If you’ve ever had a difficult baby, you already know: Caring for a high needs baby is a full-time job. And it’s probably one of the toughest gigs you’ve ever had.
I made it through three kids without getting a truly hard baby (which means I also made it through many years without really understanding what it was like to have a difficult baby).
I was so confident in my mothering abilities.
(Well, at least my abilities to mother babies and toddlers. My third-grader has been giving me a run for my money for a few years now, but I digress…)
Wasn’t I cute? So cute…
Anyway, you know what they say about pride… It goeth before the fall. And fall I did.
Along came Kid #4 and BAM!
Those typical newborn and infant struggles became a thing of the past. It was as if I was playing a video game and, overnight, someone ratcheted up the difficulty level from beginner to super-duper-extreme-expert.
(Spoiler alert: no one is a super-duper-extreme-expert when it comes to babies and parenting, so you can see how this could become a problem…)
As I spent day after day in a spit-up-soaked, crying (baby’s tears and mine) hellscape, I took to Google searching for all the things.
My search history tells the story of my parenting downward spiral.
Difficult baby temperament
Demonic hellspawn baby who won’t stop crying
You get the idea…
What was I searching for in the depths of the internet? Well, that depended on the day, hour, or minute…
Sometimes I was seeking solace. (Is anyone else raising a needy baby who cries all the time?)
Sometimes I was seeking encouragement. (Have other people raised difficult babies like this and lived to tell the tale?)
Sometimes I was seeking advice. (How do you handle a difficult baby without losing your mind?)
Sometimes I was seeking blame. (Do difficult babies get it from their father’s side?).
In my combing of the interwebs, I even unearthed a 1971 article from the New York Times that has since been digitized. It was called, aptly, The difficult baby is born that way.
(Cue Lady Gaga’s Born this Way)
For any parents of difficult babies who may be tempted to explore that article: Don’t.
Allow me to save you a click. The title certainly sounds encouraging. After all, “It’s not your fault” is the basic message every parent of a high-needs baby is seeking.
But paragraph #2 reads,
“The answer is nothing is wrong with them [the parents] or with the baby.
But if they don’t come to understand their baby’s temperament, they will almost inevitably start handling him wrong, and their difficult baby will grow up to be a difficult adult who may bully his wife and children or be angrily dismayed that the world does not revolve around him, or simply be an irritable, uncooperative person.”
Well alrighty then….
Let me summarize: If you’re exhausted and sleep-deprived from dealing with your difficult newborn, covered in layers of spit-up, and you want to be “encouraged” that you may actually be raising a future domestic abuser (unless you intervene correctly and immediately), that’s the article for you!
But let’s say, you know, hypothetically, that isn’t the kind of inspiration you’re looking for.
If what I’ve described so far perfectly captures your life with your ill-tempered baby, what are you supposed to do?
Let me offer you two key points of encouragement:
First, a question: Are you deliberately making your feisty baby cry?
Are you poking him when he’s peaceful, making loud noises to startle him, or otherwise antagonizing your cranky baby?
Well, then none of this is your fault.
Some babies are easy. Some babies are just born with a peaceful temperament (in my family, that’s Kid 2).
Some babies aren’t easy, but they’re not super difficult either. They’re (and I hesitate to use this word when describing kids, but oh well) “normal” babies. In our house, that’s Kids 1 and 4.
And then some babies are next-level needy. Fussy, clingy, colicky — and that’s not your fault.
(And this post isn’t even touching on babies who are dealing with unique health needs and challenges. That’s a whole different can of worms and I tip my hat to those parents.)
Also worth noting: admitting you have a difficult baby doesn’t mean you don’t love or appreciate them; it doesn’t mean you’re not grateful to be their mom.
In fact, I can’t think of something that says LOVE better than constantly caring for a tiny human that projectile pukes on everything you own and screams nearly every time you set them down for a year.
Nothing says care and dedication quite like waking every two hours month after month after month, with no end in sight.
I adore my youngest. When he giggles or masters something new, it’s like I’ve never even had other babies before. It’s that thrilling.
My second point of encouragement is this:
At some point, you won’t have to deal with this difficult baby all the time (or maybe at all).
They’ll probably outgrow it.
Please, God, let them outgrow it.
Most babies who are colicky or difficult don’t stay that way forever (well, unless they grow up to be abusive curmudgeons per the 1971 New York Times, but let’s not dwell on that…).
There’s often a magical transition sometime in their first 18 months. Suddenly, your fussy maniac baby transforms into a happy human child. Hallelujah!
And if your baby doesn’t outgrow it–or he doesn’t outgrow it soon enough– you’ll eventually be able to outsource your difficult baby.
Yep, I said that.
Now that child care centers have reopened in our area, and community transmission is on the decline, my difficult baby is spending some time in daycare.
That’s right. I am currently paying someone else to watch my needy little guy (12 months old) for 5 hours once or twice per week even though I’m home. IT IS GLORIOUS.
Sometimes I use the time to work. (I run a very-part-time business from home; this website is part of it.)
In fact, guess where my baby was when I wrote this?
I’ll give you a hint: Not here.
Coherent thoughts don’t occur when Sir Cries-A-Lot is on the premises.
Other times, I use those five hours to just live my life without feeling like my head and chest might explode from frustration and sensory overwhelm.
I know not everyone can afford to do this and I 100% sympathize with that. I highly suggest recruiting a friend or family member to give you a break from your difficult baby whenever possible.
But even if they don’t outgrow it…
And even if you can’t afford a sitter…
There will come a day when you, too, will get to regularly outsource your high-needs “baby”…
It’s called kindergarten.
–But I sincerely hope and pray you get some relief before then, because caring for a difficult baby is definitely a full-time job.
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