I had never heard the term high needs baby. It was when my baby turned eight months old and developed separation anxiety that I started googling the term clinginess and separation anxiety. All the websites talked about how it is a phase and it will get better with time, once your child realizes that mama always comes back. Interestingly I hardly ever left my child, the first time I left little H was when she was 3 months old and my husband and I decided that we really need some time for ourselves. So we left her with the very excited and doting grandparents and went to Dolmen City Mall. Now those of you living in Karachi must know that cellphone signals often disappear in Hyperstar. So while we were happily doing some grocery shopping our darling daughter was causing an uproar and driving her grandparents insane with worry by her incessant crying. Oblivious to all this drama once we exited the mall, both hubby and my phone started ringing madly. And so we returned to a distraught little girl who only stopped crying once she was comfortably snuggled with mama and having a late night snack 😛 After that I only ever left her when she was napping in the afternoon for a quick shopping trip.
The next time me and hubby decided to go out was on our anniversary and again we were rewarded with a repeat performance where little H refused to be consoled by either grandparent. After that we just accepted that we can only leave her if she is sleeping. Little H was around 1.3 years old at that time.
One interesting thing which I observed was that since little H was a baby, if I had to go somewhere and was trying to make her sleep she would never sleep. She would get the vibes that oh mama has to go so let us pretend to be really fussy and not go to sleep or keep waking up so she is not able to go.
It was not only that H had an issue with me leaving, in fact she had an issue with me doing anything which took away my attention from her! That involved going to the bathroom, showering, cooking or any chores. And she wanted was to be carried ALL THE TIME. From the minute she woke up to the minute she went to sleep, she constantly wanted to be with me. And so I mastered the art of cooking a three course meal, doing laundry, cleaning while balancing a toddler on my hips. Thank God little H was always on the skinny side or I am sure I would have developed a hump on my right hip 😛
Anyway all the websites proclaimed that it is just a phase and will go away on its own usually by the time the child is two years old. So I waited eagerly for her second birthday. She was also starting preschool once she turned 2 so I was hopeful that that will also help make her less clingy. I should have known better. Four months of going to school and although she is well settled in playgroup now but her clinginess at home and when we go out shows no sign of abating.
I of course have been given all sorts of advice, that I should just leave her, should not pick her up, be more assertive with her and blah blah. Her teacher told me to just tell her that mama’s hands are tired and she cannot pick you up. I tried that for a week, but it just ended up with a limp noodle stuck to my legs, howling her head off. And she had the stamina to keep crying for ages, if I removed her from my legs, she would just follow me and hold me tightly. A week of this and I just started wondering what I was doing to her self esteem, as trust in the primary caregiver i.e. mother makes up the foundation of a child’s self esteem. I being a firm proponent of attachment parenting never believed in the crying it out method, but was willing to try anything by that time out of sheer frustration. When that failed I again turned to my best friend, Google. It was then I discovered the high needs child and a great article by Dr. Sears. Here is the link http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/fussy-baby/high-need-baby/12-features-high-need-baby.
When I first read that article I felt it was talking about little H. Since birth she has always preferred by arms to anything else, nursed very frequently read every fifteen minutes, wanted to sleep with me and not in her crib, was very difficult to wean from the breast, and still awakens at night at 2.4 years.
To all those moms who have a high needs toddler or baby, I want to tell you there is nothing wrong with your child and neither with your parenting. Most importantly you are not spoiling her by holding her or attending to her needs 24/7. Your job is to encourage her to be independent but at the same time do not push her away from you when she is not ready. Her trust in your ability to meet her needs provides her with a life long sense of security and a strong self esteem. It is only for the first few years of her life that she needs you this intensely and she will soon grow up. Also read this article by Dr. Sears http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/fussy-baby/high-need-baby/12-lessons-our-high-need-baby-taught-us. It really sums up my feelings.