We can all agree that parenting is hard, but when your child is constantly making everything you do together harder, you start to wonder if there is a deeper meaning to it. Behavioral tendencies like separation anxiety from mother, resisting naps, hating driving, always wanting to be held, and not being able to sleep independently can make your job extremely difficult and exhausting. These are just a few of the characteristics exhibited by high-needs infants.
With the help of Eleonora Kleyman, M.D., a permanent pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles, we are exploring what it means to have a high-need, irritable infant and the best ways to address these coincidental difficulties.
What is a high-needs infant?
“First, it’s important to note that the term high-needs infant is not a medical diagnosis,” explains Dr. Kleyman. “It’s a name parents often give their children based on expectations of their infant’s behavior, the way other children behave, or the way other children behave.”
What are the common characteristics of high-needs infants?
Dr. Kleiman notes that some infants will behave more difficult than others, which can be the result of temperament, environment and many other factors. Common characteristics of high-needs infants include incessant crying and needing extra attention; constant or soothing, irregular or unpredictable sleep or feeding patterns, restlessness, susceptibility to noise or motor overstimulation (preventing parents from taking the child outside), and resistance to swaddling.
Is there a difference between a high-needs and a hernia baby?
There are many differences between a high-needs and a hernia baby. According to Dr. Kleiman, babies with hernias tend to have normal sleep and feeding patterns, they cry for more than three hours a day, more than three days a week, and for at least three weeks straight, and on average, the hernia disappears by six months of age, while high-need behavior lasts longer.
Is there a relationship between intelligence and a high-need infant?
There is no significant correlation between temperament and intelligence.
What makes a baby difficult to handle?
“Some babies are naturally more sensitive. They need extra comfort and attention,” explains Dr. Kleiman. “They are easily overstimulated by their surroundings and need to be grasped and soothed for comfort.”
Does a high-need infant mean the infant will grow up to have anxiety?
As with intelligence, there is no way to know if a high-need infant will grow up to be anxious. Dr. Kleiman notes that environment and parenting styles have a big impact on an infant’s development, from a fussy baby to a calm, happy, thriving child.
How best to handle a high-needs infant?
To the best of your ability, it’s important to stay calm and ask for help. Despite being overwhelmed, patience and positivity are crucial. “Take care of yourself, sleep when your child sleeps, eat well, and try to exercise. You can’t hold your baby and comfort him when he needs you, it spoils him.
How do I help a baby become less difficult to serve?
Not all babies are the same —- Being flexible, comfortable, soothing, and feeding your baby as you see fit is a start in the right direction.
What is the solution to high needs infant problems?
Again, respond to your baby’s cues and be flexible in meeting their needs in the ways that matter. Dr. Kleiman advises: “Be attuned to your baby’s needs rather than trying to conform to unrealistic expectations set by friends or family. Wearing baby clothes can provide comfort and intimacy while allowing parents to engage in daily activities and even get out in the fresh air.”