What do I do with my high needs baby?
EmptyDumpty · 27/01/2023 17:43
My DS is 7 months old and I'm really struggling with everything.
Currently his sleep is terrible. He's awake at least 5 times a night, usually more. Sometimes he just needs a quick cuddle or a feed and back to sleep, but other times he wakes when I put him down or if I don't do what he wants fast enough, and gets in a total paddy - screaming and arching his back and difficult to resettle.
He's breastfed but used to take a bottle of expressed milk from my husband so we could share the night wakes. Now he totally refuses that and usually to be settled at all by DH. 9/10 wakes it has to be me. It didn't help that we spent 3 weeks away seeing family in 2 countries over Christmas, so he was sleeping in new places and having his routine mucked up.
During the day, he wants to be on the go all the time. Today I took him to a baby singing session, then on a bus ride into town. We walked to a community cafe with a child play area, he had lunch and I sat on the floor with him and played with some toys. Then we walked and took the bus home. He napped while we were walking.
But whenever he can't do something, especially when we are at home, he is screaming and crying in frustration. For example, if he can't reach a toy, can't position himself the way he wants, is finished with food, has to have his nappy changed, needs/has his hands or face wiped, is bored (after 30s), tries to crawl but can't, has to be strapped into the pushchair or zipped into his snowsuit etc etc. Don't even mention the car seat.
He will sometimes play for a couple of minutes if he has a variety of toys laid out around him and is in the perfect mood, but generally as soon as the slightest thing goes wrong he is furious. Then I have to intervene and distract him with a different toy or sit him in a different position. If I don't he gets more and more upset and I need to pick him up and carry him around to soothe him.
I am so exhausted and I have no patience. I'm sure this is relatively normal baby behaviour but it just seems so extreme and intense all the time. I have tried so hard for months and months and it is relentless. I find myself getting angry and doing things like dumping him down in front of the bookshelf / his toys saying "look here are some nice toys, play with these" in a false bright way with tears streaming down my face and just feeling so angry.
What can I do? I love him so much, but I feel like and am being such a shit parent at the moment.
For the sleeping, things got worse when we moved him to his own room, so now I'm sleeping in his room with his cot sidecar'd to the sofabed (luckily exact height match). He's fed before sleeping but put in the cot drowsy and falls asleep there. I'm introducing a comforter and trying to gradually break an association of being in my arms to fall asleep so that he doesn't need so many resettles at night.
For the bored rage-baby, I try to get out as much as possible during the day, either with the pushchair or a carrier and take him to lots of stay and play type baby groups to keep him busy.
What else can I do to get through this? I am so tired/frustrated and I don't want this to be my life.
Merryclaire · 27/01/2023 19:38
That sounds like very hard work and you doing an amazing job to do so much.
Try to remember that it will get easier - it won’t always be like this. Especially when he becomes more capable of doing things.
It already sounds like you are doing loads with him. I would be looking for ways to get a bit more rest. Do you drive? Can you take him on a nice long drive every day while he sleeps? Perhaps stop at a drive-through Costa to enjoy a nice drink in a little peace and quiet.
Have you tried sleep training? I know it’s unpopular with many on MN but with that many wake ups at 7 months I’d definitely be trying that.
I’d probably also let him get frustrated and have a good old whinge when he’s playing (to a degree). I wouldn’t immediately intervene all the time as he may be very dependent on that happening now. I’m sure others would have a different opinion but I’d be exhausted having to constantly try to distract him.
Personally I’d be trying to encourage a bit more chill out time. Even just a few minutes here and there where he can relax on your lap. It may to help improve his boredom threshold in the long term.
I used to panic about entertaining DD at every moment but have calmed down on that and manage to spend a bit of time here and there just chilling with a cuddly toy.
Obviously all babies are different and I hope things get easier for you soon.
MissWings · 27/01/2023 19:40
I wouldn’t be picking him up all the time in the day. He will be okay to self soothe for a little while during awake times. If he was your second baby for example he wouldn’t be getting picked up constantly.
tortiecat · 27/01/2023 19:44
You poor thing.
I have been there.
It's said on here a lot and I do think it is true: some people are not good at being babies and when they are able to do more for themselves and can sit up / walk etc they settle down and are delightful. I hope that is the case for you!
I also second sleep training. He will be happier if well rested and you certainly will be, so much of how you are feeling is due to exhaustion.
Hang in there
Psmith83 · 27/01/2023 19:50
Hi! You sound like you are doing a great job, high needs babies are so intense. I have had two but it took me a six year age gap to recover from the first!
I recommend checking out possums sleep- they have loads of videos and blogs. It really helped me re frame my understanding of why my baby was "dialling up"
I also really like Dr Beckys podcast "good inside". She has some great episodes about developing independent play and she is so so great at advocating for parental needs.
I also recommend 'the highly sensitive child" a bit American but useful for thinking about kids who need that extra input
High needs babies are hard work but they totally turn into really funny, charming precocious kids. Try to carve out as much time for yourself as you can, you probably nerd a break xx
Cuppasoupmonster · 27/01/2023 19:53
He sounds exhausted to me. I would recommend gentle night weaning (not cry it out) and taking him into a dark room several times a day to ‘reset’ and see if he naps off. It worked like magic for my daughter. Keep it very low stimulus, just shushing and rocking, until he goes quiet and naps off.
ShowOfHands · 27/01/2023 19:54
My DD was the same. The hv used to describe her as "in the grip of an existential crisis". She genuinely seemed to hate being a baby and found the whole thing endlessly frustrating. Once she could talk (early thankfully) and walk, she was much happier.
She was the easiest toddler, preschooler, child and teen (so far) in the world. She is bright, content, steadfast, kind, curious, witty. I couldn't enjoy her more.
Somertime · 27/01/2023 20:06
Bless you. Being exhausted makes everything much harder.
My DS was similar and i was awful at dealing with it. Things ive learnt are:
- It does get easier! He's the easiest 7YO now and sleeps like a dream every night
- For me bottle feeding made a big difference, as did weaning when older
- I needed to chill out more as when i got stressed it made him worse
- He needed a strict routine for everything. He was not one of those babies that could sleep anywhere. It made other people twitchy when i said i couldn't do things but it was in his best interests to follow a routine
Pearfacebanana · 27/01/2023 20:08
He sounds over tired. He does not "want to be on the go all the time" he needs more regular naps and routine. This isn't meant to sound harsh. Create some more chilled time and give yourself a break.
VivaVivaa · 27/01/2023 20:19
Yep, DS exactly. I remember my MIL not believing me that a 6 month old could scream with frustration or need so much interaction until she saw it for herself. This type of clingy, but incredibly fractious and emotional baby is so difficult so you have my sympathy.
We night weaned using the Jay Gordon method at 10 months. Potentially could have done it earlier, who knows. It didn’t make a blind but of difference to his personality, but I could cope with him more without being woken ever 60-90 minutes.
As others have said, being able to move and then subsequently being able to talk made the world of difference. He became an exceptionally good natured toddler from about 15 months onwards (now 3). He’s still not easy per se. He still needs his mind and body exercising multiple times a day like a dog, he still can get quite frustrated and emotional and he never, ever relaxes. But he’s incredibly happy, friendly and everyone who meets him thinks he’s great. It’s a million times better than his first year.
I have to say, I’m not sure there is much apart from time that helps high needs babies. Are you planning on going back to work? Obviously that won’t change who DS is, but I was able to cope a lot more with him and nursery seemed to be good for him.
VivaVivaa · 27/01/2023 20:23
He needed a strict routine for everything. He was not one of those babies that could sleep anywhere. It made other people twitchy when i said i couldn't do things but it was in his best interests to follow a routine
Also, just popping back to say I entirely agree with this. We realised DS needed a cot, in a pitch black room, with loud white noise to nap. He was so alert and highly strung, he needed all his senses switched off to sleep. He’d just become overstimulated in the pram. I have to say napping better didn’t magically make him an easier baby, but it did make my job easier. Again, we cracked this at about 9 months.
Nowdontmakeamess · 27/01/2023 20:41
Agree with others it’s too much for him. Do you have set nap times? He should be having at least one nap at home where it’s quiet. If he won’t settle use the sling with white noise then down in cot, or take out for a walk in the buggy.
If they have regular naps in the day it will give you a break and chance to rest, you’ll feel so much better not always being on the go as well.
Some babies just wake a lot at night. They will grow out of it eventually but the idea that babies should sleep 12 hours with no nighttime parenting needs is unrealistic for most. It will get easier!
EmptyDumpty · 27/01/2023 20:50
Thank you everyone for your ideas so far!
Just to clarify about naps: he generally gets lots of daytime sleep and naps really well in the pram, so I don't think he's always exhausted.
He's currently in between a 2 nap and 3 nap schedule. If he has 2 naps they would each be about 1-1.5 hours long. If he has 3 it's 1 long nap and 2 shorter ones. He will nap in his room at home, but only if I feed him to sleep and stay very close by (I'm working on this, but it's not the top of my priority list yet!). He is very happy to nap on-the-go though - either in his pushchair or more recently in a baby carrier - and will have long naps like that. One of my favourite ways to catch my breath is to take him for a pram walk then head home/to a cafe once he's asleep for a bit of a rest!
I definitely agree that less night wakes would be a big help for all of us. There are 2 parts to that - hunger and self settling. When he's eaten well in the day he will still wake at night but might not want milk until say 3am, so he's not just feeding for comfort - he only feeds if he's hungry. So the main issue is then that he wants to be held to go back to sleep. I've got him a comforter and he's starting to snuggle it in a way that mimics being in my arms (actually went to sleep like that tonight!), so I really hope that this results in less night wakes soon!
muddlingthrou · 27/01/2023 20:59
You sound like you are on top of this! I know it doesn't feel like it while you are in the thick of it, but honestly just the fact that you're getting your baby to a class and on the bus etc when you're knackered is amazing.
I agree with PP about a set routine. I wanted to be a relaxed, easy going mum that went with the flow. But since I've been a bit more rigid about naps at home, my DD sleeps so much better overnight. I think the pram naps just don't satisfy her quite as much.
But you're doing so well as it is! Good luck and well done - you'll get there.
Hotchocfudgecake · 27/01/2023 22:27
My DD was a high needs baby, I just felt absolutely exhausted with the constant waking and then extremely demanding days where I genuinely never got a minute. I had pretty bad PPA because of it. It was so hard, I think it nearly broke me. When I found out I was pregnant with my son I was devastated as I just don’t think I could have coped with a second high needs baby. Luckily for me he was super chilled.
That said, she’s 5 now and is genuinely a delight. She’s super bright, funny, cheeky and kind. She still is challenging but in a different, much more manageable way!
Like another poster above said, I think she just hated being a baby. Once she could talk and walk she just started changing. I got a sleep consultant for the sleep issues (she was waking every 45 mins) it all got so much better.
Persevere with the sleep and get help if you need to, you will be able to cope so much better with the days if you are getting decent rest at night.
LegoGoldenDragon · 27/01/2023 22:43
Realistically your choices are probably let him scream more or wait it out. It does sound normal, just at the really tough end. One of mine wouldn't sleep for longer than 45 minutes, or be put down. I don't know how I survived! Things that may help if you haven't tried already are sit him up so he can see around and baby sign language. It does sound like he is frustrated, so being able to sign a few things could help him feel heard.
YouJustDoYou · 27/01/2023 22:52
Mamma, I've been there. I was you. That was my ds. He is 10 now and a wonderful little guy - he still has his quirks, but hang in there - it's not forever.
Things he would do - nap for only precisly 25 minutes. Wake every hour in the night for a year. Then every 1 - 2 hours in the second year. Scream If I wasn't with him, right next to him, for more than 5 seconds. Literally.
Wouldn't sleep in a cot for the first 6 months (only being bounced, vigorously, in a car seat). Would wake, screaming, frequently.
Would wake for the day at 4.30am, meaning by the time the baby groups were meeting up, he was dead asleep. I was utterly alone for the first 3 years of his life. It was horrific.
Dear god, he was had work. But slowly, slowly, it did start to change. He still wakes "early" (a lie in for him is 6.30am), still wakes once a night for a wee. But he got there.
Hang in there. It's not forever, I promise. The high needs ones tend to be super emotionally switched on. xx
YouJustDoYou · 27/01/2023 22:53
"Like another poster above said, I think she just hated being a baby. Once she could talk and walk she just started changing. I got a sleep consultant for the sleep issues (she was waking every 45 mins) it all got so much better"
Yes!! This! Exactly this!
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