Many mothers call it ‘the witching hour’ – that time when you’re hastily throwing together something to feed the hungry hordes (or just yourself and your partner) and your little one decides it’s time to raise the roof. They start to cry and cling to you and it just keeps going until you feel just like the pot bubbling over on the stove! Or maybe your baby’s ‘witching hour’ occurs a little later in the evening, when you’re already knocked out from a full day of looking after them? No matter the time, we have some reassurance for you. The concept of ‘the wonder weeks’ which could very well be the reason for your baby’s fussy periods.
During their 35 year study of infant development, Dutch doctors Frans Plooj and Dr Hetty van de Rijt came upon an amazing discovery. They found that when a healthy baby went through a fussy period, it directly correlated to a significant leap forward in their mental development. They even managed to pin down these fussy periods to specific weeks during the first 20 months of a baby’s life. They coined these as ‘the wonder weeks’ or ‘wonder week leaps.’
During each of these weeks, the doctors found babies exhibit signs of increased fussiness, cry more and are extra clingy or cranky. Sounding familiar to you?
This fussiness occurs because each time baby reaches a wonder week, they must learn a new skill. The learning process causes confusion and chaos in their little minds thus creates the fussiness. For more information about each fascinating wonder week stage, head over to this link at the Wonder Weeks website.
During a wonder week, there are a few really important things you can do to help your child manage their developmental changes.
The first is to draw upon your reserves of patience. Miraculously all mothers have them – must be something you grow along with the baby! – so it’s time to put them to good use.
Next, be there for them. Give them extra attention when they ask – or cry! - for it. Hold them more often. Help them settle to sleep by cuddling them or singing to them. Soothe them as much as possible. If you feel overwhelmed, lean on your partner for support or phone a friend or relative for help. This is especially useful when it’s dinner prep time.
Remember – your baby isn’t being extra clingy because they feel like being more demanding or want to manipulate you. They’re doing it because they need your comfort to help them make sense of their confusing development changes.
The other thing to note is that once the fussy stage is over, you will have times of relative calm when baby is happy and easy going. Hold on to that thought when you’re going through a wonder week AKA tough time!
Of course there are other important reasons why your baby may be fussy aside from wonder week leaps (or sometimes in addition to!). Perhaps they are coming down with an illness or teething? They could be at a stage where they’re going through separation anxiety, particularly if you have to go back to work. These things should not be ignored or explained away as a wonder week leap. If you are worried, seek professional advice from your health nurse or local GP.
We hope you enjoyed this short insight into what the wonder weeks are all about. If this topic has piqued your interest, you can explore it further at The Wonder Weeks website.
We hope you find our articles helpful. As always, we provide this information for your reference but keep in mind it is not professional medical advice. We encourage you to speak to your GP or specialist if you have concerns about your baby’s health and development.