To learn about the traits of high needs babies, see the entry Five Characteristics of High Needs Babies.
High needs babies require a lot of care from parents. In this entry, Save the Parents!, several techniques and ideas will be explaned. Dr. Sears suggests several ways to help parents survive high needs children and continue to be a loving and helpful couple.
- Take time to think about yourselves. Go out as a couple, walk, get a massage, take a bubble bath…
- Allow your baby to be frustrated: it’s normal to nurture our baby when they’re born. However, if you’re lacking patience to meet your baby’s every immediate need, accept your limits and let them cry a bit when there is no other option.
- Prioritise sleep: you need all your strength to deal with the daily life of a high-need baby. That is why you need to take all the time available for a break or rest when the baby seems calm. You have to choose to relax or sleep before doing other tasks you often think are more important than taking care of yourself. You have to recharge your batteries to be able to care for your baby. Parent fatigue and exhaustion has a major long-term impact on the future of the couple and family. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
- Write what you’re experiencing: expose your feelings, how things went with your baby and different successes. Also note the good moments in your day with your baby and their progress.
- Look at the positive sides of your child: seeing our child positively allows you to avoid only focusing on negative points. Don’t forget that your child has unique strengths—recongise them and be proud of them.
- Be patient: you have to learn to live with a high needs child, but over time you will see life will become normal. They will be better able to control their mood, their reactions and will have developed other means to calm their anxiety. Accept their temperament, and even if they cry a lot and loudly, you can’t always stop it. But you can be there without always getting involved and trying to get them to change to your way of doing things. It’s worse if you try to force them to adapt.
- Take the high road: choose your battles, don’t lose energy over the details. Take the time for things that you can change, things you have power over and with realistic expectations for your child.
- Realise that your child is unique: it’s better to concentrate on the baby that you have and not on others around you or on what you thought was to be the perfect baby. It’s hard, but you have to ignore the sometimes negative comments from your entourage, family regarding you or your child. Concentrate on what matters, YOU. If you’re not there for your child, who will be?
- Don’t compare: your child can be different, and this doesn’t mean that they’re bad. It’s not easy, but it will help you see all their good sides as well.
- Go out: the child likes to move and big spaces will help them, and the parent can relax and get some air at the same time. Breathe! Release your stress!
- Change what you don’t like: it’s true that your baby has clear needs and demands, but don’t forget that you have to respect your limits. By nurturing your child, you do your best that you can for their demands, but you also have to see if this is OK for you over time. You have your capacities and limits and it’s the balance between your capacities and meeting the needs of your baby that will allow you to maintain mutual love and harmony.
- Look for help: with exhaustion and fatigue, you need outside help for both parents. Talk with other parents who have high-need babies. This will help you express yourself, learn and understand experiences from others in the same situation.
- Go outside: the child likes to move and the great outdoors will certainly help and the parent can decompress at the same time and get some fresh air. Breathe! Let go of the tensions!
- Change what is not right for you: it’s true that your baby has needs and the requests are clear, but remember that you also have your limits to respect. By mothering your child, you are responding as best you can to your child’s requests, but you also need to look to see if it works for you too in the long run. You have your abilities and your limits and it is the right balance between your abilities and meeting your baby’s needs that will keep love and harmony between you.
- Ask help: With exhaustion, fatigue and overflow, you need help, for both parents. Talking with other parents who have BABIs will help you express yourself, share and also learn about the experiences of others living in similar situations.
Members of your family that understand the situation and want to help, friends that are sensitive to what you’re living, mutual assistance groups to release your emotions over time. Taking care of yourself is also taking care of your children. It lets you to continue to give!
High needs babies are children with great qualities, and you can’t ignore them, but you have to learn to live with their personality. You will survive, your child will grow and blossom and life will go on…
- Trust yourself and your baby. They need to feel that you’re there for them.
- Talk to your entourage about your experiences and your baby’s temperament. They will better accept your ways of intervening with your child.
- Invite close friends and family to participate in your family life, whether to babysit, cook meals or clean.
- Learn to breathe, after several deep breaths, the cortisol rate (stress hormone) diminishes in your body and you will be better able to work with your child.
- Avoid overstimulating them: noisy environment, bright lights and strong odours should be avoided. Don’t forget that your baby is very sensitive to everything around them.
- Above all, don’t feel guilty if you’re at the end of your rope. According to Dr. Gilles Fortin, MD (FRCP, February 2007), “Even the most skilled parents can’t support a baby crying for more than 35 minutes without getting help.”
- Consult home respite programs or discussions groups for parents in a perinatal resource centre near you (www.reseaudescrp.org).
- Don’t forget to laugh, play, do crazy things with your child. By maximising the good times, you will increase your confidence.
You have the most magnificent of privileges, that of being a parent. You have an exceptional being in your hands. Give yourself time, and together you will find your road.
A big thank you to Bedon & bout’chou for having collaborated for this article. For support and advice, I suggest you go and meet their team of postnatal facilitators. They are fantastic!
Additional reading from the book by Dr. Sears: www.askdrsears.com
The Baby Expert