I remember how excited I was my twins started sleeping through the night. I felt like a mom rock star! Sleep deprivation? Ha! I had conquered bedtime and I was feeling amazing! But, you know how people say not to jinx a good thing? Well, I met my match when my boys turned four months old and hit the wonder weeks. All those nights of lovely sleep? Gone. We were back to square one.
I called my friend, an infant sleep consultant, and cried tears of frustration. I had done everything the books told me to do. I’d swaddled, I’d rocked, I’d nursed, I’d held…and it was like none of that had ever even happened. What had I done wrong? And, more importantly, how could I fix it?
After calming me down, my friend explained that it wasn’t anything I had done or hadn’t done. I hadn’t jinxed it by feeling amazing about our earlier success. Instead, my boys were simply going through one of the “wonder weeks” and this too would pass.
The Wonder Weeks
Despite all of the reading and research I’d done about infant sleep training, I hadn’t heard of wonder weeks. What I discovered left me feeling both reassured and, truth be told, a little intimidated about what was in store for us in the coming year. Now, looking back on that time, I can confidently say that knowledge of the wonder weeks made them much less stressful and gave me hope throughout my boy’s sleep training process.
If you’re new to the concept of wonder weeks, let me explain what they are, why it’s important to understand them, and when they occur. It’s hard being a new parent, but knowing about the wonder weeks can completely change the way you handle your child’s sleeping routine.
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What Are The Wonder Weeks?
The Wonder Weeks idea is based off of research done by Dr. Hetty van de Rijt and Dr. Frans Plooij that proved that infants and toddlers go through 10 different developmental phases with major changes, or “leaps” during the first 20 months of their lives.
The Wonder Weeks are those predictable stages that can cause changes in sleep patterns, behavior, health, and development. Researchers also found that children were more likely to display more of the “three C’s” (crying, clinging, and crankiness) during those time periods. You can read more about the weeks in The Wonder Weeks book; it’s eye-opening!
Why Is It Important to Understand the Wonder Weeks?
Imagine feeling like you are the worst parent in the world, because your child is being cranky and clingy. You’re sleep deprived and, despite your best efforts, the tricks you’ve tried in the past for sleep training are now not working. I know how horrible it is to feel that way – and that’s why understanding the idea of the wonder weeks was such a relief.
Instead of feeling like I was failing at motherhood, I was able to match my child’s age with the developmental leap he was currently taking. Growing is hard and infants and toddlers don’t have many ways to express their feelings other than through the three C’s. It wasn’t that I was doing anything wrong at all; my child was just growing. It was a moment of clarity and utter relief.
The 10 Major Wonder Weeks
Here is a brief outline of the 10 basic time frames that children predictably experience the leaps in growth. If you’re experiencing a significant amount of crying, clinginess, and crankiness with your child, you’ll most likely find his age below!
Approximate Weeks When Leaps in Development Occur
- 4-5 Weeks: The World of Changing Sensations
- 8-9 Weeks: The World of Patterns
- 11-12 Weeks: The World of Smooth Transitions
- 18-19 Weeks: The World of Events
- 25-26 Weeks: The World of Relationships
- 36-40 Weeks: The World of Categories
- 45-46 Weeks: The World of Sequences
- 54-55 Weeks: The World of Programs
- 63-64 Weeks: The World of Principles
- 74-75 Weeks: The World of Wonder
The Wonder Weeks book breaks down the developmental phases into a lot more detail and provides a great deal of insight. I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy to have on hand. I referred to mine throughout the toddler years and it’s one of my favorite books to give at baby showers!
How to Get Through the Wonder Weeks
Understanding that this was normal and just a phase that we would get through helped me tremendously. Knowing there is an end in a few days can really help with my patience.
- While keeping as close as you can to your routine be a little more flexible with holding, feeding and rocking.
- This isn’t the time to try sleep training or make a major change to your baby’s routine.
- Baby wear a little more often. The baby carrier is your friend.
- I found marking a date 7 days in advance that I would tell my husband (and myself) that we just had to make it to that date. Having an end date in mind helped us be patient. We normally found that we would forget about that date because it would end before the date would come.
For me, understanding that my child’s behavior and sudden, inconsistent sleep patterns were indicative of a milestone that he was reaching made the long nights bearable. It gave me a frame of reference and a heads-up as to what I could expect in the weeks to come. If nothing else, the wonder weeks idea gave me peace and confidence as a mother. I truly hope it does the same for you.
Want go further with some in depth sleep advice? I recommend the individual and group coaching plans from The Baby Sleep Site. Every child and family has their own patterns and lifestyle and the Baby Sleep Site’s plans can be made to adjust to your needs. They also have DIY monthly plan options if you don’t want the individual sleep coaching (or it doesn’t fit your budget).
The Baby Sleep Site has worked with over 35,000 moms and Nicole Johnson, the founder, has made it her mission to help tired parents solve their babies’ sleep challenges in a manner that fits your child’s personality and your parenting style. Check it out here today.
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