Sure, all babies cry – but some more than others… Way more.
Does your child works himself or herself into a frenzy, their cries – no, screams – piercing enough to shatter the peace in the neighbourhood? Is your every effort futile, forcing you and your eardrums to succumb to the brunt of her shrill, panicky meltdowns?
But, apparently every 15 out of 100 babies are “high-need babies”, notes Dr Chua Mei Chien, senior consultant at the department of neonatology at KK Women’s and children’s Hospital – intense, demanding, super clingy but otherwise healthy.
Some research suggests that Baby’s anxious personality might be the mum’s own doing – being extra irritable, highly strung, and weepy during your pregnancy might affect your little one.
Several studies by US-based researcher Elysia Poggi Davis points out that excessive stress during pregnancy releases high levels of stress hormones, which can affect the unborn baby’s delicate developing brain. This was published in scientific journals including Infancy and the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
“This is especially true if mums experience high stress levels during the third trimester – their newborns tend to startle easily and are highly fearful and anxious.
But Dr Janice Wong, paediatrician at Thomson Paediatric Centre, says that genes could play a role, too, as personality traits run in the family. “If a mum is easily stressed, then she might pass that tendency on to her child,” she explains.
In some instances, your baby’s irritability and challenging behaviour might signal underlying medical problems like reflux, a cow’s milk protein allergy or other metabolic conditions, says Dr Chua. Look out for red flags like a refusal to feed, recurrent vomiting, poor weight gain, delayed milestones or severe, persistent rashes.
Baby’s heightened sensitivity could also point to a sensory problems, or even autism later in childhood, adds Dr Wong. But, these are an exception. Check with a doctor if you are concerned.
What you can do
1. Stay positive!
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. On the bright side, your little one’s persistence and sensitivity could bode well for them in the future.
“For instance, a baby who cries constantly may grow up to be more persistent and focused on certain tasks compared to his or her peers. A highly sensitive child could be more aware of his or her own needs and other people’s emotions,” shares Alicia Lim, a senior occupational therapist at National University Hospital (NUH) Rehabilitation Centre.
2. Focus on your own baby
For now, don’t question your parenting skills or compare your clingy baby with their peers. Just accept her for who he or she is and focus on building a loving relationship, say the experts.
“Expecting Baby to fit into a routine at a young age and be highly regulated in her behaviour is unrealistic and can create even more stress for everyone,” says Dr Chua.
3. Understand your baby
It is more constructive if you get to know your baby and what he or she is trying to communicate to you. Then, respond appropriately.
By Eveline Gan, Young Parents, 7 May 2016
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