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Project 52 | TWENTY EIGHT

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Gone are the five hour stretches of sleep. We are back to four. If I am lucky. & I am tired.

I can’t put my baby down when I am home. He won’t sleep longer than 45 minutes during the day. He wants to eat nonstop. He cries & cries. He startles easily. He’s extremely sensitive. He only wants me. & he is just…tough.

He’s the baby I used to hear other mothers talk about. I used to judge and compare my perfectly scheduled babywised baby.

It must be HER. What is she doing WRONG? Ezzo said I am not lucky. He said I am the reason my baby is awesome. & I am not going to let anyone tell me I am lucky.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnndddd then I had Everett.

Babywise? FAIL. Schedule? HA.

I am the same mother. I tried the same things. & they did not work. & nothing really works. Except babywearing and feeding him all the time. Am I alone?

Turns out, I am not. At least Dr. Sears says I am not. He says my baby is simply, HIGH NEEDS. [understatement, UNDERSTATEMENT]

What is a high needs baby? Read this. It the definition of my son.

Reading has helped me a lot this week. It’s helped me face the reality and accept that I cannot turn everett into caroline. He has very different needs and as exhausting as they are, it’s just going to be this way for awhile. & I am accepting that. I have no time to craft. I have no time to read. My house is not as clean as I’d like. I have very little left at the end of the day and it is taking a large emotional toll on me. I am quite simply, not the ME I knew before. I know she’ll return, but I miss her. A lot.

I know some of you feel this way. I also know there is shame in feeling this way. We blame ourselves when we have tough kids and I am going to try very hard not to do that. It’s not my fault. I can only control so much. I was really lucky with caroline. & It’s okay to admit it is hard this time around. I feel it is best to educate myself about how to handle him instead of feel sorry for myself for struggling. But the latter is very easy to do.

I challenge you mamas of high needs babies to do the same. We are not failures. We are not worse mothers than our friends who have babies that slept through the night at seven weeks. We are just dealing with different challenges.

& ironically…the only thing that calms my everett, other than the ergo or nursing, is a book. He loves books. That, I can get on board with.

(& how rad is the book above?! It’s the official Pantone Color book for kids. Thank you, SIL! Everyone here LOVES it!)


& Project 52 is off to a very collaborative start! If you’d like to join in–it’s not too late. Here’s everything you need to know about

my 2012 Project 52.

& those of you who are linking up (please let me know if you need to be edited/added!):

Adventures in MommyhoodAubrey My LoveBlossoms & VintageBugs & Boo-Boos Candice CravesCandidly Colette Caynay PhotographyChristina’s Project 52 Chronicles of KTClaire Jane The Crain’s Nest Dana Moran Photography The Daulton Dabbler Englexas Everything Eatherton Fairy Wings & Dinosaurs Finding Joy Firecracker MamaFreckled PinkFrom Stanwood to Seoul Gin & Juice Boxes Heather Marie PortraitsIci & LaIt’s a Graham LifeIt’s a Strange & Lovely RideKate L Photography Keeping up with the Carters Kim Percival PhotographyLiving for Love Lizzi Photography Mahina & Lucas Mama Bethany McLain Padilla Photography Mist Moments Memories by Mere Moments & Impressions The Mommyhood Memos Moo with Me Moxie Made My Tots TravelNavigating the MothershipNicole Dina PhotographyOh the Places We’ll GoOur Baby Behr Our Splendid Little Life Phreckle Face Photography Quiet FootstepsRachel Gray PhotographyThe Robersons Shades of Bliss Shutter Mama BlogSide of the TableSimply Us Snaps of Our LifeSquamish Baby The Todd’s We Aren’t Scared of SugarWe’re Better Together Wicked KateWokabout Z as in Zebra

Related Posts with Thumbnails
  • Kelly L - Shawna! Can i just tell you how wonderful it is to read this post? Thank you for helping all of us mamas realize its not US but sometimes our babies have “unique” personalities. Instead of trying to change them, we just need strategies to understand. I have two boys, 2 and 4, and i admit, reading your posts about Caroline, i would sometimes feel like, “why can’t my kiddos love to play with play dough for 30 minutes and sleep peacefully until the morning?” :) i often think its MY fault when my kids are fussy, bad sleepers, etc, and i need to read more, understand more, so i can “fix” them. thank you for the reminder that life’s challenges are there to teach us something!

    P.S. Fussy baby and all, I still don’t know how you do everything you do. :)ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - Sorry to hear you are having a tough time. I can reassure you it does get better. I had a baby that sounds similar to Everett. She was my first, so you can imagine how that made me feel? I thought it was all my fault etc. Now I know it wasn’t and that is just the way she is. Once you accept it it does get a little easier. But as a first time mum I found it hard to be around the smug mums who had easy little babies and they thought it was all down to their fantastic mothering. I suppose baby Everett is teaching you a humbling lesson!

    It will settle down, it will. This time shall pass. It will get easier.ReplyCancel

  • Heather - Hey Shawna,

    Love your blog!
    Have you ever heard the term “highly sensitive person”? It’s not in DSM-IV by any means, but as a diagnosis it’s growing in popularity. The important thing about a highly sensitive person, or in your case, a highly sensitive child, is to remember that while it can make his little life (and yours, right now) excrutiating, it can also make it exhilerating. He’ll experience everything more deeply because of his heightened sensitivity – discomfort, yes, but also beauty, art, music, literature, nature, etc. It’s a gift.

  • Jamie - Hang in there! It does get better, but it’s so hard to think about the future when you are extremely sleep deprived. My daughter sounds EXACTLY like your son. I’m a first time mom and couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong and why I seemed to be the only one struggling with motherhood. Thankfully I read Dr. Sears’ book, which helped me to understand my little girl. My husband often works long hours and I am the one who takes care of my daughter 99% of the time. IT IS EXHAUSTING! She’s now seven months old and sooo much better than she used to be. She is very advanced developmentally so I often wonder if our high needs babies squish six months of development into one month. It’s almost like their little brains are on hyper speed growing! Hugs to you…try and take care of yourself. I thought I was on the road to PPD, but they diagnosed me with postpartum thyroiditis instead. So again, I reiterate, take care of yourself! And know that you are not alone in your struggles trying to parent a high needs baby. It will get better, I promise!ReplyCancel

  • Heather - Hang in there, Sister. I feel your pain so well. I learned all about a “high need baby” from our pal Dr. Sears when my oldest daughter, also named Caroline, was about 8 weeks old. I wondered why my friends were able to put their baby in a bouncy seat, shower or eat anything that involved a fork. I cried, I prayed the hardest I’ve ever prayed in my life and I questioned what we were doing wrong. Even after reading all about babies like her, I still questioned whether or not it was me. Two babies later ( both of whom are “normal” and actually sat in a swing and slept in a crib) I realized that just as everybody is different, so is every baby. We can only do so much, but a lot of it comes down to the person your child is. If I could, I would hug you because I know how it feels to lose yourself and feel such frustration. I can tell you that it gets better. He WILL sleep. He WILL be satisfied by things not attached to you (i.e. your arms, your breasts). And he will most likely be a strong-willed, highly sensitive child who teaches you and challenges you in the most wonderful ways possible. I’ve learned so much from my Caroline in her four years of life. She never ceases to amaze me. Though she’s not as carefree and happy-go-lucky as my other kids, she’s so compassionate, loving and wise for her age. And I wouldn’t change her in any way. Hang in there and try to take time away to recharge your batteries. The days will go by slowly, but the years will fly by quickly…as you well know from your little girl.ReplyCancel

  • Amanda Raymond - Shawna, I am so glad to hear your honesty in regards to your situation. We, too, had the “perfect” schedule, easy-going baby first, and we (especially me) were so quick to judge others with fussy, high-needs babies. “What are they or aren’t they doing?”, or “They must not have a schedule! Every baby with a schedule and a routine is NOT like that!” Yeah, well, fast-forward to March 2012 and our little man came into our lives and let us know otherwise :). He is totally Mama’s boy, wouldn’t even let his Daddy hold him at all for the first 2 months. We are taking it one exhausting day at a time, and telling ourselves it won’t last forever. I think about you often because I know how hard it is, and I find strength in the fact that I am not alone! Thank you again for sharing; I wish more Mama’s would admit that this parenting thing isn’t always easy :)ReplyCancel

  • donya - Yep, this was the definition of my first born. And sadly, I didn’t know that other babies were easier until recently! I thought all babies were tough to soothe and never slept or let you put them down. *sigh* Crossing my fingers baby #2 is even just a hair easier, because otherwise I fear that first year. But at least I know that I can make it through and that I will look back at that time with a million happy moments too. Good luck with Everett!ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - High-needs babies are T.O.U.G.H!!!

    My son (my 1st baby) is majorly high-needs…and has acid reflux & a dairy protein allergy. Sigh…I thought I was a bad mom because my baby was so much unhappier/screamier than any other baby I knew. My friends never understood…they all had/have easy babies…or at least babies that are way easier than my Lucas.

    Lucas is 9mo. old and things are finally starting to get a *little* better. He started sleeping longer than 2 hrs at a time about 3 weeks ago, but will only give us one 4-hr stretch at night (the rest are still 2-3 hrs). We are exhausted, and my fiance & I have never been so snippy/crabby/cranky with each other.

    I know it will get better, but it sure is tough to hold on to that sometimes! You just gotta do what works for you & your babe and tell everyone else who looks at you like you are crazy to take a long walk off a short pier!!ReplyCancel

  • Kristen - Hugs to you! I have had two high needs babies (both boys). When I had my first I clung to Dr. Sears’s article and advice, but honestly it was still really hard. He didn’t sleep, he didn’t want anyone else, he had a voracious appetite, and it consumed my world. Number two came around 21 months later and I was sure I was destined to have an “easy” baby wrong. I was better prepared and I chose to cosleep with number 2 (which I swore I’d never do) and that made all the difference in the world. I may not get down time, but I get rest and feel like myself. We baby wear, he doesn’t nap, doesn’t want anyone and eats constantly, but my oldest also taught me that in 11 months it will all be different and now I actually miss that time (all that time spent rocking:) with him.ReplyCancel

  • Shanon - Yeah, I remember reading your other posts about Babywise and such, and just thinking, “Ha! That would never work with my son.” (I don’t mean that in a nasty way, but just in a “You don’t know it until you live it” kind of way). My son was an easy going baby in a lot of ways (loved people, could take him anywhere, always smiling), but I was able to give him a LOT of attention (he was my first child and I was a SAHM), wear him a lot, nursed on demand, coslept, etc. so I think he was mostly easygoing because I was able to fill all his needs.

    He will be two in a few days, and he is still a terrible sleeper. He’s very sensitive. I hear about kids who get teeth and hardly whine about it, but we have a lot of misery whenever one is cutting through (which is fun because these two year molars have been coming in for over SIX MONTHS). I do find it endearing (most of the time) to have a sweet, sensitive little boy. They LOVE their mamas, which can be exhausting (my guy is touching me all day long!) but I know I’ll miss this.

    It really does help to try to change your mentality, and just accept it for what it is. For who THEY are. For example, my son is a very early riser (and doesn’t sleep through the night, meaning I get very few real breaks) and finally, instead of fighting it, I just decided to accept it and do my best not to be a grouch every morning.

    I’m due with our second baby in less than a month, so I’m hoping I have the opposite of what you’re dealing with… an easy second baby that loves to sleep! Not sure how I will cope with two high-needs kids, haha.ReplyCancel

  • Shanon - Oh, and I wanted to add… it can be really hard, especially on first time parents, when you hear about every other baby in the world sleeping through the night, or whatever else. So many times my husband and I have sat there, after exhausting all options, and saying, “What are we doing wrong?” Because that really is what it feels like. But really, it isn’t that you’re doing something wrong, it’s that your baby just doesn’t fit a certain “standard” that people have come to expect from them. But that puts a lot of pressure on both the parents, who are trying very hard and doing things the “right” way, but also on a baby whose needs aren’t wrong, they are just different than we (or others) are used to or expect. So thank you for writing about this! Hopefully more parents will see that there isn’t necessarily anything WRONG with their babies or their parenting.ReplyCancel

  • Bonnie M - I remember thinking those days would never end. My daughter was such a high needs baby. I would read babywise moms talk about their perfect babies and just cry thinking it was ME who was the problem…it wasn’t. I think sometimes we like to forget that even though we have a great deal to do with how our children behave they still are their own little people. I used to cry to my pediatrician about what I could possibly do to make her sleep better and be a scheduled little perfect baby so I could get out from under the scrutiny of my friends with perfect little babies…his advice…”just lie to them and tell them she sleeps through the night.” Ha ha! She is two and half now and while I wouldn’t classify her as high needs she is still spunky. It gets better. It did not get better for us until she was about 18 months old. She refused to sleep through the night until then no matter what we tried…and we tried EVERYTHING!! Hang in there! It already feels like forever ago and I already miss it. You are smart for accepting it rather than fighting it.ReplyCancel

  • Bridget - My daughter is just like your son. At 8 months old she is finally getting a little better. The book The Wonder Weeks has helped me understand a little bit why her moods would change so drastically. It’s hard, best of luck to you!ReplyCancel

  • Kara - As the mother of not one but TWO babies who were high needs, poor sleepers, I have nothing but sympathy. I can tell you in hindsight I can see how meeting their intense needs as babies really helped shaped them into the passionate, loving, well adjusted kids they are now. It is hard to think of the big picture but it helped me cope through the daily drain of their babyhood. Much peace to you!ReplyCancel

  • Marina - I’m so sorry you’re going through such a rough spell. It does get easier. Ironically, I remember reading some of your posts about Babywise and thinking “Hmm, that really does not work with all babies. I tried it and I know.” I don’t mean that to sound snarky, I think it’s just nobody understands what it’s like to have a “difficult” baby until they have one. I’ve definitely judged people’s parenting as well, only to then encounter the same situation and feel so humbled. My first (a boy) was exactly like your boy — no sleep, eating all the time, needing to be held & moved all hours of the day. I was so jealous of all the moms whose babies slept and who could take their babies shopping and out to eat without causing a major scene. My second (a girl) is exactly the opposite — she’s mellow, has self-soothed since a few weeks old, and is a dream to take places. I haven’t done anything different with this one; she’s just different. Do know that it is not you; babies just have their own personalities. And it does get better. My son started sleeping much better at 7 months, shortly after we started solids. He started sleeping 11 hour stretches around a year old and has been doing that ever since. Once he started walking, he never wanted to be held in a carrier again (I actually really missed the babywearing then). He’s turned out to be a real superstar kid.

    Thanks for your honesty – it’s refreshing to hear the not-so-great parts of parenting. If you can swing it, I’d highly recommend trying to get some help, even if it’s just a few hours a week. Getting a break, even a short one, makes SUCH a big difference. I can’t imagine how busy and tired you must be with both kiddos. Hang in there!ReplyCancel

  • Christa - I know exactly what you are going through. Our little one is just a few weeks older than yours and while he is SO much fun and adorable, he is high needs and draining me. I have been nursing round the clock since day 1 and he has to be worn around constantly. I keep telling myself that this baby part doesn’t last forever and to just try to enjoy this time, but it is SO hard with no sleep or rest. I hope that you can find something that works for Everett and the rest of your family (pass on the secret when you do).ReplyCancel

  • Cindy DeWeese - My son was EXACTLY like this! My daughter was just shy of a year old when he was born and he about drained the life out of me haha! My husband is a Basic Military Training Instructor (16+ hr days, 6-7 days a week) and I felt like I never got a break. I had one baby trying to be independent, and one baby completely dependent on me. She wanted her sleep (and asked for it), while my son never slept unless he was nursing. He was 8 months old when he slept “through the night” for the first time. Now he is an angel and sleeps through the night every night. It just took him longer :) Keep the faith! Everything will fall into place and you’ll NEVER regret loving on your babies :)ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - Hi,

    My seven month old is high needs and i too thought as a first time parent i must be doing something wrong. It is always such a relief to read about others in the same situation. Slowly we have found our way together and things are getting easier. I think he has become more chilled out and i have learnt to adapt to his needs. I have learnt to do most things one handed with a baby on my hip! He still wakes every two to three hours in the night but i think am used to this now and the lack of sleep doesn’t seem to bother me as much as it did.
    Like Everett my little boy has developed very quickly. It’s like they think why waste time sleeping when i could be growing and learning! Enjoy him and hang in there! :)ReplyCancel

  • Katie - Good for you for meeting your baby’s needs even though it looks different than you thought it would!! You will never regret it! You are a good mom little lady! You should be proud :)ReplyCancel

  • patricia - Finally someone in the blogosphere who’s honest about this subject. I read this post and I felt revendicated. My toddler was the same. I read and read, and couldn’t find what was wrong with her. Why did she need me all the time. Why was I “punished” this way? And the I found Dr. Sears and everything clicked. And instead of resignating to this situation. I opened my arms to it. She’s now almost 15 months and is the most confident,active, curious, loving and learning to be independent toddler. I know how you feel, I was there, and is exhausting. But, I promise you that soon he’ll be on his way to be a strong, independent and very loving toddler.ReplyCancel

  • Jessica - I just wrote this HUGE long response to this post and deleted.

    I think that all I need to tell you is I got teary reading this. It’s SO right on.

    (I’m just looking down at the forearm wrinkles I’ve developed on my left arm from holding my high needs baby ALL THE TIME. She needed to be held. By no one but me. Constantly. And still does. I mean, my forearm looks I’ve spent the last 70 years in the sun with no sunscreen.)


  • christy - I have read your blog for a long time and this is the first time I have posted a comment. I think it is so important for mothers to share the tough stories as well as the good ones! I am a first time mom and my son is now 8 months and sounds just like Everett – from the love of nursing, the quick growth, the non-sleeping and the LOVE of books. I read tons of books, talked to friends and family and constantly felt like I was doing something wrong. Everyone had a piece of advice or something to try and none of it worked. The doctor put him on reflux medicine and took me off dairy and slew of other foods – none of it seemed to make too much of a difference.

    In a moment of COMPLETE desperation I called a friend of mine who is a sleep consultant for babies and children and she helped so much. She suggested I eliminate all grains from my diet and I stopped nursing him at night (this was at 6 months) and it made the biggest difference. Without the grain in my diet he was soon a lot less uncomfortable and his stomach issues seemed to go away. And amazingly, after so many months of 45 minute naps, fighting him to sleep and feeding round the clock (including 4 times at night!) he figured out how to sleep (well, sort of!). He is still nowhere near a perfect sleeper, and that may never happen, but he is sleeping through the night and napping better.

    I think for me what helped the most was to hear other people say this is normal and hearing it enough times slowly made me feel better. Talking to other mom’s who had babies like this also made me really understand that I wasn’t alone and wasn’t doing anything wrong. So, I wanted to thank you for being honest and sharing. Your posts make me feel better and I know the same is true for other women as well!ReplyCancel

  • Project 52 -story of our parenting journey through a weekly picture. - […] feeling frustrated and I miss the opportunity to enjoy this fleeting time with them. After reading Shawna’s Project 52 last week I was reminded that enjoying your children is a matter of perspective. Much like […]ReplyCancel

  • Kristin Smith - Thank you for putting this out there – My oldest son (12) is high needs. Never slept as an infant, would nap for maybe 20 minutes at a time, had to be held at all times. Tried every discipline book, nothing worked. As a toddler, would get very overstimulated at social events and would melt down. Totally fits in the Sears “high needs” category. Other moms were very judge-y. I could tell our neighbor thought he was totally wild based on the comments she would make about being careful around her little girl. Well, her 2nd daughter is totally high needs, and she has expressed how abashed she feels about thinking she had it all figured out!

    I think it is important for moms to realize that a lot of the way our children are is based on temperament. (Not to say that we can allow bad behavior.) I used to feel like I was a ineffective mom, until I had my 2nd son (I have 3) and he slept all night, went to bed by 7, slept 2-3 hours at naptime, timeouts worked, redirection worked – I finally realized that people truly are wired differently!ReplyCancel

  • Kim Kauffman - I can SO relate. My daughter (just turned two) was exactly like this. She never slept during the day and at night I got 2 1/2 to 3 hour stretches for the first nine months. It was awful. I remember thinking THIS IS NOT WHAT I EXPECTED. None of my friends had babies like this and I always felt like they thought I was doing something wrong. Anyway, once we got past the first year it has been so easy. Still has it’s challenges, of course, but compared to that first year? Wow, it’s glorious :) Oh and we finally had to let her cry at nine months because it was either that or I’m not joking I was going to lose it. It only took one time of crying and then she started sleeping. Praise God!ReplyCancel

  • Kim Kauffman - I forgot to mention that she did have acid reflux and since I was nursing I had to eliminate all dairy, gluten, beans, sugar, etc out of my diet and that made a huge difference! That’s about the time she finally started sleeping.ReplyCancel

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