The Wonder Weeks

I first heard about Wonder Weeks a couple years ago.  At first thought it was a marginal infant development philosophy.  Then I saw more and more references to the Wonder Weeks and wondered why I hadn’t heard about them when Peter was a baby.  Turns out that the first edition of the book, The Wonder Weeks, was published March 29, 2010 by a Dutch publisher, so it hadn’t caught on yet when Peter was a baby.

Peter was a more laid back baby than Alina.  He didn’t cry unless he had a good reason to and was generally easy to soothe.  (Just stick a bottle in his mouth.)  Alina is easier than Peter in some ways, but she does fuss more than Peter did, and she nearly brought me to wits end last week.  So I picked up a copy of The Wonder Weeks in hope that it would help me understand and cope with my daughter’s witching hours… and days.

The concepts (and research that the theory is based on) are pretty intriguing and do seem helpful.  I wasn’t a big believer in infant growth spurts based on my experiences with Peter’s growth and appetite, but these neurodevelopmental spurts are somehow more convincing to me.  Of course, I was immediately wooed when the authors acknowledged that development begins at conception and therefore readers should use their baby’s original due date when predicting the timing of Wonder Weeks.  Peter did make me a firm believer in the use of “adjusted age.”

The first Wonder Week is supposed to occur at 5 weeks.  This Wonder Week signifies increased sensory processing capabilities and is marked by increased fussiness followed by a calm period as the baby enjoys her newly developed skills.  Coincidently, Alina’s fussiness reached a climax last week, about 5 weeks after her EDD.  This week has been a “fair weather” week as predicted by the book.  I felt like Wonder Week 5 lasted longer than predicted (i.e., more than a week), but perhaps that’s because the Wonder Week overlapped with the “normal” fussiness crescendo from 2-3 weeks to 6 weeks?  (Again, this wasn’t something I recall experiencing with Peter.)

Here are the changes predicted by the book that I’ve noted to roughly coincide with this developmental leap:

  • Looks at things longer and more often (Alina now likes studying faces while being held, stuffed toys during floor time, and high-contrast objects in general.)
  • Listens to things more often and pays closer attention (She doesn’t ignore my singing any longer.)
  • Smiles more often than before (I believe we’re getting some social smiles in addition to contented baby smiles now, but she’s still not as smiley as Peter became 8 weeks after his EDD.)
  • Gurgles with pleasure more often (Her vocabulary has expanded; it’s no longer just sighs of exacerbation.)
  • Startles and trembles less often

I read ahead to the Wonder Week 8 chapter, the developmental leap where babies should become aware of patterns and gain some conscious control over their bodies.  I feel like Alina already reached some of those milestones, but perhaps I’ll note a difference in a couple weeks, when we get 8 weeks post-EDD.

  • Holds her head upright when she is very alert (She still needs head support or she will quickly tire and flop over, though.)
  • Turns her head toward something interesting
  • Rolls from belly to back  (May not be intentional, though.)
  • Kicks legs and waves arms (All the time! She is starting to appreciate the bouncy seat.)
  • Allows herself to be pulled into a sitting position
  • Allows herself to be pulled into a standing position
  • Tries to lift head and body when lying facedown (She has been lifting her head to turn it during tummy time since at least her EDD, though.)
  • Shows an increased desire to sit
  • Swipes at toys
  • Is fascinated by brother playing nearby
  • Makes short bursts of sounds (and will have short “conversations” with me.)
  • “Chats” to and smiles at cuddly toys

We’ll see how well the Wonder Weeks timeline coincides with Alina’s development.  It is an interesting way to track milestones.

I return to work next week.  Last week, I was worried that Alina would make Marie miserable with her incessant need to be held, but my baby does seem more independent this week, so I think everything will be alright.  I also worried that we would have routine screaming during our commute, but Alina no longer seems to hate car rides.  I am again glad that my baby will be close to my workplace (in case I get separation anxiety during the initial weeks at work).

Overall, it has been a nice maternity leave… much nicer than the weeks I spent in the NICU with Peter.  I took a respectable number of cute baby photos (after the acne cleared up) and made baking soda clay hand impressions (using Alina and Peter’s hands).  I walked dozens of miles back and forth on the Rail Trail, especially during Alina’s fussy weeks.  And we had some fun excursions with Peter, visiting the Boston Children’s Museum, the Discovery Museums in Acton, and the Providence Children’s Museum.  Peter is happy that playground weather has arrived, and Alina enjoys sleeping through mass on Sundays.  We learned to enjoy bath time together (thanks in part to the past week’s heat wave), and we have even gotten a decent amount of sleep.

In some ways, it feels odd to have had a “typical” pregnancy and now be enjoying my “typical” baby.  (And also be dealing with “typical” baby problems like cradle cap and evening fussiness.)  Peter’s early birth had a big impact on me, and I developed a strong identity as a mother of a preemie.  Now I’m a mother of a preemie AND a termie.  I took Peter and Alina to the Parents of Preemies Day event at the UMass NICU last weekend.  Peter was wearing his preemie t-shirt with his birth statistics, so it was obvious why we were there.  But in general, people were more interested in Alina, the cute little baby.  And of course, they asked the default question: “How old is the baby?”  I apologetically replied that she was 50 days old, knowing full well that there were babies in the NICU who were older than Alina.  It seemed a bit unfair that I got to tote around my big, healthy baby in the NICU while the other parents’ babies were tethered to vital signs monitors and oxygen supplies and IV pumps.  In a way, I suppose, the preemie mom part of me was jealous of the termie mom part of me.  The preemie mom part of me knew that Peter only weighed 4 lbs when he was 50 days old, while Alina was over 10 lbs.  And one of the moms at the event told me just that: her 50-day-old baby was about half the size of Alina.

I know it’s not fair to compare children, but Peter really did give us a unique (i.e., stressful) introduction to parenthood, and Alina gave us the chance to experience pregnancy and infancy the way it should be experienced.  I guess the combination of the two experiences gives me a deeper understanding of what it means to be a parent and greater empathy for other parents

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