The Fussy Baby Site

How to Get Things Done With a High Need Baby or Toddler

High need babies and toddlers are notorious for needing lots of help to stay entertained.

When my (not as high need) daughter was a baby, she could sit for up to an hour quietly looking at books. Sammy? Not so much. Aliya loved the exersaucer, watching me make dinner, and playing with her toys. Sammy might find something entertaining one day, but not the next. Hard to predict what would keep him happy. And usually he could play on his own for 5-10 minutes, max.

I have often seen friends who were able to put their little one in a playpen with a few toys, and bought themselves half an hour to clean the kitchen. Or they put their baby on a blanket in the living room, and are able to tend to their other kids. These were not things I could have done with Sammy.

I did mange to come up with a few ideas however, for how to keep Sammy entertained so I could check my email, take a shower, or get dinner made. Hopefully one of these works for your little one!

How to Take a Shower

Did you ever think you’d have to come up with tricks to take a shower?

If your baby is a bit older and able to sit, bring them in the shower with you. Put them down with a few bath toys in an area where they aren’t getting doused with water. Not ideal, but works in a pinch.

What I usually did was bring Sammy in the bathroom (but not in the shower), put him in his car seat or exersaucer and then decide I was going to take a shower, regardless of whether he cried or not. You deserve to at least get in a hot shower every day. For your own self-preservation, determine that you are allowed a shower, whether your baby cries or not. He will be OK.

I usually found that the sound of the shower, coupled with our LOUD bathroom fan calmed him enough that he didn’t usually cry while I was in there. And when he did, I tried not to worry about it.

How to Make Dinner

My default trick was to put Sammy in a backpack carrier while I made dinner. I wouldn’t recommend a front carrier or you’ll have to be constantly watching to make sure she doesn’t burn her hands!

I had to keep bouncing and moving, but he seemed to like being in the middle of the action, and close to mommy.

When Sammy got a bit older, letting him destroy the tupperware cupboard bought me a few minutes. Yes, it was a pain to clean up after, but it allowed me a few extra minutes.

Letting him “help” me make dinner is a trick I still use at times. I would give him a carrot and a plastic knife and ask him to help me. I would also cut up small pieces of whatever I was making and let him snack on them while he sat in his high chair.

How to Clean the House

I’m not talking the whole house here. With a high need baby, be prepared for the fact your house is going to be in a perpetual state of chaos (for now). But there are ways you can buy yourself enough time to, say, clean the toilet or even the whole bathroom (gasp!).

Here is my #1 trick:

Strip him down (diaper and all) and turn on LOUD upbeat music.

This works best when they aren’t mobile, otherwise you may have a mess to clean up after. Before they are mobile however, you can lay them on a towel to catch any accidents.

Of course either being naked or using loud music will work, but using both in combination worked best for us. Somehow the feeling of freedom and the distraction of the music bought me some extra time.

When I really needed to get something done, I would sometimes give Sammy something “forbidden” to play with, like the TV remote or a cell phone. As is the case with many high need babies, he always preferred to play with real household items rather than toys.

For older toddlers, try letting them vacuum for you! Turn on the vacuum and ask them to do it for you. Newborns may also be soothed by the sound of the vacuum, especially if you vacuum while wearing them in a carrier.

The most important thing to remember with a colicky or high need baby is that for right now, you will not be able to get long stretches of time to yourself. And what works one day may not work the next.

If you (and your partner) can try to let go of the expectation that you will be a cleaning dynamo right now, it will release you from a bit of the guilt and pressure you may otherwise feel.

As your baby gets more verbal, more mobile, and more independent, he or she will also get better at playing independently. In the meantime, trying to accept that your #1 job is to simply be with your little one may help a bit.


The Fussy Baby Survival GuideHigh need babies and spirited kids can be exhausting, but they’re not impossible to parent! That said, we may need to change up our strategies if we want to raise them in a way that respects their unique temperament. The Fussy Baby Survival Guide will walk you through sleep, effective soothing strategies, tantrum management and more!

Click here to check it out now. 

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