Wonder Weeks – What are they?

Describing developmental milestones and associated fussiness as Wonder Weeks has grown in popularity in recent times, with apps, books and plenty of information available to help mums understand these stages.

The concept has been a Godsend for many mums happy to have an explanation for their baby’s seemingly unexpected change in behaviour, while others may be left confused if their baby doesn’t fit into the schedule.

Which is why Clinical Midwife Lois Wattis says it’s important to remember that every baby is a unique individual, don’t overthink things and as a rule, forget about what other people say.

That being said, human growth and development does often follow a predictable path, she says.

“Wonder Weeks is a term created by Dutch authors Hetty van de Rijt and Frans X. Plooij to describe mental developmental leaps made by babies and children as they grow,” says Lois.

“Babies are in a constant state of physical growth and change and all will go through periods where they are more fussy and unsettled as they are going through a process of change.”

Wonder Weeks authors describe the signs as the three C’s – crying, clinging and crankiness.

Young babies may become fussier for a few days – usually coinciding with feeding more frequently, while babies over 6 months or so may be fussier over a few weeks as they undergo more complex developmental challenges.

“The Wonder Weeks research has shown babies make 10 major age-linked changes or leaps in the first two years or so of life.

“These periods of change affect baby’s behaviour and sleep patterns as their health and intelligence progressively develops.

“Wonder Weeks authors predict that during the first 20 months of a baby’s life, there are ten developmental leaps with their corresponding clingy periods at onset.

“The clingy periods come at 5, 8, 12, 19, 26, 37, 46, 55, 64 and 75 weeks – based on baby being born at term.”

While the Wonder Weeks concept is a reasonable explanation for fussy periods and can guide parents, they really do know their baby better than anyone else so it’s important to rely on instinct primarily.

“Nevertheless understanding baby is passing through a challenging time can help parents to help their baby through the rough patches, knowing they are not failing somehow as parents.

“Baby is not misbehaving if he is clingy, cries often or is cranky.”

A range of apps have been developed to give mums an immediate answer when it comes to wonder weeks, which Lois says have become a handy component of modern life.

“But they should not replace a mother’s intuition or instinctive knowledge about her baby’s behaviour and wellbeing.

“If a baby seems unwell expert advice should be sought from a Child Health Nurse or GP without delay.”

So how do we handle these tricky weeks of crying and fussing?

According to Lois Wattis, the best way, particularly with young babies is to simply go with the flow.

“Responding to baby by giving extra attention and more breastfeeds if that is what baby indicates he needs for a few days will help the fussy periods to pass and enhance normal development.”