Difficult baby? Or is s(he) just a brave survivor!

[ What I know now that I wish I knew then, Part 1 ]

Note by Heidi: ❤️ Please welcome Inge, who joins the team, is currently training with me and gearing up to start supporting you and your baby in a lovingly gentle sleep journey. Inge shares a very personal and fascinating insight into her first years with her little boy, who was characterised as a difficult baby.

About 4 years ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Four years is a long time, but it passes by so quickly. When you become a mother for the first time everything is completely new territory. There are a lot of things I wish I had known then. That is why I decided to make a blog series on all these things I wish I had known.

After my son saw the light of day it was clear he was not going to be an easy baby

I could never put him down for more than a couple of minutes. Not on a baby blanket and not even more upright in a baby rocking chair. He was very fussy, hypersensitive, and quickly displeased. His way of showing discomfort was, let’s say, impossible not to notice (not even 2 blocks away).

He needed to be where the action was all the time and had an intent and focused look in his eyes. This was obvious from birth. He wanted to nurse a lot, sometimes continuously, also at night. And he had to sleep on top of me for at least a year if we wanted to get a decent night sleep.

Safe to say I was quite tired, overwhelmed and worried this first year of my son’s life. I felt I needed to be alert and focused on my baby’s needs 24/7.

Any of this seem familiar? You too might be the parent of a difficult baby

Of course, you need to make sure that there is nothing wrong with your baby physically. Your little girl or boy can suffer from reflux, digestive troubles or nerves that are stuck for example. Always consult your pediatrician to rule out any underlying issues.

Characterizing a difficult baby

The American temperament researchers Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess made the following distinction:

Difficult baby crying

– Easy babies (around 40% of all babies): Adjust easily, quickly develop a routine, have a sunny disposition and are easily calmed.

– Difficult babies (around 10% of all babies): Adjust slowly, react negatively and or intensely to stimuli.

– The other 50% of babies cannot be that clearly defined, they are somewhere in between.

My little boy definitely fit in that 10 % and qualified as a difficult baby.

An answer to the question ‘why is my baby so difficult?‘ may lie in the German book called “Artgerecht” by Nicola Schmidt that I read recently. “Artgerecht” translates to ‘species appropriate’, a highly recommended read on natural parenting. Nicola Schmidt describes a study by the Dutch-American researcher Marten de Vries. He went to the Massai in Kenia for temperament research with babies and divided them in 10 ‘easy’ and 10 ‘difficult’ babies, much like the researchers that I mentioned above did.

After three months he came back to see how the babies had developed. However, a horrible famine had raged through the village and sadly left 7 of the 20 babies dead. Of these 7 babies, however, only one belonged to the ‘difficult’ group.

What is fascinating about this very unfortunate story is that it seems like difficult babies had a much higher survival rate. These babies had a strong will and they did not let themselves be forgotten and dismissed, go hungry and starve. 

Difficult babies demand to be seen, they demand to be heard, they demand to LIVE! 

They deserve credit for that, and, in the moments that you think you can’t take it anymore, try to realize:

I have a pretty awesome baby,

 a true survivor!

And no, you did nothing wrong, heck, you most likely did everything right!

Soothing a difficult baby

There are a lot of things that I kind of wish I knew before. This knowledge would have definitely given me some more peace of mind, so I hope it can help you now!

Stay tuned for my next blog, where I will describe some things that I did in this difficult time to make my life easier, together with tips from the book “Artgerecht” and, of course, with our tried-and-tested gentle and effective techniques here at Baby Sleep Advice.

Inge is Dutch and studied Biological Psychology and Animal Sciences. She worked in the field of animal welfare all over the world. After Inge's son was born she settled down in Germany with her husband. She became a passionate advocate of natural baby sleep and parenting. Knowing how difficult this is in today's hectic world she found herself in Heidi Holvoet's gentle approach. She is very happy to be part of Heidi's team and can't wait to help parents understand their baby better and provide advice where needed and a listening ear where wanted.

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