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High demand babies: what they are, and parenting advice

High demand babies: what they are, and parenting advice

May 24, 2022

Raising a baby is something that for most people is beautiful, but it's definitely not easy. At the end of the day we are talking about a completely vulnerable and dependent being with multiple needs that we must be able to supply, and that at least initially is not able to express them in a specific way, often being weeping the only way to communicate their needs or the existence of discomfort or some type of deprivation (such as hunger or desire to contact) they know.

Each baby has its own way of being, its own temperament: there are those who cry a lot or little, more curious or fearful, more active and more sleepy. And some of them are particularly demanding, which is why some authors have come to propose the term of babies in high demand to designate them .


  • Related article: "Types of temperament in babies: easy, difficult and slow"

What is a high demand baby?

They are understood by babies of high demand to those Children are characterized by requiring and requesting attention in a continuous manner , crying frequently and waking up during sleep more often than usual. This term was created by William Sears, from observing the behavior of one of his daughters.

In addition to the above characteristics there are many others that are defining. Among them is the fact that they usually can not calm themselves and have a high level of anguish in the face of the separation of their caregivers, with those who are absorbing and those who require care. Likewise, they usually require continued physical contact. Usually these babies seek to suckle often, which also tends to relax them greatly.


They often have a certain level of sensory hypersensitivity , in such a way that they seem to capture with greater intensity the stimulation coming from the different senses. Also, they are usually awake and attentive children, slightly hyperactive (not in the sense of a disorder but in the one of highly vigilant and moved). In many cases there is also a high level of curiosity, sociability and creativity, as well as a high motivation capacity. And is that one of the characteristics that stand out in them is the high level of insistence and energy in what they do. It is also common for them to appear muscular and tense. To consider a baby as high demand, it is necessary that at least the majority of these characteristics are met.

Finally, although it is not something defining, the truth is that many of these babies have high cognitive abilities and sometimes a certain level of precocity, learning before and with greater ease than others. In other words, these are intelligent children whose initial characteristics can (although not necessarily, depends on how they are managed) end up evolving towards skills and abilities highly valued in adulthood.


In fact, a high percentage of children with giftedness they have been of small babies of high demand or with characteristics similar to her. Of course, this does not mean that the relationship is bidirectional: not all or most babies in high demand will be gifted.

A very important question

Apart from the characteristics of this type of babies, it is essential to highlight an event. We are talking about babies that have common characteristics, but we are not facing babies that present any type of pathology per se . Of course, it is possible that the reason for a baby cry is the pain caused by some type of pathology and this generates that they end up demanding more help.

Beware of expectations

It is often considered that the high demand of these babies is an aspect due solely to the child's way of being. However, the fact of considering that a baby is or is not in high demand is often derived from the opinion or expectations of the parents. It is necessary to bear in mind that each one of us has an image or expectation of how and when a child should require us, expectations that do not have to be realistic.

If for example a baby cries every night at four o'clock in the morning it is not because it is especially demanding, but rather that we are talking about habitual behavior in all or almost all babies. All babies demand attention, cry and have different frustrations and complex behaviors that we often can not understand.

In addition to this we have to bear in mind that in some cases the presence of a high demand may be due to the fact that we are not able to understand the needs of our baby. It is not that we are bad parents, but of a possible incomprehension of the way of being of our baby that It makes it difficult for us to respond with the kind of stimulation and affection that the child needs .

  • Maybe you're interested: "The Theory of Attachment and the bond between parents and children"

Some guidelines for action

High demand babies are characterized, as we have said, by requiring continuous attention from parents. The high demand of these children can confuse and get to cause uncertainty about how to act to many parents. That is why it does not hurt to offer some brief guideline of action.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the high demand baby is a vulnerable being that is expressing a real need , being something unintentional on their part and that is not a way to manipulate us or achieve something from us.

While there is controversy as to whether or not they should respond to their search for contact, the truth is that it has been shown that responding to them tends to lead them to grow up thinking that the world is a safer place and that they have more capacity for self-esteem and defense of their rights. It is important that the baby feels loved and learns to recognize positive emotions . Likewise, we must also work on our emotions.

In addition to this it is important to bear in mind that we do not have to feel guilty for their crying. Generally the cause of these will not be anything we have done or failed to do, but simply a manifestation of some of their sensations or the emergence of some need.

As we have said, these children are moved and curious, so the stimulation can attract a lot of attention. But they are also highly sensitive to it, so we should try to monitor the kind of stimuli that come to them. It will be useful to calm them when there are unexpected stimulations, such as loud noises. Showing a calm behavior before them, and even before their demands for attention, can serve as an example and relax them.

Something that may seem logical but that can go around the head of many parents and generate doubts is the fact that it is also normal to feel overwhelmed. A very important aspect that we have to work on is to take care of ourselves and from time to time perform some pleasant activity without having to be on top of the child. We are not worse parents or mothers for wishing to have a moment of tranquility , and there are going to be occasions when we may need external help (for example, from grandparents or uncles) in order to reduce the level of tension.

Critic to this denomination

The consideration of what is a baby of high demand and the fact of classifying it has generated numerous criticisms at a general level. And is that although it is true that there are children who have this type of temperament, more demanding compared to others, label them could be considered a way to pathologize (although it is not what the category claims) a behavior that is otherwise normal in a creature that depends on parental care to survive.

Another criticism of this category is the fact that there is no limit between what is and what is not a baby in high demand: any of us can consider that our son is hypersensitive, absorbing and definitely demanding since he is not sets a clear time limit or frequency that differs from what another baby would do. That is, it is possible to detect that a child is demanding or not, but not so much in determining where the limit would be.


Dr. Sears' Top Baby Sleep Tips (May 2022).


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