This is the part of our series on 'The baby fog', which covers major challenges new parents might want to be aware of ahead of time.
Putting a routine in place can provide comfort and stability for many parents and their children. Unfortunately, things won’t always go according to plan.
Growth spurts can lead to erratic eating and disturbed sleep for days on end while babies rapidly gain weight and grow in length. This happens at approximately three weeks, six weeks, three months, six months and nine months of age.
Leaps in mental development create the same kind of disruption, when babies will display the same kinds of fussiness they do during physical growth spurts – sometimes for up to six weeks at a time. This happens when they’re mastering major new cognitive and motor skills such as sitting and crawling. These are called 'wonder weeks' and usually take place at approximately five weeks, eight weeks, twelve weeks, 19 weeks, 26 weeks, 30 weeks, 37 weeks, 46 weeks, 55 weeks, 64 weeks and 75 weeks, give or take a fortnight (these ages are from The Wonder Weeks by Hetty van de Rijt and Frans X. Plooij).
There can be up to 18 months of these moody periods. Without an explanation for this behaviour it can seem that your baby is suddenly regressing, but she’s actually moving forward in her development.
It was reassuring to know when these weeks were approaching – and, more importantly, when the clingy, fussy behaviour would end!
Kristy Busuttil, an early childhood education expert, says, “These times can see a normally happy and content baby change into demanding little person. Your child may sleep less, become suddenly clingy or shy, need more of your attention, frequent feeds or stimulation, and may experience pain and discomfort as well.”
Zoe - mum to Jordy, seven, Jake, four, Lochie, three, and two-year-old Ellie Autumn - recalls how growth spurts were a challenge as a first time mum.
“I always assumed that a few days of terrible sleep with Jordy were because he was having a growth spurt,” she says. “And if his clothes were a bit tighter I actually knew he must have grown.”
Julia, mum to Daniel, 13 months, says, “Personally, I found the wonder weeks more challenging than the physical growth spurts. But it was reassuring to know when these weeks were approaching – and, more importantly, when the clingy, fussy behaviour would end!"
“These weeks took patience and tolerance from my husband and me, but the skills and understanding Daniel would suddenly develop after these times were endlessly rewarding.”
Kristy says that the best way to cope with these periods is to just to go with it as best you can, adding, “Extra cuddles and contact are always reassuring.”
Parents can stay in tune with their baby’s developmental cycle by getting regular updates from monitoring services (including The Wonder Weeks iPhone app) that provide information on what to expect each week based on a baby’s birth date.