Surviving a High Needs Baby | Paper Pinecone

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Surviving a High Needs Baby

Published Date: 03/05/19

Ever heard of the term “high needs baby”? I hadn’t until I had one of my own - and then I got a crash course into what it’s like to parent one.

Let me start with this: my first baby was fairly easy. She was happy nearly all of the time, full of smiles, curious and funny. If she cried, all we had to do was play Kelly Clarkson for her and then she’d stop. She experienced the typical sleep regressions and a few more for good measure, but she was so happy all of the time that being tired wasn’t as awful as I thought it’d be most days.

Being a mom was such a blast, I was game for another one pretty quickly. I didn’t get what other moms were talking about when they complained about babies who never slept or they were dealing with reflux or they couldn’t imagine having another baby for a LONG time. I foolishly thought all my babies would be the same and that I must be doing something right, so I should simply do it again.

Then my second baby arrived and rocked my world. She screamed every time we put her in the car - and we live in Los Angeles, so there’s a lot of time in the car. She wanted to be held all of the time. But only by me. She nursed every two hours and never seemed to get enough food, but refused any and all bottles in any shape or form. For the first two weeks she was up nearly every hour and wouldn’t sleep unless someone was holding her. She had an allergy to dairy, so that meant my diet - which had been restricted due to pregnancy for the last nine months - was restricted again until my poor little munchkin could handle the proteins in milk, cheese and all of the other yummy things I love. We tried six different types of baby beds to get her to sleep just a few hours in one. And she was basically strapped to me in one of those baby carriers nearly all of the time.

I was humbled. I was exhausted. I was hormonal and crying. And I was chasing around a toddler who was about to turn 2, so I was completely spent. There are parts there at the beginning that I’ve just blocked out. Eventually, the three of us got into a routine while my husband was busy traveling for work. The baby stopped crying in the car. (When that finally happened - she was eight months old - I actually started dancing from pure joy and relief.) She finally took a bottle, which was actually her sister’s sippy cup. She started smiling more and I was able to enjoy my toddler while the baby napped.

There are several things I learned after this parenting experience, but I’ve taken away two major lessons. One is that no two babies are the same. There’s no “typical” child and if you think you’re going to have two of the same type of kid, the odds are pretty rare. The other lesson I learned was that even if it feels like the day is going on forever - and really it’s only two hours until bedtime - things will get better. A few months go by and you start to celebrate the small victories. More sleep will come. You start to notice things getting easier. Not all at once, but you’ll eventually notice there are days when you feel like you have this parenting thing down. And days when you don’t feel that way at all, no matter how old they get.

Bottom line? It will eventually get better. Every mom I know who’s been there can agree on that statement. And in the meantime, when it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders and there are hours to go until the clock strikes bedtime, there’s always wine.

About the Author

Ashley Ruiz is a former television producer turned freelance writer, who stays home with her two little girls. The skills she learned in the unpredictable world of TV have benefitted her as a mother, helping her juggle the duties of motherhood. She also invented the Mommy Care Kit - a postpartum gift basket for new moms to help them get through the first few weeks after having a baby. Originally from colorful Colorado, Ashley lives with her family in Los Angeles, where they take advantage of the beach and beautiful weather as often as possible.

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