The Fussy Baby Site

4 Bits of Advice for Parents of High Need Babies

mother with high need sonBaby books and websites will often give you tips for making life with your baby easier and less stressful.

These tips may include:

  • ‘Get your baby into a good routine as early as possible’,
  • ‘Put your baby to bed drowsy but not asleep’,
  • ‘If your baby is fussy, it’s probably because of gas’, and
  • ‘Be consistent and your little one will learn what’s expected and act accordingly’.

If you have a high need baby, you know that these tips are (mostly) laughable. Of course there’s some truth in each of these, but when you have a baby who resists routine, sleeps poorly, and who is fussy and/or grumpy much of the time, these tips aren’t going to get you far.

So instead, I present 4 slightly more realistic tips specifically for YOU, the parent of a fussy, high need baby!

Lower your expectations.

My worst days were when I had grand plans for the day, which were inevitably foiled by my son’s crying and crankiness. I would end up having a particularly bad day when I was counting on having some ‘me time’ during his nap, only to have him refuse his nap that day.

That said, don’t count on being able to:

  • Stay at the playgroup the entire time without her fussing
  • Go grocery shopping with your baby
  • Drop your toddler off at daycare without more than a few tears, or
  • Sleep longer than 3 hours at a time, at least for a while.

I’m not saying these things can’t happen. I’m just saying don’t count on them. Expect the unexpected, and rejoice when something actually does work out!

Smile and nod.

As the parent of a fussy baby you’ll get LOTS of unsolicited advice.

Advice like,

“Have you tried gripe water?”

“Oh, she must be hungry!”, and

“You should let him cry it out”.

You have a few choices when people make comments like these. You can,

1. Say nothing and silently brood over the comment for days or weeks.

2. Explain why the person is wrong, and/or that you’ve already tried this unsuccessfully, or my personal favourite,

3. Smile and nod.

People like to feel like they give good advice, and like they’re being helpful. Most people that give you this crummy advice are well-intentioned and really want to help.

So let them feel good about themselves, and simply smile and nod. They don’t need to know that you’ve already tried everything in the book, or that you think their suggestion is crap.

Think of your life as a story.

This is a little trick I’ve learned to use in many areas of my life.

When you’re in that moment – that really bad, really frustrating, really depressing moment – it’s really hard to see past that moment. It’s hard for us to ‘live in the moment’ during those rare good times, but we’re great at living in the moment when things are hard!

So when you’re in that moment, imagine you’re telling someone else about that moment:

So it was the 4th time in 2 hours that I’d tried to get him to nap. I was hot, and tired, and starting to feel really angry. I was at the end of my rope, but knew if I didn’t keep trying, he’d not only be grumpy the rest of the day, but have a terrible sleep that night as well…

Your story doesn’t have to have a happy ending, and you don’t even need to write it down. Just imagine that someday you can tell another mom or dad about your experience, and it will help them know they aren’t alone.

Framing those terrible moments as a story gives you just enough distance from your situation to be able to let go and go on with your day.

Live in the moment, but with an eye to the future.

With high need babies, the days are very, very long. The nights are even longer. You don’t tend to get breaks, and you may resent your child or your situation much of the time.

But sprinkled among daily life you’re bound to have good moments, too. They may last only 10 seconds, but I bet you have some.

When you do experience one of those moments, take a deep breath, and live fully present in that moment. Don’t allow your thoughts to drift to, ‘I wish this would happen more often‘, or ‘other people’s babies do this all the time’.

Enjoy this moment, however brief, and know you’ll have many, many more of these in the future.


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