The lowdown on a High Demand Baby

A mothers hug

So I keep on and on about how Sidekick is a Velcro baby, High Intensity, High Demand yadda yadda yadda. What exactly does that mean though?

All babies are different and all babies have times when there are more intense than others.

Sidekick and other Velcro/High Demand babies are different though.


Simply put they are intense all the time!

As a first time mum I had very little experience of babies. Sure I’d done some baby sitting when I was 16 but that was a lifetime ago. I was the first in my immediate group of friends to even want a baby. Turns out a couple of us ended up pregnant at the same time, weird.

So my experience of babies was limited. So once I became pregnant I read baby books. I understood babies cried but I read the books and it seemed that as they grew older they would settle more and by the time they reached 12 months we’d be okay, well until the terrible twos hit.

How wrong could I be?

Pretty darn wrong!

That whole newborn phase where the baby is sleepy and nuzzles into you and feeds and sleeps. Ha! That never happened.

We literally had one night of baby sleeping and that was straight after entering this world and she had a traumatic entrance. Sidekick cried so much after this initial sleep that a nurse actually came in to see what was the matter. Nothing was the matter she was just crying, a lot! She hated being in the room, she would only settle on Dada or me and only at this point if it was skin to skin.

The first 72 hours of Sidekicks life were hell.

We came home and I can remember sitting in her nursing chair just rocking as Hubby tried his best to soothe her. I had no fricking clue what  to do. I’d fed her, burbed her, held her, rocked her, checked her nappy. I’d done everything the books had said to do.

In the end Hubby called my mum who came and helped. Actually she tried to help, Sidekick wouldn’t settle with her so we were back to square one. It wasn’t fun!

I phoned Cry-Sis (brilliant resource!), I phoned my local breastfeeding support group, I spoke to the Health Visitor.

By the third day I was a wreck. This was the day Hubby’s parents were meeting Sidekick for the first time. I stood outside in the freezing cold wailing, absolutely sobbing. He had to send them home.

Eventually though the shock began to lessen and I began to learn how to deal with Sidekick.

I’m not going to lie it took me months to really forget what the baby books said, especially in regard to sleep, but slowly I found other information that fitted my little Firecracker more.

The first site and the wholly grail I came across was Dr Sears and specifically his article on High Needs Baby. This site allowed me to believe that I just wasn’t a crap mother, that I wasn’t doing anything ‘wrong’, that Sidekick and I were bonding. It made me feel that I wasn’t going insane. It made me feel okay.

Then as I found my groove I was able to use the times Sidekick napped on me (those precious 30 – 40 minutes) to look into what was meant by ‘High Needs’ and slowly other resources came to me. Sites such as The Milk Meg and The Fussy Baby site. Reading these sites and knowing that I wasn’t alone made the world of difference to me in those days. I sent links to my mum so that she could begin to understand what I was feeling, what was happening.

Because that’s the thing if you’ve never experienced a High Demand baby it’s likely others haven’t either. My mum still today will say she has never met a baby like Sidekick. This isn’t grandparent pride, this is a woman who was a teacher for over 30 years, who has two children and has looked after numerous babies. This is a woman who says Sidekick is the most intense baby she has ever met. One that challenges any idea of what a ‘normal’ baby should do.

So if you’ve stumbled your way here in shock, badly needing sleep and wondering what the heck you are doing wrong. Here are some things that I think define what a High Demand / Velcro baby is:

  1. Constant need for contact – you may be lucky and know all about the fourth trimester and why it’s normal for baby to only sleep on you. That’s great, what happens though when you literally cannot put baby down. Or when you’ve done the first three month and baby still will only sleep on you. Or how about baby will only play if they are on you? Sound familiar? That’s why they’re called Velcro babies, They need that high level of touch, of connection, especially to the main care giver.
  2. Sleep – mourn it’s passing, it’s not coming back any time soon. I was obsessed with sleep. I was convinced that I was damaging Sidekick because she wasn’t getting her recommended sleep. At 9 months I can generally say, it’s a load of pish-tosh. Occasionally when I am soooo exhausted the little voice pops up, but I’m so much better. High Demand babies really struggle to relax into sleep. Sidekick in the day will still only nap on me and at night, we are lucky if she even goes in the very expensive crib. We have begun to see improvements but our ‘good’ night is most people’s ‘bad’ night. If you read the baby books you will see that you are doing everything wrong by rocking, feeding your baby to sleep, that they should only sleep in their cribs, that they should be able to self soothe. It’s complete rubbish! You know when your baby cried you physically feel it? There’s a reason for that, don’t dismiss it, embrace it, that’s your mothering/fathering instinct. You want to read about sleep, go to Sarah Ockwell-Smiths site or the Evolutionary Parenting site, they explain how self soothing is something that cannot be taught, that it will happen when you baby is mentally capable of doing it. That bed-sharing isn’t the evil it’s made out to be and that breastfeeding your baby to sleep is actually meant to make your bub sleepy!
  3. Intense – you will have quickly learnt that your baby knows what they want or don’t want. That nappy wet, they will let you know about it immediately! Hungry, there is no, I’m a little hungry, it’s feed me now scream. They make their needs known straight away. If you manage to get out to a play group or a play date you are the mum/dad that is struggling to keep your baby on your knee, off the floor, on the floor, in the room…whilst other parents have quiet, calm babies that sit happily and snooze yours is busy trying to climb out of the window. You’re the parent that looks like you’ve battled a hoard of zombies just to get to the class.
  4. Milk monster – Oh my goodness!! The amount of boob time Sidekick wants, still, is unbelievable. She has always fed frequently, as a newborn she was on and off the boob constantly and even now she still likes to feed every two to three hours. She can go longer if pushed but she’s not happy.
  5. Routine – When I was still in the first three months of Sidekicks life, the idea of a routine was a holy grail. I just kept thinking, it’ll all be better when she falls into a routine. I knew I didn’t want to force her into a routine but I thought she would fall into one. I spoke to the Health Visitor about it and she advised that it would happen if not before the introduction of solids then definitely when food was introduced and we were eating three meals. Well we’re eating three meals and I’m still waiting for the routine! For some reason High Demand babies like to keep us guessing, no two days are the same. Sleeps till 6am one morning, awake at 4.30 then next. You won’t have done anything different, it’s just their way. I’m not going to say that you get used to it and you go with the flow. Maybe others do, I still find it really hard. I find it very difficult to plan anything as I have no clue what Sidekick will be doing nap wise. So you just adapt and cope.
  6. Unpredictable – what helped them sleep one day isn’t going to work again. That toy they couldn’t get enough of now makes them cry, that song you sang to stop them crying just makes them cry louder. It’s all swings and roundabouts, happy and smiling one moment and then angry and wailing the next. It makes it really hard to plan anything when you’re little one is so unpredictable.

So all these traits can then lead yo to thinking and feeling the following:

  1. That you must be doing it wrong – you must be doing something wrong because your baby is only cat napping, is feeding too frequently, is only happy when by you/on you and other babies aren’t like that.
  2. You’re finding it hard – sure you expected to be a little unsure in the beginning but you were assured that it gets easier, the magic, 4, 6, 8 and 12 week fairy. The thing is though it hasn’t got easier, you’re still as knackered, you still battle to get them down for a nap, you are lucky if you get to pee let a lone make a drink. To make it worse the ever lurking return to work gets closer and closer and you are still without a routine and have no clue what you’re going to do. Revert back to point 1.
  3. You are exhausted- you are still having to prioritise sleep due to the frequent wakeups but you are so tired that sometimes you forget how to spell your own name.
  4. You’re making a needy baby – people from strangers, to family to the health visitor all weigh in and tell you how one of the things you are doing is going to cause your baby to be needy, a wimpy little thing. They could be right because after all they aren’t doing anything a ‘normal’ baby does.

So how can you fix the problems. Easy, you don’t.

You have been blessed with a wonderfully unique baby and yes it is nothing like you thought it would be. Times are going to be hard and stressful but they will pass.

Carry on holding, rocking, wearing and feeding. When your baby cries respond by holding them close, tell them you love them, acknowledge their feelings. Respond in the way nature tells you to.

Your intense little baby will grow into a calm, confident, secure person. These unique bundles of determination are the ones who question the norm and push the world forward. They are the ground breakers.

So take a moment, get yourself together for an amazing ride, tell Granny and Grandpa, your friends, your partner what it means, how it feels and go and raise your brilliant baby. How you love them now is building their foundations for an amazing life.

You can do this!

The pen is mightier than the sword, why not say something

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