Do High Need Infants Become High Need Children?

By Erica Loop
Parenting a high-need infant means resting whenever possible.
Parenting a high-need infant means resting whenever possible.

While every infant is high-maintenance, some little ones present more challenges than others. According to the pediatric pros at the Ask Dr. Sears website, "high needs infant" are typically intense, tense their muscles easily and seem to be overly demanding much of the time. While your high-need baby may seem to struggle in a serious way when you don't bend to her will, this doesn't mean she won't relax and let your relax as she gets older. Not all high-need babies become high need children.

Don't Call It What It's Not

The label "high need" is somewhat misleading in that some parents may see it is a diagnosis or disorder. Infants that are highly sensitive, cry with wild abandon when they aren't held, are more demanding than others and have control issues early on are defined as high need babies. While high need infants do need -- or rather, demand -- attention and control more often than easier babies, this doesn't imply a life-long condition or insurmountable challenge. Your child's intense or sensitive personality most likely includes just as many positive traits as negative ones. Your infant's intensity, while seemingly stressful at many times, also means that he may giggle and laugh with abandonment and contagious joy.

Enlist help from your family with household chores so that when your not meeting the needs of your high-need infant, you can get the rest you need. If you have concerns about your infant's high sensitivity or are feeling more than frazzled, seek help from your pediatrician or consider visiting a support group for parents in similar situations.

Toddler Time

As your frequently fussy baby transitions into the tumultuous toddler time, don't expect him to magically gear down to an "average needs baby." Toddlers have an innate need to explore and assert their autonomy, according to While chasing after an ever-moving toddler can quickly become tiring, your tot's intensity shows his determination and budding ability to focus. The high need infant, now a high need toddler, may explore in a high-energy way or show a deep amount of curiosity drive to experiment in his environment. A socially-based change that you may notice in your high need child is his increasing ability to ask for what he needs without melting down into a tantrum or other emotional outburst. You may also notice that your child is going from intense and demanding to becoming busy and creative, gleefully discovering the wonders of finger paint or coloring with crayons.

Precocious Preschoolers and Older Children

The overtly intense and demanding high need infant may transform into an enthusiastically spunky preschooler who isn't afraid to speak her opinions. The behaviors that made your infant such a challenge during her first year -- such as her intense nature -- may make her more dynamic as she grows older. For example, your high need baby may have cried as loud as she could until you picked her up. While this type of intensely demanding behavior wasn't such a joy at the time, her ability to persist until she reaches a goal will serve her well as she grows and develops.

Individual Intensities

Although most high need babies will eventually lose the "high need" label, you won't find a one-size-fits-all answer for your questions as to if and when exactly your child will. Every child is an individual. Your little one's transition during the later toddler years from demanding to more mellow won't necessarily happen for your best friend's high-need child. While some children may simply become less needy, others may channel their high-need qualities into more productive avenues. For example, your hyper infant may eventually transform into a high-energy achiever later on in his grade school or teen years, which of course, will bring its own challenges along with the positives.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.