Doing research for this post, one thing is clear -- there is no single definition of a high needs baby or toddler. No one defining quality or checklist. But there certainly are similarities between high needs babies. Parenting expert Dr. Sears lists 12 qualities that are seen in high needs babies. You can read the full descriptions here. In summary a high needs baby or toddler is:
Intense* -- in your face about their every need, driven, loud
Hyperactive* -- constantly in motion, hate containment, fight swaddles
Draining* -- continuous need for attention
Feeds Frequently -- fights schedules and demands feeding
Demanding* -- strong willed, strong sense of urgency in everything they need
Awakens Frequently* -- poor sleepers, low sleep needs
Unsatisfied* -- hard to make content
Unpredictable* -- the same techniques for sleeping, soothing hardly work twice
Super Sensitive -- very aware of environment, easily overstimulated
Cant be put down -- extremely sensitive to touch, often not "cuddly"
Not a self-soother* -- need help to sleep or relax
Separation Sensitive* -- want to be with mother, frightened or anxious to be alone
Other traits additional experts include:
Difficult to soothe*
This list is not exhaustive. That is what is so frustrating. A child may fit only one or two of these things but still be very high needs. Or a child may fit all of these. The stars are the traits that I see in Henry today, but at some point I think he has exhibited every one and there are others I could add to this list.
What I think is most important for everyone -- parents and others alike -- to understand is high needs is a real thing. You're not imagining it, the parents are not imagining it, and there really are babies like this. Also, it's not something that has a quick fix. High needs requires changing your expectations for your child. Adapting your skill set and knowing that this isn't just going to go away.
There is no magical 3,6,12,18 month mark where your child is just going to wake up and be different. And, honestly, that has been the hardest lesson for me to learn.
Next week's topic: High Needs Babies and Toddlers: The Good
Read More Resources and References:
Fussy Baby Site
Babies in Mind
Are there traits that you would add to this list? Other defining qualities of high needs babies or toddlers?