It’s that time again. My placid, happy baby who runs to her own routine and only cries when she really wants something…. has turned into the child who won’t sleep, feeds constantly, and is cranky all the time! On my Facebook mothers’ groups, there are countless posts begging help for the exact same symptoms. What’s going on?!
The answer is contained in a helpful little app called The Wonder Weeks. Developed from the book of the same name, it describes babies as going through “age-linked and predictable” mental ‘leaps’ in their development. The signs that your baby is going through a leap can be summed up by what the authors call the Three C’s: that is, your baby is crying, cranky and clingy. For each different leap there may also be other things to look out for, such as feeding more, a sudden growth spurt, or becoming absent-minded.
Each baby grows and develops differently, so each leap will say which week it should occur, give or take a week. After a leap, there will be a particular set of behaviours you might then notice in your baby – new skills and abilities. This might include more co-ordinated movement, increasing verbal experimentation (talking!), and becoming more interested and able to interact with people and their environment. The following is a very brief summary of the first four leaps, to give you an idea of what it’s all about. Amelia is currently going through her fourth leap – probably the biggest yet!
Leap 1: Changing Sensations
It is believed that baby’s metabolism, internal organs and the five senses mature quite quickly at this point. His or her head size will suddenly increase (to better house baby’s growing brain!) and you’ll notice bub being more alert. Baby’s range of vision grows, and he or she begins responding to you. Your baby may become able to smile socially, look intently at an object or face, spend more time awake, and respond to touch and smells differently. Signs for this leap include crying without any obvious reason, only going quiet when he or she is with you, suddenly needing to be close all the time (particularly when sleeping), and feeding more frequently.
Leap 2: Patterns
Many of baby’s reflexes start to disappear, and he or she begins moving with purpose. This looks a little jerky to start with, as they slowly master the use of their muscles and co-ordination. They begin to recognise patterns, and distinguish between objects; they can also feel patterns with their body, which allows them to gain a sense of where their body is in space, and start to control their own position. Around this time they may discover their hands for the first time, and invest a lot of time and attention in studying them. He or she will show greater head control, and will turn his/her head toward sounds. Baby will start to flap at toys, look at patterned images and make various “grunting” type noises. Much like the first leap, he or she will want more comfort, more food (including wanting the breast but not really taking anything from it), and will also want to be entertained more and may take a while to warm up to strangers.
Leap 3: Smooth Transitions
Get ready for bub to become less jerky, and to take movement and sight-seeing to a whole new level! Baby will learn to track an object by smoothly moving the eyes side to side, and moving the head with a fluid motion from side to side. He/she will probably start experimenting with all kinds of vocaliations such as cooing, squealing and crowing. Grab a bib, because the drool is about to begin, and with it plenty of bubbles (baby literally starts frothing at the mouth!). He or she may become able to shake a rattle or toy, and will look amused when something hits their funny bone. Look out for the three C’s (crying, cranky, clingy); being withdrawn and quiet; frequent thumb-sucking or increased need for pacifier.
Leap 4: The World of Events
If your baby is anything like Amelia, you won’t know what’s hit you when Leap 4 starts. Our happy bub had THE worst period of crying, not sleeping, and needing to eat frequently since she’s been born. This leap is a doozy: it lasts for over a month, and other symptoms include reduced head control (which we’ve definitely noticed – a bit of an odd one, but I put it down to them focusing so hard on everything else that head control kind of takes a backseat for a while); more demanding of your attention (yup!); has mood swings (I guess you could say that – one minute she’s happy, the next she’s screaming); needs to be cuddled up close for feeds; can be a bit absent or out of it. Baby is learning to put together those smooth transitions into short, familiar sequences, such as learning a song or nursery rhyme, and expanding their perception to see objects such as a bouncing ball. They’ll become all movement, and be super intent on grasping things – only now they’ll hardly miss; if it’s in their hand they’ll try to bring it to their mouth; will look around to find mum and dad; will react to their mirror image; may grumble when impatient; plus heaps more! Amelia has just discovered her feet, and has started using them to bring dangling toys closer to her hands. She can see shadows moving on the wall, and giggles when something amuses her.
Each leap is just a brief time in your baby’s life, and although it can be very challenging, it’s also very exciting to see your baby suddenly learning new things and being able to do so much more. Don’t ever wish away time with your baby, even if it feels hard, because you’ll never get a second back – your baby won’t always be a baby! Do ask for help when you need it – sometimes an hour or two for yourself can be a real lifesaver; if you’ve been holding a tempestuous baby all day, you might want to call in a friend to help out with some housework.