Book review for new parents: The Wonder Weeks

by Whitney Moss on May 24, 2013

in Books,First Year,Geeky,Lists and numbers

When we posted a list of 9 books for new moms and dads, I left out a book recommended by New Jersey reader Rebecca Cain, The Wonder Weeks because I had never heard of it and wanted to learn more. I asked Rebecca to tell me more about the book and she’s done us all the favor of providing a great summary. Here’s what she said:

In my previous corporate life, I thrived on calendars and schedules, project plans and milestone-delineated goals. I thought parenting would have at least some similarities –read the how-to, lay out the timeline, execute, goal achieved. (You’re laughing derisively now, as you should be.) Since my husband frequently travels internationally for work, for weeks at a time, I outsourced much of our prenatal reading to him since he’d otherwise be struggling to decipher foreign language newscasts. He was great at summarizing the 5 things that we absolutely must do –or avoid doing – to ensure our impeding addition would be happy, healthy, sleeping, performing calculus in her head, etc. Only, our kid rarely fit the descriptions we’d crib-noted, or her temperament just didn’t lend itself to their prescriptions. A few weeks in, I understood the roller coaster called “newborn” I’d just boarded didn’t come with a calendar function.

I wish instead I’d had my husband read The Wonder Weeks: How to stimulate your baby’s mental development and help him turn his 10 predictable, great, fussy phases into magical leaps forward, as I believe that armed with the insight of this piece I would have been more confident as a new parent, and more curious, rather than anxious, about how my new baby was experiencing the world. And, I would have had one of those project plans (at least in broad brush strokes) I used to love so much when life could be cleanly displayed in Excel (wistful sigh).

Based on 35 years of research by Dutch husband-and-wife academic team Hetty van de Rijt and Frans Plooij, The Wonder Weeks offers age-based baby behavior insight focused on 10 distinct developmental “leaps” from birth through 20 months. In addition to laying out when (as in, which weeks, by gestational age) you can expect your baby to be most difficult, they also present diary entries from 15 families at each leap, and offer optimism that the “wonder week” will end with positive growth for your child. Quite frankly, it’s the closest thing to a crystal-ball-for-parents I’ve seen.

A mom with a slightly older baby suggested The Wonder Weeks book to me when I was at my wit’s end with a clingy, crying, non-sleeping, 8-week-old, wondering if my previously lovely baby had undergone a complete personality change. “Oh, that’s a Wonder Week,” she said, almost off-handedly. “There’s another one soon. Get the book, there’s a calendar.”

A calendar?!

Skeptical of the book’s predictive power, so I first signed up for the free alarm service, which promised to alert me by email to the next leap a few days before it should commence. A few weeks later I received my first alert; two days after that she was well into the next leap, with its associated clinginess, crying, and crankiness (the “three C’s”).

Convinced, I bought the app ($1.99 for iOS and Android) and the full e-book ($12.99 on your iOS device). You can also purchase individual chapters for only the ages you want; since the Wonder Weeks are timed according to a baby’s due date rather than birth date, I’ve found the timer and the app really helpful too, since they do the math for me.

wonder-weeks-app

According to the authors:

we found that, surprisingly, all normal, healthy babies are more tearful, troublesome, demanding, and fussy at the same ages … From our research, we are now able to predict, almost to the week, when parents can expect their babies to go through of these ‘fussy phases.’…During these periods, a baby cries for a good reason … [this] is a book on how to understand and cope with your baby when he is difficult and how to enjoy him most as he grows.

In addition to plotting out when you can more or less expect Junior to be more challenging than usual, in each chapter van de Rijt and Plooij outline the behavioral signals of the upcoming leap, and the new abilities your baby will start to exhibit afterwards. They also offer ideas on how to engage these specific emerging abilities, so that playtime helps baby make better sense out of what’s going on in his brain. To help you later remember these blurry but beautiful times, the book provides a diary for you to record your own child’s progress through the leaps. Overall, they present a cheerful and upbeat approach to understanding your baby, with little of the “heed us or else” tone I’ve noticed in many other parenting books.

Talk-about-The-Wonder-WeeksBeyond the peek into the future and the modicum of forward-planning it affords my otherwise anything-can-happen-with-a-baby life, I appreciate the positive support and “light at the end of the tunnel” The Wonder Weeks offers for each of the leaps. You feel like the authors are actually looking out for you and for your baby, and really just want you both to have the happiest experience you can. When I receive the “leap alert,” I remind myself to be more patient, more understanding, that my daughter is going through a confusing time and that’s why she’s crying/cranky/clingy – and, most importantly, it won’t last forever. The calendar says so.

You can find a hard-copy of The Wonder Weeks on Amazon (easier to share with your partner), a Kindle version (half the price), or purchase individual chapters on the authors’ website.

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RookieMoms.com co-founder Whitney lives with her husband, son, and daughter in the San Francisco Bay Area where she writes about parenting, crafts, and activities that moms can do with babies in tow. She and Heather also publish 510Families.com, a site for East Bay parents and are the authors of The Rookie Mom's Handbook and Stuff Every Mom Should Know.

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