From the moment they’re born, babies are constantly adjusting to new stimuli and developing new skills as they develop toward becoming more independent and capable of taking care of themselves.
The greatest challenge during these times is understanding a baby’s point of development and being able to communicate effectively to support their needs.
This can cause a lot of strain and difficulties as their baby experiences challenges in adjusting to their developing bodies, causing symptoms such as sleep difficulties, fussiness, clinginess and other changes in behavioral patterns.
Fortunately, years of research by Dutch physical anthropologist Hetty van de Rijt and ethologist and developmental psychologist Frans Plooij have led to their publishing the groundbreaking book The Wonder Weeks, in which parents receive practical guidance to help their baby’s cognitive development through 10 predictable stages or ‘leaps’.
As an infant grows into a toddler, they experience significant changes in how they perceive and understand the world around them thanks to the development of their various senses and brain. This can be an unsettling time as the huge unfamiliar adjustment to life outside the womb can cause behavioral changes that can upset established patterns of sleep and eating.
And while no infant or toddler is exactly the same, understanding the patterns of growth and adjustment that they undergo is key to getting through these times and ensuring that they grow into happy, healthy and well-adjusted human beings.
While their research has continued to be refined in the years since their groundbreaking discovery, the ten leaps remain the basis for monitoring the child’s development and have been broken down into the following:
Leap 1 (~4-5 weeks)
During this time, the infant is bombarded by stimuli as the senses begin developing, causing them to react to the transition. This can often manifest in being clingy, crying often and being cranky. The best practice at this point is to cuddle and hold your baby regularly, giving them reassurance through familiar smells, sounds and touch.
Leap 2 (~8 weeks)
At this point, the infant starts recognizing simple patterns in the world around them and their own body, causing them to move jerkily about as they try exploring their newly developed senses. This causes them to be fixated for hours at a time with what their hands can do, or when they notice light and shadow patterns around them.
Leap 3 (~11-12 weeks)
With their rejigged senses, infants at this point are now reacting more to stimuli such as colors, sounds and other cues in their environment. This can mean continued sleepless nights as their curiosity in exploring their senses can trump their body’s ability to keep up. During this time, keeping them active and stimulated with natural stimuli around them can keep them in a good mood and quick naps can help improve their mood.
Leap 4 (~18-20 weeks)
The combination of redeveloped senses and curiosity with the world around them now makes the baby want to understand the world more. While we would normally know which ball would bounce off the ground, babies don’t have the same knowledge and start trying to handle things and doing what they can with them. Providing opportunities for your baby to safely explore their world and move freely about can immensely help their development, although sleep will remain elusive for a time as new patterns emerge.
Leap 5 (~26 weeks)
The most significant leap at this point is increased mobility as they learn to crawl and move about. At this point, they’re able to measure distance and figure how to get to what they want. This is actually a positive point as they soon become even more engrossed with exploring their world, making them less clingy to you.
Leap 6 (~36-40 weeks)
By this point, the baby can recognize patterns and how some things belong in certain arrangements. This can include picking up objects with their fingers, or rearranging food on their plate. This is where they can start getting their hands on anything as they grow increasingly curious with commonly handled objects such as brooms, remote controls and smartphones.
Leap 7 (~46 weeks)
Once babies realize that they can handle and rearrange things, they begin manipulating objects such as stacking them or putting them together. Sometimes, this can involve forcing an object into the other, deforming or breaking it as a result.
Leap 8 (~55 weeks)
By your toddler’s first birthday, they’ve already mastered the art of sequences e.g. certain events will follow one another. At this point, they start becoming aware of if-when concepts, where something will happen if this happens first. This can cause them to seek certain repeatable patterns in things they explore over and over.
Leap 9 (~64 weeks)
At this point, they now enjoy having developed skills such as language expression, or being able to assert their choices or preferences such as nagging or playing nice with a preferred parent. Your toddler is now aware of what they want and can do quite a lot to get it!
Leap 10 (~75 weeks)
The toddler is now able to adjust to systems in the world as they’re able to piece together how interdependent parts are now part of a whole. They become aware of how their behavior can influence people around them, so they start forming behavioral patterns that they will carry throughout life.
With so many leaps in a young child’s development, it can indeed be overwhelming for them as each change happens. What matters most is patience and support as they grow toward being human beings in their own right during this critical time.
The result of years of detailed research that van de Rijt and Pooji are now available for purchase in a best-selling award winning book, audiobook apps via the App Store and Google Play Store, and Apple and Amazon Kindle e-books. These are guaranteed to help you understand your baby’s developing senses and the various changes that you may notice, so you can have peace of mind and offer your little one the support they need.
For more information, visit their official site at https://www.thewonderweeks.com. The site includes an introduction to the Wonder Weeks system, as well as links to order the book and download the e-book and official apps for your mobile device.