Different babies have different needs and temperaments, just like every one else. There are some babies that are incredibly easy, and some that are what we call “high needs.” I don’t think anyone who is familiar with babies will doubt that they have different personalities, and a moments reflection will lead most people to recognize that since babies are people, they vary.
But why is it the case that so many parents now have or feel that they have high needs babies? Or difficult children—or demanding, strong-willed, etc.?
While I think part of the explanation has to do with larger cultural factors, I think there are some things that parents can do for themselves and their babies to bring down the likelihood of them being high needs.
I believe that while it is very complicated to take a very difficult child and make them “easy,” it is relatively easy to take what could otherwise be a very easy child and turn them difficult.
Here are five things I think any parent can do (or not do) to allow a child to be as easy to manage as he or she is capable of being given their unique personality:
(1) Let Baby Sleep: While it may feel like you give it your all to let your baby sleep, because you feel like it is something you really want, one mistake that people make during their child’s nap is to respond too quickly to their fussing. While adults work on about a 90 minute sleep cycle, infants actually only have about a 30-50 minute sleep cycle. This means that —information about sleep cycle—
So, when you hear your baby “waking up” from a nap, wait a moment to see if that is actually what they’re doing. They could just be resettling themselves and if you don’t jump in, you’ll continue to have a sleeping baby.
(2) Head Above Stomach While Feeding: This is part of an overall attempt to reduce gasiness in babies. A huge amount of discomfort you see in infants comes just from gut distress. While some babies will have bigger problems like GERD, many babies can become less gassy if you just feed them with their heads up instead of laying down. Think about yourself drinking a bottle of water in the same position that babies head is in for the classic cradle hold.
Burping baby after every five minutes of feeding, as well as massaging baby’s stomach in a clockwise motion and bicycling her legs are all ways of helping with gas before it becomes a problem.
(3) Less stimulation: How do you feel after you go to the amusement park, or to a big party? Do you feel your calmest and most restful?
A lot of stimulation will make baby less settled, especially when the time comes to nap. While I think that the normal noises of a household don’t need to be shut down, the constant background noise of a TV or music, shipping baby from here to there in and out of the car, facing baby outwards to see everyone in a crowd, etc., might just be way more information than a very young child can handle. They don’t always need to be protected from these things and they all will be part of your child’s world, but just like you don’t bring baby into a germ ridden environment at one week old, but you slowly build up their exposure to build a robust immune system, you don’t expect baby to be able to process ALL OF THE SENSORY INFORMATION as soon as he leaves the womb.
Do not be concerned about under-stimulating a small child. Everything is new to them, the entire world. It is not boring to be a baby.
(4) Probiotics: Again on the subject of gut distress, probiotics will help to relieve a lot of the symptoms of gassiness. In on small study done with probiotics, crying time was reduced significantly in babies diagnosed with colic (crying for more than three hours a day, three days a week, for at least three weeks) in the treatment group as compared to the control group; many of them as much as 50%.
(5) Baby Alone Time: When possible, from shortly after birth birth, allow your baby to start entertaining him or herself. Don’t feel that you always need to be engaged with baby, or always holding him unless he is asleep. As your baby grows, you want them to have experience with moments of self-entertainment. Independent play encourages independence, self-confidence, creativity, and language skills.
Solo play is a skill that we build, and you can’t expect a two year old to all of the sudden be content by himself if he’s never spent a minute before doing it. While this skill won’t be particularly useful for a very young baby who can play by themselves for only a very short time—I’ve been extremely lucky, my son was willing to be by himself sometimes for up to fifteen minutes at 4 weeks old—you will thank your future self as toddlerhood approaches.