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High-Need Infants

In some ways, all infants are high-need infants. Most babies have high needs in at least one area of their life. Some have more high need areas than others. In addition, all babies are born with their own unique temperament. Some infants are easy to soothe and generally happy, others are slow-to-warm up while others are very sensitive and respond intensely to situations.

Following is a list of suggestions that can help you adequately attend to the demands of a high-need infant.

  • Perception: Oftentimes, the perception of a needy baby is in the eyes of the parents. Inexperienced parents may have a limited view of the wide range of personality differences in regards to infants. When subsequent children follow, they discover how all children are their own unique persons.
  • Intensity: Some mothers recognize even during pregnancy that their baby is quite intense. They feel the constant strong kicking and restlessness and know instinctively their baby is exhibiting signs of a strong temperament. Once born, their cries are more of an urgent demand than a mere request. They laugh with gusto, react strongly when over or under stimulated, and seem driven to move their bodies.
  • Frequent feeding and awake time: Some infants need to eat more frequently than others do. Feeding is not only a source of nutrition but also a time for bonding and comfort. High need infants usually do not take well to schedules. In fact, they can be highly unpredictable. Oftentimes, they sleep less than other infants or sleep the same amount only in shorter intervals. The key is to feed on demand and rest whenever your baby does. It may also help to wear your infant in a sling. While feeling close to you, they are usually content to doze while you get things done.
  • Not a Self-Soother: High-need babies need help to fall asleep.

They usually do not transition easily-such as from a car seat to arms to crib. Going from a state of being awake to sleep is a major adjustment. The best way for a baby to learn to fall asleep on their own is by providing them a trusting relationship. Knowing that you will come when they need you builds a foundation of trust that later will help them learn to be self-soothers.

  • Draining: High-need babies can extract every bit of energy from tired parents. The constant holding, nursing, and comforting leave little energy for a parents’ own needs. When feeling frustrated, parents must remember other tasks that need done will have to wait because there is a baby who needs them. Some days will be more difficult than others and just when it seems mom can’t go another mile, along comes help or the baby seems to sense their parents have nothing left in the tank and they back off a bit.
  • Demanding: This trait more than any others pushes parents’ buttons, causing them to feel manipulated and controlled. When in reality a baby’s demands equal communication, not control. As a high need infant grows into a high need toddler, parents must also help their child learn to balance their needs against those of others so they can grow into a likeable and compassionate person.
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