It’s not your imagination– all babies go through a difficult period around the same age. Research by Dr. Frans Plooij Ph.D. and Dr. Hetty van de Rijt Ph.D., has shown that babies make 10 major, predictable, age-linked changes – or leaps – during the first 20 months of their lives taking place around weeks 5, 8, 12, 19, 26, 37, 46, 55, 64 and 75. During this time, they will learn more than in any other time. With each leap comes a drastic change in your baby’s mental development, which not only affects his mood, his health, sleeping patterns and the “three C’s” (crying, clinging and crankiness) but also… baby’s drinking and comfort seeking habits. Unfortunately these Wonder Weeks are often a reason for mums who do not know about these wonder weeks, to stop breast-feeding their child.
With every new wonder week a baby gets a totally new perception of the world. Every Wonder Week is like waking up on a strange planet. A baby did not ask for this, did not see it coming, but suddenly this whole new world was there. What would you do? You would retreat to a well-known and safe place. For a baby that is mum. How would you do that? By literally clinging to your mum. Being one with her, holding on tight and the best way to do that would be via literally sucking yourself to your mum. This is where breast-feeding and Wonder Weeks meet. Whilst on the one hand Wonder Weeks are in fact something good and signal progress in development, on the other hand, when the Wonder Weeks are misunderstood, they are often the reason mums give up breastfeeding.
“My daughter was crying so much that I was afraid something was terribly wrong. She wanted to breastfeed constantly. I took her to see the paediatrician, but he couldn’t find anything wrong with her. He said she just needed to get used to my milk and that many infants went through a similar crying phase at 5 weeks. I thought that was a strange thing to say, because she hadn’t had any problems with my milk until then. Her cousin, who was the same age, kept crying, too, but he was being bottle-fed. When I told the doctor that, he pretended he hadn’t heard, I didn’t push the subject though . I found out about wonder weeks later on, but I keep on wondering why nobody told me about these wonder weeks earlier. ” Julitte’s mum, 5th week
Wonder Weeks and the milk doubting mums:
As the baby gets more Clingy, Cries more and is more Cranky during a wonder week, many mothers start doubting themselves. Are they doing something wrong? If a baby wants to drink so often, does this mean they do not have enough milk? Or is their milk not good enough? Mums who know their baby is in a wonder week, don’t doubt themselves or their milk.
“Around the third wonder week my daughter suddenly started nursing less. After 5 minutes, she would start playing around with my nipple. After that had gone on for two weeks, I decided to start supplementing my milk with formula, but she wouldn’t have any of that either. This phase lasted 4 weeks. During that time I worried she would suffer from some kind of nutrition deficiency, especially when I saw my milk supply starting to diminish. But now she is drinking like she used to again, and my milk supply is as plentiful as ever. Now I know this is normal behavior during a wonder week. I never doubted my milk again since I know when these wonder weeks are.” Hannah’s mum, 19th week.
Wonder Weeks and the exhausted mums:
Even the mums not doubting their milk sometimes give up breastfeeding. Simply because the impact of the leap on the behavior of their child is wearing them out. The mums that know about Wonder Weeks tend to be less exhausted as they know what is happening and that Wonder Weeks are actually a good thing.
Wonder Weeks and the mum of a six month old:
One of the most difficult leaps is the one of relationships, around six months after due date. The exact same time breast milk alone is not enough anymore and most parents start to give solid food as well. Mum is exhausted from the leap, doesn’t sleep or sleeps very poorly, while at the same time her child needs food. Just days after giving the first ‘meals’, the baby is in a much better mood. Often mums explain this whole sequence of events wrongly and seem to think their child was in need of other milk than theirs. While in fact the child just went through another leap and finished the leap when he turned six months.
Wonder Weeks and nipple cracks or abrasions:
Pain is, logically, one of the reasons mums want to stop feeding their child. When a child is in a Wonder Week he wants to drink many times more often than is normally the case. As this is one of the only times a baby is quiet, a mum doesn’t really pay as much attention to the feeding process as she normally would and this can often result in the wrong feeding positions resulting in discomfort for mum.
Making parents aware of Wonder Weeks will enable parents to understand their baby’s behavior much better and will help many mums to continue feeding their child and to make sure these Wonder Weeks are not a reason to give up.
Meet Xaviera Plas-Plooij at BabyExpo Berkshire and hear more about The Wonder Weeks!