HOW CAN I CHANGE MY 3-M-O HIGH NEED BABY SO SHE DOESN’T NEED TO BE HELD ALL THE TIME?
“I’m desperate for your help. I have a beautiful, alert, healthy, strong and happy daughter (3 months). When she was born, the nurses at the hospital suggested I sleep with her for the first few weeks to help regulate her body temperature. I’m breastfeeding so I would let her fall asleep after feeding. Now, three months later we’re still doing it. I sleep sitting up holding her on a pillow in front of me. She’s out growing the pillow and believe me I’m ready to sleep laying down now. I’ve tried a co-sleeper, bassinet and her car seat carrier. She doesn’t cry when being placed to sleep in these other items…she screams. Also, she likes to be held (walked) most of her waking hours. Your Nighttime Parenting book suggests that this is normal behavior for a “high need” baby. I don’t know how to proceed. I want my daughter to remain happy but we definitely need to make some changes. How do I gently help her to sleep out of my arms? And how do I help to not need to be held so much? I’d rather not follow the cry-it-out method. Please help?”
Many parents of high-need babies come to me asking for help, just like this mom. They are tired from lack of sleep, worn out from holding baby all day long, and sometimes at their wits end. Some are ready to try the cry-it-out method just so they can finally get some sleep. I really do sympathize with these loving parents. Anyone who has raised a high-need baby understands the time and energy involved.
Unfortunately, there is no good solution to this situation. Asking a high-need baby to not want to be held all day or to sleep peacefully all night long is like asking a dog not to bark, the sun not to rise, or men to stop and ask directions. It really is possible. Every baby comes wired differently, with different levels of need. High-need babies simply must be held most of the time in order to feel emotionally secure and fulfilled. There is no good way around this. No amount of “letting them cry it out” is going to change this instinctive need they have. I suppose if you tried the cry-it-out method for long enough (for several months or so), she WOULD eventually get the message. But at what cost to her trust, sense of security, and self-esteem?
What parents in this situation should be asking is not “how can I change my baby”, but rather “how can I meet my baby’s needs and still retain my sanity on so little sleep?” The answer to this question can be found by browsing through our “high need” or “fussy baby” section on our site by searching these terms. You can also search “payoff” to read some encouraging words about how your investment will pay off in your child.
Hang in there. Your baby’s level of need will change with time. There IS sleep at the end of the tunnel.