"I had a needy baby and I couldn't put her down."


“Is she a good baby?”

It’s an awful question. A good baby, I guess, is one who makes her parents’ life easy. Who sleeps happily for long stretches in her own cot. Who lies on the floor, burbling cheerfully, while looking at a mobile or playing with a rattle. Who is generally good-tempered and easygoing, no matter who’s looking after her.

That wasn’t my baby.

My baby would only sleep with me. Her determination was fierce for such a tiny thing. I would try the tricks that the experts advised worked on every baby, stroking her gently, standing by her cot, waiting for her to fall asleep. Not my baby. She would sleep peacefully in a sling, or next to me in bed, but nowhere else. The cot was a waste of money, as was the bassinet.

As was the pram. Out walking, I would marvel at other people’s babies who seemed perfectly content to be pushed along in front of their mums, just sitting back and enjoying the scenery. Not my baby. If she wasn’t in the sling, or carried in my arms, she would cry.

Obviously, in the car, she had to be in a baby capsule. That made her miserable. The only way I could keep her happy on long trips was to sit in the back seat next to her while my husband drove.

"My baby would only sleep with me." Image via iStock.

I bought toys that I thought might be able to keep her amused, like mobiles and rattles and all sorts of colourful and interesting things. But she cried every time I put her down on the rug, unless I was lying next to her, reading to her or playing with her. She just hated tummy time.

I'd had visions of being able to sit her in a bouncer and chat to her while I prepared dinner. That never worked. That was too far away from me.

So that was the way her babyhood was - the two of us, joined together. Although I didn't get a lot of stuff done, I did have a lot of lovely one-on-one time with her as I carried her everywhere - eye-to-eye, skin-to-skin, heart-to-heart.

I never doubted that I was doing what was right for her, right at that moment. I knew it was what she needed to be happy. But at the same time I wondered if it was my fault that she was so needy. I knew other mothers would think I hadn't tried hard enough, I hadn't been tough enough.

I remember one of my former managers shaking her head when she saw me carrying my baby in a sling.

"You're just making it hard for yourself," she told me disapprovingly. 

Was I? I don't think so. For me, nothing was harder than hearing my baby crying.

Of course, babyhood didn't last. Eventually, my daughter was toddling off happily on her own.


Here's a baby who doesn't seem to mind being woken up. Post continues after video...

Video via bigrob357

There are two things I've read over the years that have made me feel better about that first year of my daughter's life. One is the idea that some babies are "high-need" - they're intense, feed frequently, can't be put down, are very sensitive to separation, etc. It may not be a scientific term, but it made me feel better to know other parents had gone through what I'd gone through - sometimes, not with their first child, but with a later one.

The other thing was a study done into infant temperament. It found that for difficult babies, the way they were parented mattered a lot. If they were parented warmly and sensitively, they grew up to be exceptionally well-adjusted and high achievers at school. If they were parented coldly and insensitively, they turned into problem kids. For easygoing babies, the way they were parented didn't matter so much.

In other words, difficult babies have the potential for greatness, if they're brought up the right way. I'm sure there are studies out there that say something completely different, but I choose to believe that one.

My daughter is now eight. Every morning she dances down the footpath in front of me, all the way into school.

Did you have a baby that needed to be held all the time?