The Stress Of Having A High Needs Baby Is Exhausting

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The high needs baby. Those of us who have fought our way through that kind of infancy cringe at those words. We know that “high needs” doesn’t even come close to what those babies actually need.

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We know those babies need non-freaking-stop attention. Holding, feeding, bouncing, rocking . . . nonstop everything.

Yes, that’s what we need to call those babies, “the nonstop babies.”

I remember when I was in the midst of my 50-hour labor with my “nonstop baby.” My midwife kept saying,

“Wow, your baby is just so calm through all of this. I bet she will be one laidback baby.”

Today, I want to hunt that midwife down and tell her how she jinxed me. I knew my daughter wasn’t going to be “laidback” during that first night in the hospital. Most newborns are exhausted by the trauma of birth. But nope, not my girl.

While I was sitting in that hospital bed, trying (and failing) to nurse her, this is where the nonstop in my girl began. She squirmed, grunted, and wailed that entire first night — not giving me a moment to rest my eyes or my hoo-ha.

And once we brought our baby girl home, the attachment to Mom continued. Only, the umbilical cord was cut.

My daughter was desperate that I never, ever let her go. No one else could hold her. No one. And trust me, I tried.

Daily, my husband would come home from work and try to tuck her in for the night. To no avail, he would begrudgingly walk out of her bedroom with his head cowered to the ground. He’d hand over our daughter wrapped like a swaddled crying football. This repetition got old.

While I obviously loved my daughter intensely, I quickly became exhausted by being the only one who could hush her incessant, and often volatile, cries.

Nightly, I would cry right along with her. I felt I couldn’t do it another day. The exhaustion of swaddling her tightly while rocking her with blaring white noise in her eardrum, yeah, that got to me. I hate to admit that, of course.

No mother wants to admit that caring for their new, “nonstop,” high needs baby can be emotionally draining.

No mother wants to admit that they want to just escape for a few days.

Of course no mother wants to admit that she’s too damn tired and ornery to care for the “nonstop” baby for another minute.

And no mother wants to admit that she wants her baby to want another human being, too— that it’s just not sweet anymore.

high needs baby girl screaming in crib
Photo credit: Adobe Photo Stock

Now my daughter is four, and she still flocks to Mom the most. And that’s okay.

Because now, I don’t have to do everything for her. She can wipe her own tush, feed herself, get dressed, and even help me out, too. Her extreme love for me is almost endearing now because I know she is growing up and she will one day slip away.

But I will never forget that newborn haze with her, either. I got through that with her, and I know that our bond was strengthened because of it.

Moms, if you have a “nonstop baby,” I feel you. I get it.

Yes, it does get better. I know that’s what you want to hear. It truly does. But if you have a “nonstop baby,” she’ll probably be that way forever.

You’ll likely have to invest a lot more time and energy into that child of yours. No, she won’t be as suffocating as she was as a newborn, but the intensity, yeah, that will always be there.

I’m not going to paint an unlikely picture for you. But you and your “nonstop,” high needs baby will grow together, and you’ll find that she has a thing or two to teach you, too.

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Angela-Anagnost Repke is a writer and writing instructor dedicated to raising two empathetic children. She hopes that her graduate degrees in English and counseling help her do just that. Since the pandemic, Angela and her family have been rejuvenated by nature and moved to northern Michigan to allow the waves of Lake Michigan to calm their spirits. She has been published in Good Housekeeping, Good Morning America, ABC News, Parents, Romper, and many more. She is currently at-work on her nonfiction parenting book, Wild Things by Nature: How an Unscientific Parent Can Give Nature to Their Wild Things.

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