The Fussy Baby Site

Kimberly’s Story: How to Survive with a High Need Baby

Crying high need newborn

I write this story as my 10 month old daughter sleeps quietly in her crib. She is sleeping alone, in her room, self-soothing, and for more than 20 minutes.

I write this story as a survivor. That is what we parents of high need/colicky babies are; we are not only parents but we are survivors.

My story starts off as many of yours does. When I was pregnant with Liliana I dreamt (literally) of the magical day of her birth. I would cuddle her for hours on the couch as she reached up and cooed into my face. Instead, my face was slapped with a big dose of reality!!

I noticed that Lili was “not like other babies” when she was just 9 days old. I desperately wanted to know what was wrong with her, I needed an answer, and I needed a diagnosis. After many visits to her pediatrician she was diagnosed with colic and reflux; which gave me absolutely nothing to work with!

Prior to Lili I had been a nanny for over 10 years. I found great pride in being the best of the best. There was nothing I couldn’t handle, I had seen it all before, I wasn’t scared of anything because I knew it all; HA! Liliana was NOTHING like I had ever experienced in my life.

I could not put that child down for a second. I had to eat, sleep, bath, do chores, and use the restroom with her strapped to my chest or cuddled in my arms (and even then she was screaming most of the time). There were weeks at a time that I would just circle the block with her in the baby bijorn until my whole body ached and then retreated to the rocking chair that I spent 90% of my day and wept. I wept because this wasn’t how it was supposed to be, I wept because I was exhausted, because I felt as though I was failing as a parent, and I wept because I wanted to take a damn shower alone!

I rarely drove anywhere because the moment I put Lili in the car seat she would scream a blood curdling scream. I was an absolute nervous wreck the moment I even thought about having to drive with her. I tried music, windows down, toys, sitting in back with her, singing; nothing worked. When I did arrive at where I had to be (usually to a friend’s house to try and pass her off for just a moment) they were all but helpful. I got many, “wow, she cries a lot” “do you have to deal with this all the time” “this isn’t normal” “there must be something wrong with her”. I wanted to strangle them.

But enough with my sob story…I want to help YOU.

There was really no one to help me when Lili was born, because no one understood why she was the way she was…pissed all the time. So I had to do a lot of trial and error. I made a short list of things that worked for me and I encourage you to take what works for you and leave what doesn’t. My hope is that maybe just one of these things will make your life a little easier, as they did mine.

1. Swing, swing, swing!

It was very hard for me to use the swing. I was afraid of getting her into bad sleeping habits. I’m sure many of you have heard the good old “if your baby falls asleep rocking then she will NEVER be able to fall asleep on her own”. THIS IS UNTRUE!!! Use the swing for as long as you can. Your baby will let you know when she is done with it by showing you the need to roll over while sleeping.

2. Hold your baby.

I know this seems obvious right. Well I had many people in my ear telling me I HAD to put my baby down. She HAD to cry it out. Tell those people to shut it! If your baby is screaming to be held then hold your baby. Try different baby carriers and wraps and find what works for you. There will be a point when your child doesn’t want to be held all the time and that time is most likely when she begins to become mobile. Mobility is a huge help for high need babies!

3. Get out!

Get yourself and your baby out of the house as much as you can. I know it is embarrassing to tote around a screaming child but you may be pleasantly surprised. Many times I would finally get the guts to take Liliana out to people watch somewhere and she would surprise me with great behavior. It helps get your child’s mind off of wanting to scream, and it helps you with gathering up some confidence and sanity.

4. Get in the groove of things.

Routine is very important for high needs children. Lili has began to tantrum when things don’t go “her way”. She is too young to scold or put on time out so I try and just keep things the same. The less change, the better. Since she was 2 months old we have the 3 B’s; Bath, Baba, and Bedtime. At 6:30 we begin her hour long bedtime routine. Now that she crawls we play in her dimly lit room for a little bit before her bottle. I bath with her in a dimly lit bathroom and classical music playing in the background. Then we rock in the rocking chair with the lights off and have her bottle which she falls asleep with. She sleeps alone now but I had to sleep with her on my chest for two months and then she slept in the swing for 3 months after that.

5. Know that it DOES get better.

Do you know of any middle schooler’s begging to be in bed with mommy and daddy? I know that we are all a long ways away from that but the point is that every human being grows up. Your little one is only little this once, and though it seems like you as stuck in a bad place, she will grow before you know it. As she learns to walk, talk, and be her own individual she need you less and less. Take this time to value the magnificent impact you have on your child by letting them know that you are there to nurture, love, and fight with them.


The fact of the matter is, you need to get out of this in one piece, and you will! Not only have you taken the steps to come to this site and find refuge among other survivors but you have all the tools to succeed right under your nose. Our job as parents isn’t an easy one, but its one we can all survive.


You may also enjoy: Jeni’s Story: Survival is the Only Option


Image courtesy of Beth under CC 2.0

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