Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Baby survival tips: get hold of The Wonder Weeks

I am a curious person who likes to understand what is going on. I have always studied the behaviour of myself and everyone around me, an attempt to 'know myself' or just something everyone does, I'm not sure. I do however find brain development and how it relates to behaviour very interesting.

Having a baby was a challenging test of this habit of mine. Quite often it's impossible to work out what is going on with this tiny new person who has landed smack bang in the middle of your life, demanding your attention 24 hours a day and soaking up your precious reserves of sanity.

They sleep through one day, are up all night the next, have endless 'growth spurts' and go through madly needy phases in which you actually feel your mind slipping away. You become convinced they must be teething when no teeth are in sight... but what else could it be? Is it because they're leaning to crawl? Why aren't they sleeping? Why are they waking up crying? Why am I suddenly trapped on the sofa breastfeeding all day? Are they hungry? Do I need to start weaning early? Is it something I've done? Are they ill? Have they not 'attached' properly to me? Is there anything I do to help them or survive this?

For me, that first year as a parent was a minefield of these sorts of days so I found The Wonder Weeks, a book that made coherent sense of it all in a timetabled, stage-by-stage, easy-to-read format, intensely reassuring.

The book describes the 10 age-linked developmental stages a baby goes through during their first 20 months, each stage correlating to when they make a sudden 'leap' in brain development.

The babies world view changes overnight as they master concepts such as 'changing sensations', 'patterns', 'sequences' and 'programs' and you can literally watch in amazement as the behaviour of your baby corresponds with the outline of the book. Speeding through an ever shifting experience, a baby's clinginess and poor sleep becomes a logical reaction to the changes they are going through, and I can't tell you how much reframing difficult or 'fussy' behaviour as normal does for your confidence as a parent! It also made me re-think breastfeeding. I fed on demand (and still am at 13 months with no inclination to stop) and really learned to appreciate how much breastfeeding is as much about comfort as it is about nutrition, even once you've introduced solids.

The Wonder Weeks is an incredibly interesting book.  If you haven't already desperately thumbed through it when your baby is having yet another bad night or clingy time then you must get hold of it. I would go so far to say that it's essential reading for the first year of your babies life and then simply interesting reading beyond their first birthday. This is because I've found that the fussy behaviour surrounding each leap got less dramatic as time went on, although it's still noticeable.

I got hold of this book when my son was a couple of months old. I was then prepared for the fabled 'four month sleep regression' which is a phrase I think people use to describe the 4th mental leap at 19/20 weeks: the sudden perception of 'events'.

Having been a pretty good sleeper going for 6 or 7 hours a night from around 2 months old (I know.... I was one of 'those' refreshed new mothers, don't hate me), my son suddenly started waking every two hours again like a newborn. It hit me like a freight train as he did this from 4 to 6 months. Rather than freak out and wean him or start sleep training, I just calmly dealt with my own tiredness safe in the knowledge that the waking was just a normal stage in his development. And so it was, a couple of months later he was back to sleeping like he did before.

As a direct result of this book I have learned to relax more and not worry when my baby is fussy. I don't even need to look at the time table, I can tell when a developmental 'leap' is coming, and I'm invariably right.

 The Wonder Weeks have an active facebook page and a great website where you can get hold of the book, and they are now offering specific chapter downloads if you only want to know about one particular leap. I can't recommend them enough if you have a new baby or are expecting one.

This was not a sponsored post.. I just wanted everyone to know about this book!


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