alright, but when you open your eyes, your baby won’t be five or sixteen or all grown up. They’ll still be four months old, red-faced, screaming and demanding to eat.

And that blink?

It will be the six entire minutes of sleep you managed to get since the last time you laid your baby down.

It’s hard, and your feelings about it all make sense. They’re totally valid. But there’s light at the end of the tunnel. At almost a year old, my high-needs baby is on her way to being a (presumably) high-needs toddler.

While that has its own challenges, I am perfectly happy for our life with this sweet and sour angel to be hard in a different way.

At least this next phase involves some sleep.

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