There you are, thinking you finally have this motherhood thing under control when – wham! Your baby undergoes a personality change – and not for the better. Your once-content angel is now fussy, clingy, and moany.
Wondering what’s going on? It’s a wonder week. The term was coined by husband-and-wife research team Frans X Ploiij and Hetty van der Rijt to describe the bewildering transition from happy baby to fussy moaner. The good news? The change is temporary. More good news: It’s not only completely normal, it’s also a sign of healthy development.
While it may look like your little one is doing nothing more than staring at and gumming a teething toy, his brain is actually working overtime, with every little action and observation leading to a new skill. Understandably, this can be a bit overwhelming – think how you feel when you’ve just completed a new training programme or gone through a period of intense personal growth. This is why babies have a few weeks of clinginess, interrupted sleep and crying. This behaviour typically lasts one to four weeks.
The Wonder Weeks happen around times of significant development:
- Five weeks, when your baby starts becoming aware of different sensations and wakes up to the world around him.
- Eight weeks, when he’s able to discern patterns in his environment for the first time; and 11 or 12 weeks, when he becomes even more alert and develops a greater understanding of the world around him. More development takes place at 19 weeks, when he starts noticing that, instead of being one long amorphous period, time is actually divided by separate events.
- 26 weeks, when it becomes apparent that there are relationships between different elements in his world.
- 37 weeks, when he notices there are definite categories that almost everything around him can be classed into.
- 47 weeks, when he becomes aware of the importance of order.
The learning doesn’t stop after baby hits the one-year milestone. At week 55, his way of thinking starts to change. By 64 weeks, this manifests as an ability to vary his behaviour, and by 75 weeks (finally – the last of the Wonder Weeks!), he’s able to tell when certain behaviours are inappropriate for the circumstances and respond accordingly.
As much as uncovering the layers of his world can be challenging for your baby, they’re no picnic for you either.
Here’s how to deal with your demanding little one:
- Accept that he’s in the lead. Trying to force him back into a routine right now is only going to frustrate both of you. Sometimes, things are just difficult, and there’s no way to deal except by getting through it.
- If he needs something, give it to him. Longer naps or extra bottles are fuel for his growing brain and body. And more cuddles offer reassurance that although his perception of the world is changing, you’ll always be there for him.
- Breathe! There’s little more stressful than a niggly, sleepless baby, but this isn’t forever. It’s just a few weeks – compared to the forever you’ll spend marvelling at your child’s amazing abilities and development.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.