28 June 2011


I've been quietly asking myself this question. Is Ezra just a high-needs baby? Or is this what all babies are like? Or are we doing something wrong?

That may sound drastic, but still. Ezra will be four months old next week, and he still nurses every 2 hours (except at night, where he gives me 4-5 hours). He has a very hard time sleeping for naps, and almost never can sleep away from home unless he's nursing at the same time. He goes from neither pleased nor displeased to wailing in about 90 seconds. And, while we've gotten a type of routine, there's no telling if what worked yesterday to get him to sleep will work today. He also just generally doesn't like to be out of the house, and quickly gets uncomfortable if people he doesn't know hold him (parents and grandparents are excluded, PTL). And, when he gets tired in the evenings, often the only person that will do is Mom, not even Dad. He lasts about 20 minutes in the grocery store before I have to hold him, and then he'll last 15 more minutes before he has had it (which tends to coincide with being in the checkout line).

Is that a normal baby? Because I just don't know. Stephen went digging and found the 12 Features of a high-need baby on Doc Sears' website. Here they are:

1) Intense. Ezra is certainly that. What I love about it, tho, is he's intensely happy as well. The joy of my days are giggling sessions we have from little things like kisses (he LOVES kisses, especially on his tum), to making a crinkly toy crinkle oh-so-satisfyingly, to things only he knows are funny (is it my face? I don't know it I appreciate that...). This is one I don't usually mind except when we're at a wedding in Houston and I don't get to enjoy any of it because Ezra's having a complete meltdown. Things like that. But I'd rather have a baby that laughs than a baby that doesn't cry.

2) Hyperactive. I'm not positive about this one. He does like to do things and does get easily bored (usually. There are some amazing times where he sits in the bumbo on the counter for a good 20 minutes watching me make dinner. He's well away from the edge, so don't fuss.). And he often tries to swan dive as you're holding him, and he's so far hated being in the sling. But he likes to be swaddled and I do still think he genuinely enjoys being held. I'm on the fence with this one, mostly because I don't have any other baby to compare him to.

3) Draining. Well, this one's a bit unfair, isn't it? What first-time, full-time mother isn't frequently drained at the end of the day? I mean, I'm usually drained after I finally get him down at night, but I generally feel pretty good at bedtime. Generally. ;) So yes, he's draining, but I don't think he takes everything he can. There are definitely 20-minute periods of time where he'll play with his toys on his mat, and I don't have to interact with him.

4) Feeds frequently. Oh yes. Definitely yes. But still, he often does well at night. I'd say at least four nights a week he sleeps for four continuous hours before needing to nurse again. But still, I wish he could go three hours, and that never ever happens unless he's been asleep for the majority of that time. It doesn't usually bother me, it's just hard when I'd like to run all my errands in one go, and he can't make it the hour and a half between the end of one feeding and the beginning of the next.

5) Demanding. Again, I'm not sure! If he's bored, he'll usually complain for maybe two minutes before losing it. When he's hungry, it's less, but if I want to, I can often stave him off for about five minutes by holding him and walking around. But he won't cry himself to sleep, or at least not in the fifteen to twenty minutes I've let him wail a few times. He just gets so frantic so quickly if he's hungry or tired. So I'd give a hesitant yes.

6) Awakens frequently. Sort of. He used to sleep much better than he currently does. It's mostly napping that's so hard. But of course, the one or two nights a week where he only goes three and then two hours between nursing, or decides he's up for the day at 5:45 are hard. I don't think he needs less sleep, because he gets inconsolably miserable if he cannot sleep for three or four hours. I just often have to nap with him, and even then sometimes he won't sleep for more than twenty minutes. Is that normal? I have no idea.

7) Unsatisfied. This one I feel is a pretty clear no. If he's unhappy, nursing almost always works, even if playing or walking or singing or swinging or swaddling or driving. There have only been three times now where he was inconsolable, and every time there was a logical explanation for why he was miserable.

8) Unpredictable. Yes. He never ever ever wakes up at the same time, or decides he's tired at the same time, or goes to bed at the same time. Unless by "the same time" I mean within a two-hour time table. And he often messes with my trying to help him sleep, play, and nurse cycle. And almost every bedtime now is an hour and a half of me trying things that have worked previously until one actually gets him to sleep and stay asleep. He also has pretty massive mood swings. I'll frequently take him to the store to get two things, holding him the whole time, and he'll burst into a whole-store-can-hear-you-over-the-music wailfest. And then stop after ninety seconds. Is that common? I mean, I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.

9) Super-sensitive. I'd say quite sensitive, not super. Maybe just because I'm a little defensive of him. He has a hard time in loud places, or big places, or not-home places, or places with lots of new things or new people. And, as I've said, he pretty much cannot sleep in a new place unless he's nursing. But he doesn't get upset when Stephen does the dishes (and he does them loudly! But hey, he does them. I'll 100% take it!). But he has done really well with several of his shots.

10) Can't put baby down. Eh. I'm on the fence with this one. He certainly can't be put down for as long as some. He's getting better about playing on his mat or with a toy in the bumbo. But. after the first two weeks, I couldn't just put him on the couch and him be fine for more than a minute, maybe. But he sleeps well in his crib, and the transition from our bed to the crib was bump-free.

11) Not a self-soother. This is 100% true. Ezra cannot yet deescalate himself. Once he starts getting upset, he needs someone else to calm him down. He sometimes enjoys the swing for a short period of time while awake (I think to help him calm down from so much stimulation), and the swing helps him stay asleep during naps, but I no longer can put him in the swing and expect him to fall asleep. Alas, that first month was so nice!

12) Separation-sensitive. Ha! Me or him? ;) No, he is separation-sensitive. If I leave him with the grandparents and go do something, he almost always has been wailing when I get back. I'm sure that will change with time.

I want to add a post script that lets everyone know on no uncertain terms that I absolutely love Ezra. He is exactly who he should be, and he delights me every single day. I know he's already an amazing person. I just want to know how to parent him well!

Okay, this was a massive post. Sorry about that. I'm honestly just insecure. Is Ezra a normal baby, and my lack of structure for him is making his life harder? Or is he just a little higher needs than other babies?


  1. Oh man, I remember asking this same question. At one point I was even questioning if Jude could be autistic. Jude as an infant was passionate, strong willed and either extremely happy or extremely angry! I read the same Dr. Sears evaluation and he was similar to Ezra - somethings on the list are right on and some are not quite right. Hang in there mama, the six month mark brings about a lot of changes - for us it was when Jude finally started going 3 hours between nursing sessions and his naps started becoming consistent! Keep trying different things, what didn't work before may one day just do the trick!

  2. I don't know if he is normal or not but he sounds a lot like Lucy!

    I went back and forth about calling her high needs because she wasn't an unhappy or colicky baby and like you said about Ezra, she was (okay, still is) happy if I am willing and able to nurse her, hold her or wear her (do you have a sling or an ergo, they helped me a lot!) but I would see other babies who would let other people hold them or who could put them self down for a nap and know that no way would Lucy be okay with that.

    I worried about it, read books and tried different things before I realized that is just how God made her.

    I did started calling her high needs, most just to myself, so that I felt better for being so worn out. I've since met several moms who said that one of there multiple kids was like that even though they didn't really parent them any different than there social butterfly, happy anywhere, falls asleep every 3 hours on the dot babies which made me feel a lot better.

    I do know that when I tried, even subtly, adjusting Lucy's schedule to what the "experts" or the "books" said it should be, it always backfired - she was more off than usual and I was more stressed. But as she has gotten older, she has found her own rythmn and settled down and we now have a nice little routine so it will happen! And the same with being more indepentent and social. She has finally reached a point where she can play next to me while I do the dishes, it took us about 10-11 months but it has happened.

    I think your last sentence is good. Maybe we can't put high needs as one category, but as a spectrum with Lucy and maybe Ezra being on the upper end.

    Sorry this was the longest comment ever but I sympathize with everything you said and I'm not sure if it was helpful but at least you know you aren't alone!

  3. Oh, and this is just a funny note. My anti-spam word for that last comment was "chill." A message to us both perhaps?