What to do about "wonder weeks"

My baby only sleeps in my arms. He fusses about everything. He cries all day long. To new mothers, the “three C’s”—Clinginess, Crankiness, and Crying—overwhelm us and make us wonder: Is this my new normal? Hetty van de Rijt, Frans Plooij, and Xaviera Plas-Plooij, the authors behind The Wonder Weeks, offer us reassurance in the form of neuroscience. As the authors describe, fussy periods—though they may seem to run together with no end in sight—actually come and go according to the rhythm of mental development our baby is going through. The three C’s are telltale signs of major changes going on in our babies’ little brains. As a baby’s brain leaps forward in mental development at predictable milestone moments, the baby copes with these changes by demanding extra attention from his caregiver.

Chapter by chapter, The Wonder Weeks walks readers through the developmental changes our babies are coping with, week by week. They offer advice on how to guide our babies through each leap, using games, toys, and techniques tailored to each particular milestone. One refrain, though, that promises to help baby through each leap? Touch and snuggles. Lying close to you, being carried around by you in your arms or in a sling, being rocked, cuddled, caressed, being massaged with baby oil in a warm room. It may not stop their fussing, but that’s not really the point. Your loving touch brings the baby comfort and reassurance as he struggles with the changes going on in his little mind.

The Wonder Weeks helps us build empathy for our babies. As I read the science behind each leap, I understood my daughter differently. She wasn’t just a “sour baby” intent on making my life impossible. She was a growing girl puzzling over new learnings, trying to make sense of her world and needing help to get through it. Eager to help her “get ahead,” I had imagined structured days where we napped, played, and ate at predictable schedules, but The Wonder Weeks urges a different approach: watch your baby for her cues. It may be stressful for her if you try to “chat” or play games when she’d rather stare off into the distance.

And this book comforts us, the caregivers, too. We are given credit for the stress of constantly carrying and fretting over unhappy infants. We all reach the moments where we feel that we are at our wit’s end. The Wonder Weeks shares quotations from mothers who have been in your shoes before. And though it may sound impossible, the authors urge that as caregivers, we must make time for ourselves. As mothers, we quickly learn that there is no such thing as a “new normal.” Everything is a phase. The Wonder Weeks supports that with science, and offers us techniques and reassurance as we persevere through each milestone, even shedding light on the ways we can enjoy our lives and our babies, fussiness and all.

It's a book (but insider tip: the app's more digestible!)

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