Wonder Weeks: 10 mental developmental leaps
When you have made it through the labour and giving birth, and now have a newborn that seems to endlessly cry without sleeping or feeding patterns, and you feel like you couldn’t possibly suffer any more, you hear about .
What are these so-called ‘wonder weeks’?
And will they get here soon, because you could really use something wonderful right now.
This term was coined by Dutch doctors Frans Plooj and Dr Hetty van de Rijt and describes something actually quite wonderful.
Their research found that babies tend to experience the same mental developmental leaps at ten specific times during their first 20 months.
These leaps forward happen because of brain and nervous system changes at these times when the gorgeous little ones respond to new stimuli and broaden their sensory and perceptual levels of awareness at each time.
In the womb, the first sense that babies experience tends to be hearing, in that they respond to their mother’s voice and also to sudden loud noises.
At birth, all of the other senses suddenly kick in and can be very exciting and overwhelming all at once.
At each mental leap or wonder week, the baby learns to use their senses and perception in new ways, which gives them a push forward in ability.
It can also coincide with fussiness and crying, changes in appetite and interrupted sleep when the baby almost seems to regress before moving forward again.
This may line with what many mums call ‘growth spurts’ when their normally lovely baby suddenly changes in attitude and habit for a few days before settling down again.
The doctors behind the wonder weeks theory believe that the crankiness is because the baby gets initially surprised and shocked by each mental and sensory leap and is trying to figure the new experiences out.
When they find something in the new sensory experience that they feel comfortable with and interested in, they become happy again.
Wonder weeks are followed by ‘sunny weeks’ where the baby is much happier.
What are the Wonder Weeks?
These times tend to coincide with your baby’s due date, not the actual date of birth, which is why premmie babies reach their milestones later than their full-term peers.
Leap 1 – Changing Sensations – 4 ½ to 5 ½ weeks old
Your baby suddenly starts to notice a lot more of what is happening around him. He will look, notice, connect and respond to senses differently, will be more alert during awake periods and will start to smile genuinely.
Many mothers find their babies easier to bond with after this period is over once their baby is around six weeks old.
Leap 2 –Patterns– 7 ½ to 9 ½ weeks
Your baby will start to notice patterns and familiarity in the world around him including in people, repeated actions and noises and the feeling of his toys and his body.
Leap 3 – Smooth Transitions – 11 ½ to 12 ½ weeks
Your baby is learning now how to use his senses to understand order and constants in his environment, including transitions noted through all of his senses.
He can follow things with his eyes and body, roll over, and make things happen like shaking a rattle or blowing raspberries.
Leap 4 – Events – 14 ½ to 19 ½ weeks
Your baby is learning how to understand how events lead to outcomes and how he can make events happen.
He can put things in his mouth, respond to mirrors, recognise his name being called and stop a feeding if full or an activity if bored. He will interact with more complex games and activity boards that have cause and effect.
Leap 5 – Relationships – 22 ½ to 26 ½ weeks
Your baby starts to understand more about separation and how close parents are at any time.
He can look under something for a hidden object, or play with things to see what they will do.
He is starting to understand that just because you can’t see something this doesn’t mean it disappears.
He is also connecting the separate movement of his limbs into standing and coasting and getting ready to crawl and walk.
Leap 6 – Categories – 33 ½ to 37 ½ weeks
Your baby will start to understand how things can be grouped into categories and will understand distinguishing properties like basic shapes and colours.
Play will include more social interaction, imitation and songs, expressing himself and his basic needs and emotions through words.
Leap 7 – Sequences – 41 ½ to 46 ½ weeks
Your baby is grasping the idea of sequences now and understanding how a series of basic steps can lead to something happening or being put together.
This can include talking on the phone, basic puzzles, steps in dressing and undressing and answering questions.
Leap 8 – Programs – 50 ½ to 54 ½ weeks
This takes sequences further to understanding programs and schedules, such as getting dressed means going outside, putting toys away after playing and using observation for learning.
He starts to understand that a sequence can follow an individual action and vice versa and his ability to play a part in this.
Leap 9 – Theatrics and tantrums – 59 ½ to 61 ½ weeks
Many more social skills are picked up here including using humour, engaging other people, role-playing and doing things for himself, copying mum’s actions, understanding possession, expressing fear, learning to negotiate and bargain and of course, throwing tantrums.
Leap 10 – Systems – 70 ½ to 76 ½ weeks
Your baby is nearing 20 months now and is starting to understand how to modify his behaviour to suit certain circumstances, feel empathy, express emotions through art and language, understand concepts like sharing, conversation, time, and testing of boundaries.
The book written about this theory has become a bestseller and evolved into a very handy website, community and app which can help you track your baby’s development and maybe prepare yourself a little for what is coming next.
It can be also nice to know that the strange and wondrous things your little one does at each stage are not abnormal (nor is how you choose to cope with this behaviour!)
These resources can help you with appropriately stimulating your baby before each wonder week, coping with sleeping and eating changes during the leaps, and also handling the extra crankiness and clinginess they can show at this time as well.
For more information check out www.thewonderweeks.com