Archive for the ‘Deborah Farmer Kris’ Category

Wonder Weeks

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

maisiebuttOne of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a parent is simply this: everything is a phase. Is your baby waking up 12 times a night? It will eventually pass. Is your baby sleeping in eight-hour chunks? Don’t get too comfortable.  A champion nurser may go through a breastfeeding strike.  A sociable youngster may suddenly want momma-and-only-momma-so-help-me-god.

Here’s one well-researched, sanity-saving way to think about sudden shifts in behavior, temperament, or sleep: Wonder Weeks.

“Wonder Weeks” is a term coined by Dutch doctors Hetty van de Rijt and Frans X. Plooij. They wrote a book based on their research, called and maintain a fabulous website for parents at

In short, “wonder weeks” refers to developmental leaps that cause babies to go through fussy phases. Rather than viewing these weeks as regression, we can look at them as moments where our children are making amazing cognitive leaps.  Learning is hard and exciting work, and at the end of a wonder week you will often notice an amazing developmental leap.  Here are three such phases you may notice in your baby’s first months:

Week 5: Changing Sensations. As babies begin to be more alert and aware of the outside world, their senses are bombarded by sights, sounds, smells, and textures. This is a great time to practice baby-wearing to keep your baby close to your skin–your smell and sound are familiar and safe.

Week 8: Patterns. Babies begin to use all of their senses notice patterns. They may suddenly be fascinated by their hands and feet or by shadows on the wall. Try engaging your baby with books with big pictures or patterns and provide sensory toys that they can practice holding and swatting.

Week 12: Smooth Transitions. A baby’s previously jerky movements begin to transition into smooth gestures. They move from gurgling to playing with their vocal range. The world begins to make more sense to babies as they use their senses in a more organized fashion. This is a great time to introduce more reading and textures.

As the authors remind us in their book: “During these periods, a baby cries for a good reason. She is suddenly undergoing drastic changes in her development, which are upsetting to her. These changes enable the baby to learn many new skills and should therefore be a reason for celebration.” And for an anxious, sleep-deprived parent, that is truly cause to rejoice.

Deborah Farmer Kris is a teacher, writer, and mother.  She nurtures an healthy interest in ethics, psychology, and gardening — and is always on the lookout for recipes to cope with her excess vegetable harvest. 

Identifying Post-Partum Depression

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

“I fell into a black hole that ate me.”

That’s how a dear friend began her blog post on Post-Partum Depression. At the time, she was pregnant with her third baby, and I was pregnant with my first. Her vivid description of her earlier struggles with PPD was a wake-up call: I needed to educate myself and my husband about the warning signs before this baby arrived.

A few days after reading my friend’s blog post, I reached out to another friend who had suffered a major depressive episode after the birth of her daughter.  She responded:

Even though I had experienced depression before, PPD was so different – the anxiety, the hypervigilance about the baby–that I didn’t even recognize it. I thought the misery was just new motherhood . . .

Giving birth brings with it hormone shifts and sleep disruptions; it’s typical for new parents to feel exhausted and overwhelmed.  But when does typical new-baby adjustment cross the line into PPD?

According to the United State’s Office of Women’s Health, 13 percent of new mothers experience depression marked by one or more the following symptoms lasting more than two weeks:

  • Feeling restless or moody
  • Feeling sad, hopeless, and overwhelmed
  • Crying a lot
  • Having no energy or motivation
  • Eating too little or too much
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Having trouble focusing or making decisions
  • Having memory problems
  • Feeling worthless and guilty
  • Losing interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Having headaches, aches and pains, or stomach problems that don’t go away

So-called “baby blues” may last for a few days as the body adjusts to hormone and lifestyle changes. But if symptoms persist, it’s time to reach out to a medical professional.

As for me, well before I gave birth, I asked my OB/GYN to make a note on my chart to ask me probing questions about my mental and emotional health at my six-week appointment.  I gave my husband the list of warning signs.  I knew from experience with family and friends the person experiencing depression is sometimes the last one to recognize it.  I wanted to give myself the gift of professional help, should I need it.

As it turns out, I did not experience PPD. But now that I’m pregnant again, I’m reviewing the signs and symptoms.  We owe it to ourselves and to our families to be healthy. If you feel you are at risk for PPD or may have it, please talk to your doctor, midwife, or close friends and family to get help.

Deborah Farmer Kris is a teacher, writer, and mother.  She nurtures an healthy interest in ethics, psychology, and gardening — and is always on the lookout for recipes to cope with her excess vegetable harvest.