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Warrior Birth

FAM, pregnancy By April 22, 2009 Tags: , , , , No Comments

Warrior Birth“Next time I’m just booking a cesarean.”
“My first birth was so traumatic – I want drugs the moment I start labour.”
“I can’t walk through the door of a hospital again.”
“I think we’d better adopt our second child.”

To all the women who say these words…
Please know that it wasn’t your fault.

How to handle high needs babies

How to Handle High Needs Babies

baby, FAM By April 13, 2009 Tags: , , , 3 Comments

I’m not a doctor.  I’m not an expert in infant development or behaviour.  In fact, before I had my own kids, I wasn’t even particularly drawn to little kids.  But, I’m a mom who has had two of these ‘high needs’ babies (granted, my second was much more so). I had never heard the term until my second child was a few months old, but when I saw the description a light bulb went off.  I wasn’t alone!  My baby wasn’t psychologically underdeveloped, emotionally stunted, spoiled, or difficult, just ‘high needs’.  Finally there was a way I could explain it to people, instead of just saying, “My baby is really, really fussy”.

But Aren’t All Babies ‘Needy’?

Perhaps the best way to describe what ‘high needs’ is, is to first explain what it is not.  Well meaning people (parents, at that!) may say, “Oh, all babies are high needs to some extent.  They are babies, after all”.  Other people think, “Surely you must be exaggerating…your baby can’t cry and fuss all day”.  Well, let me tell you – they most certainly can!

The term ‘high needs’ is simply a descriptive term given to any baby that requires a significant (above average) amount of holding, attention, movement or motion in order to prevent crying, screaming or fussing.

My High Needs Baby

I remember when our son was 4 weeks old and in the hospital with a respiratory virus.  Surprisingly, he screamed and cried less in those 4 days than in the previous month (perhaps because of all the action and activity going on?).  He actually laid still on the bed for a couple of minutes watching the TV.  My husband took a picture of him lying there, because it was a significant moment – That was the longest he had gone without crying since he was born (except when he was sleeping, of course).

Like our little guy, a high needs baby is not likely to drift peacefully off to sleep while you sing a lullaby, or sit happily in the stroller watching the world go by.  A high needs baby probably doesn’t entertain him or herself by playing quietly with toys, and likely doesn’t feed every 2.5-3 hours and then contentedly lay back and gaze up into her mother’s eyes. In fact, sometimes it may seem like your high needs baby is seldom content or happy.  And if you do find some little trick that works, chances are it won’t work next time.

What Makes a Baby High Needs?

Babies may be high needs because they are in pain or discomfort.  Perhaps there is a physical issue present, such as acid reflux, or an allergy or sensitivity to dairy or other foods.  And of course, many newborns go through a colicky stage, where they cry or scream, usually in the evening (but not always), usually appear to be in pain, and where soothing efforts may appear to be useless.  In some cases, a baby is high needs because of their temperament; the only sure way to tell if this is the case is if the fussiness doesn’t go away as your baby gets older.

I would consider babies experiencing any of these physical issues to be ‘high needs’.  Some would disagree because there is a clear cause to the crying. Regardless, these babies all have a few things in common: They cry excessively, are difficult to soothe, may have trouble sleeping or eating, and are very draining on their parents.

Characteristics of a High Needs Baby

Following are some of the characteristics of high needs babies.  All babies experience these issues from time to time.  High needs babies, on the other hand, experience these a majority of the time, and probably experience many of them at the same time.

The term ‘high needs’, as coined by Dr. Sears, is a term used to describe infants who have difficulty in many key areas, particularly in feeding, sleeping and transitions in general. Some of the characteristics of a high needs baby include:

  • Difficulty falling and/or staying asleep
  • Difficulty entertaining themselves
  • Excessive crying or fussing
  • Loud, intense crying or screaming (often for no apparent reason)
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Unpredictability
  • May be difficult or seemingly impossible to soothe
  • Demanding (may cry urgently when needs aren’t met immediately)
  • May need to be carried around constantly
  • May require movement or motion (e.g. a swing, car ride, etc.) to prevent crying
  • Reacts strongly to stimuli (both positive and negative)
  • High-energy
  • May require lots of activity/stimuli to remain entertained
  • May need the calm and familiarity of home to remain somewhat content

The verdict is out on whether or not high needs babies remain high needs.  Some extremely active, demanding babies become gentle and calm toddlers.  Others remain very busy, active, and persistent.

How Do I Cope with My High Needs Baby?

In my experience, half the battle is adjusting your thinking and accepting your baby as he or she is.  Realize that some babies just have a different temperament, and just need more attention right now.  Try to put aside the expectations and hopes you had for your baby when you were pregnant. Embrace the fact that your baby is who he is, but this isn’t how he will always be.

When your baby is screaming, strap her into the stroller, get yourself a coffee and go for a long walk. Don’t worry about your house looking perfect.  In a few months, you’ll have more time for that.  Arrange to have a babysitter a couple of times a week…don’t worry about your baby’s crying bothering the sitter. This is one day in her life, this is your every day. Order in dinner; the gourmet meals can wait a while.

But most of all, be gentle with yourself.  The expectations you may have had for what kind of mother you would be probably didn’t take into account having a high-needs baby.  Don’t expect that you’ll always have warm, fuzzy feelings towards your little one. Enjoy the quiet, happy times you do have together right now.  Find ways to get through it.  I promise, it will get easier.

Holly Klaassen is a mother of two and runs an excellent resource site for parents of fussy babies.


Guilty as Charged: Becoming Your Child's Best Bet

FAM, health By March 16, 2009 Tags: , , No Comments

Guilt – that feeling as a parent that hangs over you at times, feeling inadequate and sometimes lost, wondering if you really are the answer to your child’s needs. If somehow you could only find the right parenting book that could show you the way through and provide the answers, because really, something must be terribly wrong if you feel so guilty?  Right?


Drugs and Breastfeeding

FAM, health By February 7, 2009 Tags: , , , No Comments

It is difficult to avoid the use of all prescription drugs while breastfeeding – especially if you are having multiple children and nursing for a length of time with each one. And then there are the street drugs that nobody speaks of. If you are in the habit of using these when you become pregnant, you may need assistance and some honest research to prove how harmful they can be. As with any medical questions in pregnancy and during breastfeeding, your doctor or midwife will know more about your personal history and circumstances than any website, but it is always good to gain as much knowledge as possible in order make the ultimate decision about the health of your baby.


Induction Concerns

FAM, pregnancy By February 1, 2009 Tags: , , , , 1 Comment

Here’s a little excerpt from an article by Dr. Michel Odent, noted French obstetrician.  “According to traditional wisdom in rural France, a baby in the womb should be compared to fruit on the tree. Not all the fruit on the same tree is ripe at the same time. A fruit that has been picked before it is ripe will never be fit to eat and will quickly go bad. It is the same with a baby.


The Inner Journey of Pregnancy

FAM, pregnancy By February 1, 2009 Tags: , , , , No Comments

Birth with a Doulaby Doula Jacquie Munro.  During a client’s first pregnancy, I’m continually trying to think of the best way to help her prepare for this life-changing event. Over the months, we certainly talk on the phone about her physical changes. But her emotional changes, her expectations, values and priorities are of even greater importance.  Often, a woman’s inner wisdom is at odds with the societal standard, and my job is to help strengthen her confidence.


BC Healthguide and 811 Nurseline

FAM, health By January 23, 2009 Tags: , , , , 1 Comment

What to do when a toddler falls on his face and your see the first blood EVER?!?  Or nothing will stop the baby’s crying and you’re starting to wonder…  The BC Nurseline is a great resource!  Now, you can just dial 811 from anywhere in the lower mainland, and you’ll be connected.  Make sure you have your child’s care card ready when you dial.  They keep your child’s history on file so that each time you call, you are not starting from scratch.  Our time is very valuable, after all.

when will my baby sleep through the night

When should my baby be sleeping through the night?

baby, FAM By December 31, 2008 Tags: , , , 1 Comment

Many overtired parents wonder the same thing – when should my baby be sleeping through the night?

Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this question. It really depends which definition of sleeping through the night you are trying to achieve as sleeping through the night means different things to different people.  A baby can sleep longer stretches of sleep based on their age and weight. 


10 Months and Sleepless

baby, FAM By December 31, 2008 Tags: , , No Comments

Q – My baby is 10 months old and I am still up every 3 hours all night.  I think I need to get some sleep in order to function properly during the day.  How can I get my baby to sleep?

A – The way that your baby falls asleep is probably the way that your baby has to return to sleep during their night wakings.  So you would want to start making changes at bedtime and then again do the same thing at all night wakings.  You will have to teach your baby to fall asleep without props so that they can learn to return to sleep when they next wake up.  The type of method that you could use would depend on a couple of factors but the underlying key in any method is for them to go into their crib aware – sleepy but awake.


Gentle Sleep Solutions

baby, FAM By December 31, 2008 Tags: , , , No Comments

Q – What are some gentle methods I can use to encourage sleep if I don’t feel comfortable letting the baby cry?

A – It’s very hard to train a baby to fall asleep by themselves without some crying as very often you are changing what the baby knows.  As an example if the baby is used to being nursed to sleep and you would like to teach them how to fall asleep by themselves they will cry on the first night whether you are in or out of the room as they are naturally responding to the changes that you have made of not nursing them.