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The Fussy Baby How to Bring Out the Best in Your High-Need Child
by William and Martha Sears [edit]

The Fussy Baby How to Bring Out the Best in Your High-Need Child
********* 9 Stars!
Price: US$ 11.27, Available worldwide on
Check Availability from: Canada or from United Kingdom
ISBN: 0912500883


With warmth and wisdom, Dr. Sears, an eminent pediatrician and father of six, offers timeless advice that will show parents how to help their high-need child enjoy a more contented start in life. Includes information on how high-need babies, properly attended to, can give parents the best return on their investment of time and energy. TP: Plume. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author
William Sears, one of America’s most renowned pediatricians, is the father of eight children, ages 8 to 33 years, author of 30 books on childcare and Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine. A pediatrician for 28 years, he currently lives and practices along with his two oldest sons, Dr. Jim and Dr. Bob, in San Clemente, California. Dr. Sears received his pediatric training at Harvard Medical School’s Children’s Hospital in Boston and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, the largest children’s hospital in the world, where he served as Associate Ward Chief of the newborn nursery and Associate Professor of Pediatrics. In addition to writing many books and scientific articles, Dr. Sears is a medical and parenting consultant to Baby Talk and Parenting magazines. Dr. Sears is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a fellow of the Royal college of Pediatricians.

"Dr. Bill" (as his little patients call him) has been a guest on over 100 television shows including: "20/20," "Donahue," "Good Morning America," "Oprah Winfrey," "CBS This Morning," "CNN," "Today Show," and "Dateline." Dr. Bill and Martha Sears host a one-hour, twice a month on-line show for Time Warner at William and Martha are best known for their seven most recent books published by Little Brown: THE PREGNANCY BOOK, THE BIRTH BOOK, THE BABY BOOK, THE DISCIPLINE BOOK, THE BREASTFEEDING BOOK, THE FUSSY BABY BOOK, THE A.D.D. BOOK, and THE FAMILY HEALTH AND NUTRITION BOOK, and have just given birth to their new website

Excerpted from The Fussy Baby: How to Bring out the Best Your High-Need Child! by William Sears, Martha Sears. Copyright © 2002. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Chapter 1

Characteristics of High-Need Babies

High need babies share certain traits. Every high-need baby may not show all of these behaviors all the time, and in my experience, many babies show some of these traits at some point during early infancy. Whether or not a baby is describe as "high need" depend on both the degree to which a baby exhibits these traits and the parents' perception of their baby's personality. Here are some ways parents have described their high-need babies to me.


High-need babies are keenly aware of their environment. Noises and distractions cause them to startle easily during the day and make it difficult for them to settle at night. "Easily bothered" is how one mother described her sensitive baby. These children have short fuses and are easily disturbed by any changes which threaten security of their environment. This sensitivity often affects their reactions to unfamiliar caregivers, and they show a high degree of anxiety about strangers. While parents may find this supersensitivity initially exhausting, later on it may be transform from a liability to an asset. High-need children tent to be keenly aware of and curious about their environment.


High-need babies put a lot of energy into their behavior. They cry loudly, laugh with gusto, and are quick to protest if their "meals" are not served instantly. They seem to feel things more deeply and react more forcefully. "He's high gear all the time," observed a tired father. High-need babies protest intensely when things are not to their liking. But they also are capable of forming strong attachments to their caregivers. A baby who strongly protest a separation from his parents is doing so because he is strongly attached to the parents. This close connection will help parents in the months and years to come, since it makes it possible for them to guide and influence their child's behavior.


Mothers of high-need babies often sigh, "I just can't get to him fast enough." The baby conveys a real sense of urgency in his signals. "Red alerts" dominate his crying vocabulary. He has no respect for delays in gratification and does not readily accept alternatives if offered anything other than what he wants. If offered a rattle when he is expecting to be nursed, he will refuse to be distracted. His cries will intensify in protest at having been misread. Being demanding, however is a positive and necessary character trait in high-need babies. It's what gets them the level of care they need to develop their full potential.

"I just can't put him down"

High-need babies crave physical contact. New parents may expect that babies will lie quietly in their cribs or sit passively gazing at adult activities of the latest in baby mobiles. This is certainly not the play profile of the high-need baby (or most other babies). These babies are not known for their ability to be alone. Mothers tell me, "He can't relax by himself." Mother's lap is his chair, her arms and chest his crib, her breasts are his pacifier. Inanimate mother substitutes are often forcefully rejected by these babies.

"He's always on the go"

"There is no such thing as a still shot," said one photographer-father of high-need baby. "His motor seems stuck in fast idle," exclaimed another father. Constant motor activity goes along with the intense and supersensitive personality traits.


Parents inevitably confess, "He wears me out." A high-need baby uses up all of mother's and father's physical, mental, and emotional energy.


While most babies melt and mold into the arms and over the shoulders of their caregivers, the high-need baby will often arch his back and stiffen his arms and legs, protesting any attempt to get him into a relaxed and cuddly position. The term hypertonic describes this muscular tightness. "I can feel the 'wirey' in him, one mother related. This tightness, combined with supersensitivity, makes some babies withdraw from close physical contact. They resist being hemmed in and are more comfortable being held at a distance or facing away from you. They are often the babies who hate being swaddled as newborns. They may want to be with a parent, but they also want to be in control of how close they are held.

"Unsatisfied and unpredictable"

High-need babies are inconsistently appeased. What works one day often fails the next. As one exhausted mother exclaimed, "Just when I think I have the game won, the baby ups the ante."

"He wants to nurse all the time"

The term "feeding schedule is not in the high-need baby's vocabulary. These babies often need prolonged periods of non-nutritive comfort sucking and are slow to wean.

"Awakens Frequently"

These super-aware babies do not settle easily. They awaken frequently and seldom reward mother with lengthy naps. "Why do high-need babies need more of anything but sleep?" lamented tired mother.

Book Description
"Let him cry it out!"
"Are you feeding that baby again?"
"Don’t you ever put her down?"

Parents of fussy babies hear these kinds of remarks all the time. In fact, they may even ask themselves these questions. Faced with a baby who demands to be held, nursed, and comforted much of the time, new mothers may begin to doubt their own intuition, even as they long for a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.

The first edition of THE FUSSY BABY, published in 1985, helped parents think about their demanding babies in a new light. These are children with high needs; children who are smart enough to ask for the high–quality caregiving that will help them develop their full potential.

In this revised edition, attachment-parenting experts William and Martha Sears bring new insight to the tried-and-true advice that has worked for so many families over the last two decades.

Respond to baby’s needs and will build up your own sensitivity. Trust baby to tell you what he needs, and he will learn to trust himself and eventually grow to be confident and independent.

Look for new information on colic (the "hurting baby"), gastroesophageal reflux, and the challenges of breastfeeding a fussy a baby, along with updated references, reorganized chapters, and lots and lots of mothering tips.

THE FUSSY BABY has carried many families through times with a high-need infant. This new edition brings that tradition of sensitive, intuitive parenting to a new generation of caring mothers and fathers.

supportive, a must read for the parent of a colicky baby, June 13, 2002
Reviewer: campka98 (see more about me) from New Jersey/NY
My daughter was colicky for about 4-5 months. I was really glad to have found this book when she was 4 months old. (Wish I had read this when she was a newborn.) I almost cried when I read it. All those months I had struggled with this screaming little baby and wondered if I was doing the right thing. Other people told me I was spoiling my baby and I should change the way I was dealing with her crying, but I couldn't bear to let her suffer alone in her crib.

This book is very supportive for parents who want to nurture and calm their fussy, colicky babies. I thought that the Sears' provided nice tips for handling baby and I also found there advice on breastfeeding helpful.

My baby is now 10 months. She is trusting, good humored, smiley, and very sociable. I feel like all my hard work has paid off. I don't think that I would have been able to do it without this book

Book of Hope!, March 8, 2004
Reviewer: Heather Jones from Vermont
I am a new mother of now a 3 month old daughter. From the beginning people would always remark how alert she was being that she is so young. Ava was a very restless sleeper, so I started to sleep with her on my stomach. Now she sleeps 8-9 hours a night. Everyone tells me that I am spoiling her and that is why she always needs to be held and I should put her in her crib to sleep. YOu start to doubt what is best for your child. This book really helped to reassure that I am doing what I FEEL is best for my daughter. Never doubt your instincts is a good message this book delievers. I suggest this book to anyone, regardless if they have a high needs baby or not!

Surviving the first year of baby's life, August 5, 2000
Reviewer: Kathryn Chu from Santa Clara, CA United States
Even though my child was past six months by the time I had the energy to read this book, it validated the various strategies that I had attempted in order to have some relief from the screaming. My child screamed 95% of the time when we first brought her home and slept less than 8 hours a day. Many of these strategies provided me with at least temporary relief. Therefore I highly recommend the book, especially for the chapter on creative ways to soothe a fussy baby. Also, validation of the feelings of shared by parents of similar babies helps one feel understood at a time when perfect strangers constantly offer useless advice. The chapter on hidden causes of fussiness in infants is one that is still of interest to me as we as parents continue our search for answers to our struggle. I read other reviews that were not as complementary, however as a parent of one of the most difficult children that I have ever met (professionally, I deal with parents and children) this book was especially helpful to me in looking at our struggle from many different angles and feel encouraged that we will survive. Some are opposed to the idea of the "family bed" however if a child is truly difficult, parents are willing to try "ANYTHING". The "ANYTHING" is what I believe the Sears have willing explored and shared. The only thing that would have been better for me was if this book would have been on videotape or audiotape so that my arms would not have been free to consume the information contained.

Very Helpful & Supportive, December 19, 1999
Reviewer: A reader from seattle
I found this book very useful - as the mother of a very fussy baby (now a very high need 2 and a half year old) I was at wit's end trying to figure out how to calm my baby and why she just didn't sleep like my friends' babies. The book reinforced the fact that my daughter was born very sensitive and I would have to work on bonding with her, creating security and consistency in her environment, and most of all to understand her and myself.

William and Martha Sears (Biography)

William Sears, M.D., received his pediatric training at Harvard Medical School's Children's Hospital and Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children. He has practiced as a pediatrician for 30 years. Martha Sears, R.N., is a registered nurse, childbirth educator, and breastfeeding consultant. The Searses are the parents of eight children. They live in Southern California. 


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