My daughter turned one in September, making it an official year since I’ve been able to sleep through the night. (Longer, really, since I had to get up to pee so frequently during the last trimester of pregnancy.)
There are so many blog posts, books, courses, even coaches, to teach you how to get your baby to sleep through the night, so your first thought might be, why haven’t we made it happen?
In this post, I’m going to share with you some of the unique challenges sleep poses for the high-need baby, the arrangement that has worked best in our home, and how we are moving forward with transitioning our toddler-baby to her own bed.
If you’re struggling with exhaustion and a hearty dose of sleep deprivation, I hope you’re able to glean from our experience to find what works for you.
Please note that this is not a how-to! We are still figuring things out ourselves. I wanted to share with you what has kept us alive and sane up to this point, and let you know if sleep is something you and your baby are struggling with, it could be because you have a high-need baby!
Being Tired is an Unpleasant Reality
First of all, I want to tell you there’s no quick or easy fix to dilemmas involving baby sleep.
If you’re tired, that’s normal! We’ve somehow created this false ideal of a ten week old baby learning to sleep eight to twelve through the night, and convinced all the mamas that this is the golden standard.
You can choose to fight it, but you may find that conventional sleeping arrangements aren’t working for your family, no matter how hard you try.
Just because your baby doesn’t sleep through the night doesn’t make them a “bad sleeper.” Just like babies who do sleep through the night shouldn’t automatically be labeled “good sleepers.” You don’t know what has gone on behind the scenes to accomplish that feat. Some babies are just naturally more amenable to sleeping longer stretches on their own in their defined spaces, but others are not, and many a parent and baby has gone through long, painful struggles to achieve “good sleep.”
My baby is in the “not” category, as you’ll soon see.
Unique Challenges for Sleep with a High-Need Baby
As I’ve learned over time, our daughter (codename: Carrots) is a high-need baby. As an infant, she fussed a lot, could rarely be put down without hard crying, and needed to nurse far more frequently than other babies. She also would-not-could-not sleep alone.
Here are some of the characteristics of a high-need baby that add an extra layer of challenge to sleeping:
High-need babies need physical contact
If you have a high-need baby, you’ll quickly notice the heightened need for constant physical contact. This need does not dissipate just because it gets dark outside. They want to be close at all times, and during sleep is no exception. These types of babies are exceedingly sensitive, so if you try to put them down, they always seem to know, regardless of how deeply they were sleeping.
High-need [breastfed] babies nurse A LOT
What is generally known as “cluster-feeding” for other babies is just normal feeding for the high-need baby. This intense drive to suckle continues throughout the dark hours as well. If you’re trying to get your baby to sleep in a crib, you’ll find yourself having to get up every hour and a half to two hours (or even more frequently) to soothe a “hungry” baby. When we first brought my daughter home from the hospital, she literally nursed around the clock, and stayed latched more than not those first few weeks. As she got a little older, the duration of her nighttime nursing sessions shortened, but their frequency stayed high.
In fact, even now, upwards of one year old, she still wakes around 3-6 times a night to nurse. [Please send caffeine].
High-need babies can have a difficult time falling asleep and staying that way
When our baby was an infant, I walked miles around our apartment every single day just to get her to sleep. As much as she wouldn’t let me put her down, I also couldn’t sit with her as long as she was awake. She had (HAS) an extreme need to be moving constantly. We employed every sleep prop in the book, and I won’t apologize for it.
I’ve heard other moms say, “We were bad, and we rocked her to sleep at night.” THAT’S NOT BAD, MAMA! Please, PLEASE don’t buy into that nonsense. Babies were meant to be held, touched, rocked, soothed. They’re flippin’ babies for crying out loud!
In addition to the struggle to get her to sleep, she has a difficult time staying asleep, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, high-need babies are very sensitive to their environments. Even the creak of my ankle can wake her up. She would almost always wake if I tried to lay her down. In addition, as I mentioned in the last section, she needs to nurse so often (which is actually a built in safety mechanism for newborns!).
Hey mom friend
I want to encourage you to find your own parenting style by putting on your mom genes and tailoring your parenting instincts.
I believe that you are the best parent for your child, and I want to help you believe that, too.
If we haven’t met yet, come introduce yourself with an email, or on Instagram!