Wonderful… wonder weeks!?!

I was planning on raving about what a good night we had when this mornings nap time just fell on my head like a big, rotten watermelon. I know, I know…I can’t have it all. (Don’t say you can’t have your cake and eat it too. I HATE that expression, it makes no damn sense. Why would I even want cake if i couldn’t eat it?!?)

Anyways, I won’t bore you with the details of everything. I’ll just say that Anakin was his excellent self overnight, like he usually is when he’s not doing some reenactment of Chuckie. He slept from 7-12, then until 2.15 and then it was Hello Day at 5.40 am this morning. Not too shabby. I, on the other hand, did not sleep well. I am developing some serious sleep issues from this long term sleep deprivation ordeal.


Anyways, I’m getting off track here. My coffee hasn’t kicked in yet.

I’ve been doing some reading on this whole wonder weeks thing to try and get my head around it a bit better. And while doing so I came across this (now abandoned it seems) blog that explains it beautifully. (barefootmothering.blogspot.com.au) Here’s an excerpt from the Barefoot Mother’s blog on wonder weeks:

The Wonder of Growth Spurts

[…] Babies go through 8 neurological growth spurts in the first 14 months, and research detailed in “The Wonder Weeks” by Vanderijt and Plooij can even tell you within a few weeks, when these spurts will happen, the new skills baby is learning, and how it may affect them. It also tells you how to help baby to develop the new skills. The spurts in the first year occur at around 5,8,12, 15, 23, 34, 42 and 51 weeks.

Before any of these growth spurts a sudden change in the nervous system occurs bringing a completely new type of perception about the world, and baby has to develop a completely new set of skills to deal with the new perception. During these times babies are understandably confused and need extra attention, and reassurance. Babies cry more, feed more and need you more during a spurt, but rather than see these as difficult fussy times, you can see these as exciting times of growth. There are new skills that you can help her to explore and develop. After all, how would you feel if you suddenly found the world had extra dimensions you never knew about, or you could see things you never saw before, or realised that you were actually completely dependent and defenceless? […]

Around week 26 baby starts to understand relationships. Suddenly he starts to realise distance between objects, or between people. This is quite terrifying. Until now he had no understanding that he is very small in a very large world, and has no way to get to something outside his cot, or on a shelf, or to get to mum if she isn’t beside him. Suddenly he realises that mum can leave and there is nothing he can do about it. Understandably this is very disconcerting and baby can become extremely clingy. As he starts to lean about distances and relationships he begins to understand the concepts of inside, outside, on top, above, next to, underneath and in between. Isn’t it amazing?

Another change in brainwaves happens around 37 weeks, which sees baby starting to understand about categories, e.g. big dogs and small dogs are all dogs, rice and apples are both food. Horses in the field, and horses in a book, and toy horses are all horses, even though one is alive, one is a picture and one is made of clay or plastic. Understanding categories affects every sense. It allows her to start to learn about emotions. Her thinking now starts to become more like an adults, and as such we can start to understand each other better.

The next spurt is around 46 weeks when baby truely starts to put things all together. He now looks at how things go together before attempting them. He may start to look at his shape sorter and try to work out the correct shape for the hole, instead of randomly trying slots. For the first time he may try constructing things and linking things, like aiming a ball before throwing, or building a tower with blocks. He may start to brush his hair or try to undress or dress himself, or point to things so that you can name them for him to build his vocabulary.

Just after his first birthday (around 55 weeks) another big change in understanding occurs. It allows baby to build on the idea of sequences of behaviours and understand how they fit together to meet a goal. She can now start to understand what it means to go shopping, or do the laundry or phone someone. You might go to different shops or phone different people, or use the phone in different rooms, but it meets the same goal. This can start the process of imaginative play with her toys. She can now start to consciously develop her own programs and make decisions, like deciding to have one bite of lunch and then a drink, or start with the drink before eating. She can decide whether to use the spoon or feel the food on her hands. Bet you never really thought about lunch as a decision making exercise before 🙂

It’s an amazing journey from a newborn to a decision making toddler, but the leaps are hard for baby and caregiver. When baby first starts to perceive these new things it’s like his world has turned upside down. The things he understood yesterday, no longer fit the world any more – they don’t explain what he is sensing. This can start a couple of weeks before the actual spurt. Once the neurological change has occurred, it can then take another couple of weeks for baby to make sense of the change and create a new mental picture of the world. This means that your baby could be unsettled for a few weeks around each growth spurt. Then length of time depends on the temperament of the baby and how easily he adjusts to the change.

During these few weeks baby can have trouble sleeping, be shy, need to be kept busy and demand attention. He can lose his appetite, become less vocal, and clingy to mum. If breastfeeding he may want to comfort feed a lot as that can meet a lot of the needs to help him sleep and keep him close to mum and allow him to have her attention.

This is understandably hard on mum (or other caregiver). Mums complain of being exhausted, feeling trapped, and annoyed, whilst at the same time being concerned that baby is ill, or not herself. It’s hard when you are going through these times, but at least if you understand why your baby is feeling lost, it is a little easier to deal with. It is easier to just hold them and show them that you will not leave. It is easier to deal with the night waking, and the clinging behaviour.

So remember folks, when your baby seems to start a sleep regression, or act fussy – maybe they are actually growing. Maybe it is a wonderful sign. Hold them closer. This is not a sign of a sleep problem, or need for training. Have some empathy for what is going on, and shape your play around the growth. If baby is learning about categories, tell them about different things that fit in the same category. If baby is learning about fitting things together, build lots of towers. If baby wants to be fed again, for the 3rd time in an hour, just try to relax. Your baby is growing. He is developing, and growth can be scarey, but you can help. You can create a safe space where he can figure out his world, and know that in a couple more weeks you will understand each other more fully.

“People are not born once and for all on the day
that their mother puts them on to the Earth,
but…time and again,
life forces them to enter a new world on their own”

Love in the time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (quoted from The Wonder Weeks)

You can find the whole post here: http://barefootmothering.blogspot.com.au/2011/01/growth-spurts.html


It all sounds rather wonderful and terrifying, doesn’t it? It’s fascinating. I can’t really find the commitment to reading the whole book, although I’m sure it’s great, so I’ve done the next best thing in these iPhone times, I’ve bought the Wonder weeks app. It feels better to have some idea of what’s happening and why things may be a bit tricky these days.

I was reminded yesterday of how quickly Anakin is growing up. After a nap time battle it was time to eat and he fell asleep on me like he used to when he was a baby. I cherished every second of those 45 minutes (until I had to wake him up so to not mess up the rest of the day too bad). I think I may have burst a bit with love while holding him, maybe even a bit more than I usually do. I hope he knows how much I worship his every sound, every move, his everything.

Love- like no other


One response

  1. I haven’t studied the Wonder Weeks as much as you have, but I do have the app on my phone and whenever Evelyn seems to be struggling or fussy or not her normal self, I check the app and she is generally in the midst of one of these developmental spurts. Isn’t it amazing how much is going on inside those adorable little beings?

    September 9, 2012 at 11:22 am

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