The High Need Baby: Always Hungry?

When I was pregnant, I was told to breastfeed on demand, whenever the baby would let me know that she was hungry. That made sense to me and I did not think that it would be a big deal. Back then, I imagined a peacefully sleeping baby, who wanted to nurse every few hours and then sleep again. Boy, was I ever wrong.

For the first few weeks after Livi was born, I felt like I was feeding her around the clock; she just wanted to nurse All. The. Time.

I would feed her for forty to sixty minutes (sometimes longer) and eventually, she would fall asleep. Ten minutes to an hour later, she was up again crying. Since I had just fed her, I did not think she needed to nurse again so soon. I tried everything I could think of to calm her but nothing worked. When I ran out of options and could not think of anything else to do, I tried to nurse her again, and sure enough, Livi calmed down and happily suckled away.

Looking back now, I know that she was not drinking the whole time. She also wanted the close contact that breastfeeding could give her. The nursing was not only her source of food but also a way to soothe her. If that’s what it took to make her feel more comfortable and secure in this world, then that’s what I was going to give her.

Overall, it worked well for us. However, there is one thing I had to learn the hard way. While nursing very frequently was something Livi needed to settle into life, she also needed a mom who was able to take care of her. More than once I made the mistake and ignored the signs of exhaustion just so I could offer Livi another feeding she desperately wanted.

There comes a point where you need a break. Thankfully, I have a very supportive husband who more than once took over when he came home from work so I could get some rest.

Livi never followed a feeding schedule and she still doesn’t. For the most part, we got used to it. However, it does make outings more difficult. So whenever we were out and about, we were prepared for any and all possibilities with a nursing pillow and pumped milk always on the ready.

At 13 months, Livi is still breastfeeding quite frequently, which does not surprise me. Until only a few weeks ago, she still wanted to nurse every two hours.

Breastfeeding has become a time for both of us to relax and calm down. I am not sure how much longer she will want to nurse but for now I am still happy to do it.

I hear high need babies tend to breastfeed for quite some time and that is okay. It is still the best way to calm and soothe Livi. Without it, some of our days would be much, much harder.

Note: This post is not meant to imply that only breastfeeding will work with a (high need) baby. However, it is the only feeding with which I have experience and therefore, the only one I can write about.

20 comments on “The High Need Baby: Always Hungry?

  1. Oster's Mom says:

    I think it’s great that you are still nursing! Mine is starting to ween (very slowly) and he’s almost a year. There are so many moms that I run into that turn their nose up at me because he’s still being breastfed.

    • hnMom says:

      I know what you mean. I hardly tell anybody about it. Only immediate family knows really and they don’t judge outright but you can tell from their reactions that they find it unusual. Which I guess for most it is. But they also don’t see how good it is for her and that she really wants it.

      We just had a visit with a great new pediatrician and she supported me a lot in that regard. I suppose it helps that she is nursing her own baby. I’ve had others who were not that great about it.

      I am not sure how long I want to keep doing it. I always wanted to nurse for a year. We will see about the rest.

      Don’t worry about the other moms. There is always someone who disagrees. Just do what feels right. I also think it’s great that you let him decide when he is ready to wean.

  2. 4eyedblonde says:

    I agree! Good for you for continuing to b/f! I don’t think it’ll be right for me but I commend and support anyone who can go longer – and it’s not my business how much longer! You do what feels right for you and your baby. Period. I may decide to go longer than a year but I’m trying to gear up psychologically for an end closer to her fist birthday. But, we shall see!

    Again, good for you and keep it up!

    • hnMom says:

      Thank you for your encouragement, I appreciate it.
      And I think it’s fantastic that you nursed for a whole year. Everyone needs to do what feels right, be it nursing for a month or a year or longer or be it feeding formula. What matters is that it’s the right choice for you and your child and that’s all that counts.

  3. merelymothers says:

    Good for you for going with what works for Livi! We were frequent feeders, too. My daughter wanted to nurse all day and then several times at night, until I started cutting back due to my own exhaustion. I knew nursing was a HUGE source of comfort to her, so we continued until A was almost 17 months old, at which point she just naturally lost interest. I was happy to see that she did, and I didn’t have to “wean” her from something she loved so much.

    • hnMom says:

      Wow, 17 months, that is so great! I also think its great that you let her decide when to wean. I hope we get to do that to. That’s the plan anyway, but you never know.

  4. munchow says:

    According to something I read long time ago, the longer a baby breast-feeds the less likely it is to develop allergic reaction to other food later in life. So that’s (maybe) another positive affect of keep doing it. At least there is not reason to think it shouldn’t continue until it’s natural for the baby to stop (or of course for the mother).

    • hnMom says:

      Absolutely, there are definitely advantages to extended breastfeeding, for baby and mom actually. I do plan to let her decide when she is ready to stop. We’ll see how it goes.
      Thanks for commenting.

  5. Sleeping Mom says:

    Breastfeeding for me was ridiculously exhausting so I feel you on needing a break. That said, I’m still so glad I did it and reached my goal. I just kept thinking of the benefits. We however tended to breastfeed by schedule; it didn’t work out for us to breastfeed on demand (of course not when he’s a newborn, I’m talking when he’s older).

    • hnMom says:

      Congrats on reaching your goal, especially when it was so exhausting for you. Everyone has to find what works best for them. To be honest, I wouldn’t mind if she would follow a schedule from time to time. It would make some things much easier. šŸ™‚

  6. Deni Lyn says:

    I did not breastfeed. We tried pumping and bottle feeding for a while but not with great success. However, for weeks after he was born, I pumped dutifully every two hours (In addition to all the separate bottle feedings) so I do understand a little how exhausting it must be. I applaud you and every other mom who stuck with it and worked so hard to make sure their little ones are comfortable.

    • hnMom says:

      Actually, I applaud YOU! Bottle feeding and pumping every two hours? That must have been super exhausting and took a lot of dedication. I find pumping really annoying and much more exhausting than nursing. Did you at least get to use an electrical pump?

      • Deni Lyn says:

        Ha Thanks! I’m still bitter about the whole thin. Fortunately ,we did have a decent pump. It was a ridiculous decision on my part.

        I didn’t want to breast feed. I just didn’t feel like it was something I wanted to do – ever.

        But my Husband and his mother (yes, that’s not a typo HIS mother) kept hocking me about it so I said I’d try to pump hoping to appease them. I will never do that again. I value my husband’s opinion but you are right, I found it exhausting, plus extremely frustrating.

        And the whole time, I felt like I was a failure somehow. After about 3 or 4 weeks, my own mother was like, give it a rest, you’re making yourself nuts. Finally some advice worth listening to (ha!)

      • hnMom says:

        Wow, how frustrating and annoying. I can’t believe your MIL did that. That should have been your decision and your decision alone.
        Input from your husband? Sure, but only HIS opinion and the decision should still be yours.
        Thankfully, I didn’t have to deal with that but there were plenty of other occasions where everyone had to somehow voice their opinion even if I didn’t ask for it. I also do not appreciate it when my husband discusses something that concerns me and should be a private issue between the two of us and not a decision made by the extended family.
        I’m glad your mom stepped up though and said something. Those early weeks are such an emotional time to begin with so to add this to the mix must have been so hard.

      • Deni Lyn says:

        It could have been worse. But I agree. From now on, my body, my decision. People will keep saying what they want to say no matter šŸ™‚

      • hnMom says:

        Yeah, they will. It isn’t always easy but we need to do what we feel is right for our children and for us. Most of the time it will be the right thing. šŸ™‚

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hi. Just wondering if you have any insight re: weaning a high needs baby? Mine is 18 months and still feeds every 2 hours all night long.

    • hnMom says:

      I’m afraid I won’t be much help. Livi is 2 years old and still nurses 4 times during the day and at least 2-3 times at night. I don’t mind it for the most part and so I haven’t even thought about weaning her.
      Sorry that I couldn’t help you with this. Good luck!

      • Anonymous says:

        I have a quick question. With constant breast feeding especially in the beginning, was weight gain for her an issue? I ask bc my 5 month old is just now starting to go a little longer than two hours between feedings. With all of this eating, he weighs 23 pounds! I guess I’m just looking for someone to say they’ve had the same situation and it didn’t cause any harm.

      • hnMom says:

        Sorry, but I can’t help you with this one. We never had any weight issues. Have you talked to your pediatrician about your worries?

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