Wonder Weeks

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 TheWonderWeeks.com.

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. 

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