Babies thrive on love, attention and responsive feeding. Your perception of whether you have an easy baby or not may have a significant bearing on how difficult you find parenting. Our handy guide may help if you feel you have a fussy or a ‘high needs’ baby – a term used across many parenting forums.
- Why is my baby so fussy? Colic vs high needs
Before deciding that your baby might be more high maintenance than others, it’s important to rule out other possible causes of longer periods of fussing, such as tummy troubles like colic. If your baby cries inconsolably for over 3 hours, 3 days or more a week for over a week with no failure to thrive, it might be colic. This could be caused by discomfort due to the fact that a young baby’s digestive system is still developing. Speak to your healthcare professional (HCP) for advice and possible treatments.
Babies usually outgrow colic within a few weeks and by four to six months of age, so if your baby is 6 months or older and still fussing a lot, and you and your HCP can find no other reason for it, you may have a high needs baby.
10 signs of a high needs baby
There is no universally recognised list of signs of a high needs baby, but here are the 10 commonly reported characteristics of fussy babies:
- Intense, frequent and prolonged crying
- Need lots of attention
- Need near-constant holding and comforting (or the opposite and being extremely sensitive to physical contact)
- A “demanding” personality
- A “dissatisfied” temperament
- Erratic sleep with short naps
- Easily overstimulated
- Hating separation from mum or dad.
Of course, most babies behave like this some of the time. But if this sounds like your baby most of the time, then your baby might be more sensitive and need more soothing.
- How to calm a fussy baby
- As much as you can, try to remain calm yourself. Tune into your baby’s cues and respond to them in the way that works for you both. Soon you’ll learn to tell what sets them off and adjust your response before the situation escalates.
- If they aren’t happy unless they’re being held, a baby-carrier is one option for meeting their need while keeping your hands free.
- If the environment seems to be upsetting your baby, try changing it—for example dimming lights and noise to provide a more calming atmosphere, or taking them away from a crowded place. There is no one answer for how to calm a fussy baby—what works one day might not the next—so don’t be afraid to safely experiment. Always speak to your healthcare professional first for advice and possible treatments.