Parenthood is a beautiful and wonderful thing. However, this doesn’t mean that it comes without hurdles. You probably imagined parenthood to be full of the most wonderful snuggles, butterfly kisses on a tiny nose, and a beautiful tiny hand holding onto your finger.
Some weeks will be full of these dreamy moments, while others may leave you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. As your little one is adjusting to the world around them, they will be making leaps and bounds toward growing into the person they are meant to be. Fortunately, we have learned a lot about children’s developmental milestones to help us navigate the more difficult weeks.
What are the Wonder Weeks?
From conception, your child’s brain and body are ever-growing as they prepare to enter their new world. Within their mother’s womb, your child will develop a sense of hearing that allows them to interact with the world outside. As you sing or talk to them, your child may flutter. At the sound of loud noises, your little one may jump.
The changes that happen within the mother’s womb is only the beginning of your baby’s development. Once they enter the world, your child will be developing faster than ever before. With each new development, your child will be given the opportunity to view the world they call home in a new light, developing new skills every single day. These developments have been found to occur in what has been coined as the wonder weeks.
The term, wonder weeks, was created by a husband and wife dup- Frans X. Plooij and Hetty van de Rijt. In 1992, the two researchers came to the realization that babies and infants mentally developed in leaps and bounds.
The two of them dedicated their lives to researching children, searching for information about infant development, health, and parenthood. Through their extensive research, the two found that babies had a tendency to experience ten mental development leaps throughout their first 20 months of life.
What caused these mental development leaps? Plooij found that these leaps happen because of changes within the brain and nervous system. With each leap and bound made in your little one’s development comes a new sense of awareness to different noises, sights, and other stimuli in their environment.
What to Expect From the Wonder Weeks
While watching your baby learn new skills and hit exciting developmental milestones is breathtaking and wonderous, it can certainly come with its challenges. During these weeks, your little one may struggle to adjust as their bodies and minds are enduring intense periods of development. From these weeks, you can expect:
- Increased crying
- Separation anxiety
- Sleep regression
The Wonder Week Milestones
Preparing for the wonder weeks may be just what you and your family need to thrive during difficult adjustment periods. It is important to note that these weeks will coincide with your baby’s due date. Therefore, if your little one was born premature, they may hit these leaps later than others.
Leap 1 –Week Five
In the first four to five weeks of your baby’s life, the world around them will appear in a soft focus. As your baby adjusts to our world, they are unable to see or hear much that differs from the womb. Sometime around four to five weeks, your little one will slowly become more alert, bombarding them with new sensations as they take in the world around them.
Leap 2 –Week Eight
Around the eight-week mark, your little one will become to develop a whole new sense of awareness about the world around them. As their sense become sharper, your little one will begin to notice shapes, patterns, and sounds. At this point, your little one may begin to truly take notice of you and the other people who surround them.
Leap 3 – Week Twelve
Around twelve weeks, your baby will begin to learn how to use their developing senses to understand the world they are in. As your little one learns how to use their senses, you will find that their little eyes and bodies are following things that interest them, and they are able to do things like shake their rattles or make sounds with their perfect little mouths.
Leap 4 – Week Nineteen
Around their nineteenth week in this world, your little one will begin to understand cause and effect. They will be learning that they can make things happen with a specific action and how certain actions or events can lead to a specific outcome.
Your little one will begin interacting with the world around them more than ever before, bringing objects to their mouth, listening to their body’s hunger and fullness cues, recognizing their own name, and interacting with their reflection in a mirror.
Leap 5 – Week Twenty- Six
Around week twenty- six, your baby will be trying more and more new things and developing and strengthening their skills. You will find that they are becoming more mobile than before and are developing a greater sense of coordination.
Along with developing their physical skills, your little one will also be learning even more about cause and effect. They will be developing a deeper understanding of the relationships between different events.
One of the biggest changes your baby will be enduring during this change is their perception of distance. The small world they are used to is suddenly opening up into the incredibly large world they occupy right alongside us.
Leap 6 – Week Thirty- Seven
Sometime between 36 and 40 weeks, your baby will be taking a deeper dive into their exploration of the world around them. You will find that your baby’s learning will become much more methodical than ever before as they take the time to now examine their environment with a close eye.
This will be a time in which your baby will begin to experiment, squishing and playing around with their food, examining every little dust bunny that occupies your floor, and testing the world they occupy. During this mental leap, your baby is separating the things in their environment into categories. They are exploring different sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures.
Leap 7 – Week Forty- Six
Week 46 is the week in which your destructive little explorer will begin to develop their skills of putting things together. At this point in your baby’s development, he or she will begin to learn sequences. They have developed the awareness now to understand that they must do a certain thing or act a certain way in order to meet their goals.
Leap 8 – Week Fifty- Five
Now that your little one has completed their first year of development, they are ready to enter the next stage of learning. During this stage of learning, your little one will begin to develop an even deeper understanding of the consequences their actions hold. They will enter into a way of thinking that encourages the thought process of “if-then.”
This way of thinking will allow your baby to make more informed decisions about his or her actions in order to get what they want. For instance, your little one will begin to understand that when their momma puts them into the high chair, it is time to eat.
Leap 9 – Week Sixty- Four
Around week 64 of your little one’s life, they will begin to have a better understanding of social cues and ho to communicate with the people around them. Your little one will be developing their sense of humor, learn new ways to communicate their needs and start copying the things they see and hear. You will also find that this developmental milestone will likely be full of dramatics and tantrums as your little one continues to learn how to achieve their goals.
Leap 10 – Week Seventy- Five
Sometime between weeks 70 and 76, your little one will now have the understanding and developmental skills to choose how they want to handle different situations- and how their choice will have an effect on the outcome. At this point, your child will be able to make choices about who they want to be and how they wish to act.
They can choose between being honest or dishonest, helping or disrupting, or acting carefully or risky. This is the point in their development that your baby will be developing their conscience, making it the perfect time for teaching and learning.
Tips for Navigating the Difficult Weeks
The wonder weeks are, of course, wonderful developments to your little baby’s skills. They can also be quite difficult to deal with as you face sudden regressions in your child’s schedules, sleeping patterns, and behaviors. A few tips for getting through these weeks include:
Educating yourself. There are tons of wonderful resources online, in books, and in-person from which you can learn more and more about the changes your little one is going through. This will help you navigate the difficult waters of their intense developmental stages as you learn more about what you can do to help them through these wonder weeks.
One great resource is the Wonder Weeks app, which provides you with details of what to expect and activities you can do with your little one to help them get through these leaps.
Let go of expectation. When your baby is going through a developmental leap, it is important to practice self-kindness and compassion. As your little one’s entire schedule gets thrown off by their new developments, so will yours. During this time, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you don’t feel up to hanging with your friends, let them know. If you are too exhausted to fold that pile of clothes, let it go. You can get back to those tasks when you are feeling up to them at a later point.
Don’t do it alone. The saying, “it takes a village,” is more accurate than you can imagine. Swallow your pride and ask for help, whether that be from your friends, family, a doctor, or your neighbors. If you feel as though you have nobody to help you, reach out to your doctor, and they will help you get the help you need.
Stick to a routine. While your child may be struggling to get to sleep at bedtime or to eat at their usual mealtimes, these struggles won’t last forever. Stick to your baby’s bedtime rituals and schedules. This will help them fall back into a routine when they are done with this developmental leap.
Take care of your health. It can be easy to forget to take care of yourself when your little one needs so much of your time and attention. However, your little one needs the best version of you possible in order to thrive. You won’t be able to take care of them if you are ill, feeling dizzy from a lack of food, or struggling mentally. So, eat well, drink enough water, and make an effort to care for your mental health.
Prep for the challenging weeks. When you do have time and energy, stack up on freezer meals, take a trip to the grocery store, and try to get the things done that you might not be able to get to during your baby’s developmental leaps.
Baby carriers will be your best friend. This is truly no joke. When your little one refuses to nap or is feeling especially clingy to you during their developmental leaps, a baby carrier will allow you to get things done that you need to, like grabbing a decent meal, washing the dishes, or simply getting a chance to take a walk outside.
The developmental leaps and bounds your baby will be making during their first twenty months of life will be wonderous and exhausting at the same time. Making an effort to take care of yourself during the difficult periods will prove to be especially helpful to get through these difficult times.
The difficult days will pass, and soon you will look back on this time with a happy heart knowing that you got through it.
The book, The Wonder Weeks, is a great source of information written by the husband and wife duo, Dr. Franz Plooij and Hetty van de Rijt. The two researchers have expanded their Wonder Weeks book into an extremely helpful app and website.