The reason for fussy phases
For the past 35 years, we have studied the development of babies and the way mothers and other caregivers respond to their changes. Our research was done in homes, where we observed the daily activities of mothers and children. We gleaned further information from more formal interviews. Our research has shown that from time to time all parents are plagued by a baby who won’t stop crying. In fact, we found that, surprisingly, all normal, healthy babies are more tearful, troublesome, demanding, and fussy at the same ages, and when this occurs they may drive the entire household to despair. From our research, we are now able to predict, almost to the week, when parents can expect their babies to go through one of these “fussy phases.” During these periods, a baby cries for a good reason. She is suddenly undergoing drastic changes in her development, which are upsetting to her. These changes enable the baby to learn many new skills and should therefore be a reason for celebration. After all, it’s a sign that she is making wonderful progress. But as far as the baby is concerned, these changes are bewildering. She’s taken aback—everything has changed overnight. It is as if she has entered a whole new world. It is well known that a child’s physical development progresses in what we commonly call “growth spurts.” A baby may not grow at all for some time, but then she’ll grow a quarter inch in just one night. Research has shown that essentially the same thing happens in a child’s mental development. Neurological studies have shown that there are times when major, dramatic changes take place in the brains of children younger than 20 months. Shortly after each of them, there is a parallel leap forward in mental development. This book focuses on the ten major leaps that every baby takes in her first 20 months of life. It tells you what each of these developments mean for your baby’s understanding of the world about her and how she uses this understanding to develop the new skills that she needs at each stage in her development.
How the book helps you
Parents can use this understanding of their baby’s developmental leaps to help them through these often confusing times in their new lives. You will better understand the way your baby is thinking and why he acts as he does at certain times. You will be able to choose the right kind of help to give him when he needs it and the right kind of environment to help him make the most of every leap in his development.
This is not a book about how to make your child into a genius, however. We firmly believe that every child is unique and intelligent in his own way. It 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. It is about the joys and sorrows of growing with your baby.
All that’s required to use this book is:
- One (or two) loving parent(s)
- One active, vocal, growing baby
- A willingness to grow along with your baby
How to use this book
This book grows with your baby. You can compare your experiences with those of other mothers during all stages of your baby’s development. Over the years, we’ve asked many mothers of new babies to keep records of their babies’ progress and also to record their thoughts and feelings as well as observations of their babies’ behaviour from day to day. The diaries we’ve included in this book are a sample of these, based on the weekly reports of mothers of 15 babies—eight girls and seven boys. We hope you will feel that your baby is growing alongside those in our study group and that you can relate your observations of your baby to those of other mothers.
However, this book is not just for reading. Each section offers you the opportunity to record the details of your baby’s progress. By the time a baby has grown into middle childhood, many mothers yearn to recall all of the events and emotions of those first all-important years. Some mothers keep diaries, but most mothers—who are not particularly fond of writing or who simply lack the time—are convinced they will remember the milestones and even the minor details in their babies’ lives. Unfortunately, later on these mothers end up deeply regretting the fact that their memories faded faster than they could ever have imagined. You can keep a personal record of your baby’s interests and progress in the “My Diary” sections provided throughout this book. They offer space for you to record your thoughts and comments on your child’s growth and budding personality, so that you can easily turn this book into a diary of the development of your baby. Often, a few key phrases are enough to bring memories flooding back later on. The next chapter, “Growing Up: How Your Baby Does It” explains some of the research on which this book is based and how it applies to your baby. You will learn how your baby grows by making “leaps” in her mental development and how these are preceded by stormy periods when you can expect her to be fussy, cranky, or temperamental. “Chapter 2: Newborn: Welcome to the World” describes what a newborn’s world is like and how she perceives the new sensations that surround her. You will learn how nature has equipped her to deal with the challenges of life and how important physical contact is to her future development. These facts will help you get to know your new baby, to learn about her wants and needs, and to understand what she is experiencing when she takes the first leap forward. Subsequent chapters discuss the Wonder Weeks—the ten big changes your baby undergoes in the first 20 months of life, at around 5,8, 12, 19, 26, 37, 46, 55, 64 and 75 weeks. Each chapter tells you the signs that will let you know that a major leap is occurring. Then they explain the new perceptual changes your baby experiences at this time and how your baby will make use of them in his development.
Each leap is discussed in a separate chapter, consisting of four sections:
“This Week’s Fussy Signs” describes the clues that your baby is about to make a developmental leap. Reflections from other mothers about their babies’ troublesome times offer sympathetic support as you endure your baby’s stormy periods. In this section, you’ll also find a diary section titled “Signs My Baby Is Growing Again.” Check off the signs you’ve noticed that indicate your baby is about to experience a big change. “The Magical Leap Forward” discusses the new abilities your baby will acquire during the current leap. In each case it’s like a new world opening up, full of observations she can make and skills she can acquire. In this section, you will find a diary section, “How My Baby Explores the New World,” which lists the skills that babies can develop once they have made this developmental leap. As you check off your baby’s skills on the lists, remember that no baby will do everything listed. Your baby may exhibit only a few of the listed skills at this time, and you may not see other skills until weeks or months later. How much your baby does is not important—your baby will choose the skills best suited to her at this time. Tastes differ, even among babies! As you mark or highlight your own baby’s preferences, you will discover what makes your baby unique. “What You Can Do to Help” gives you suggestions for games, activities, and toys appropriate to each stage of development which will increase your baby’s awareness and satisfaction—and enhance your playtime together. “After the Leap” lets you know when you can expect your baby to become more independent and cheerful again. This is likely to be a delightful time for parents and babies, when both can appreciate the newly acquired skills that equip the baby to learn about and enjoy her world. This book is designed to be picked up at any point in your baby’s first year when you feel you need help understanding her current stage of development. You do not have to read it from cover to cover. If your baby is a little older, you can skip the earlier chapters.
What this book offers you
We hope that you will use this knowledge of your child’s developmental leaps to understand what he is going through, help him through the difficult times, and encourage him as he takes on the momentous task of growing into a toddler. Also, we hope that this book helps provide the following:
- Support in times of trouble. During the times that you have to cope with crying problems, it helps to know that you are not alone, that there is a reason for the crying, and that a fussy period never lasts more than a few weeks, and sometimes no longer than several days. This book tells you what other mothers experienced when their babies were the same age as yours. You will learn that all mothers struggle with feelings of anxiety, aggravation, and a whole range of other emotions. You will come to understand that these feelings are all part of the process, and that they will help your baby progress.
- Self-confidence. You will learn that you are capable of sensing your baby’s needs better than anyone else. You are the expert, the leading authority on your baby.
- Help in understanding your baby. This book will tell you what your baby endures during each fussy phase. It explains that he will be difficult when he’s on the verge of learning new skills, as the changes to his nervous system start to upset him. Once you understand this, you will be less concerned about and less resentful of his behaviour. This knowledge will also give you more peace of mind and help you to help him through each of these fussy periods.
- Hints on how to help your baby play and learn. After each fussy period, your baby will be able to learn new skills. He will learn faster, more easily, and with more pleasure if you help him. This book will give you insight into what is preoccupying him at each age. On top of that, we supply a range of ideas for different games, activities, and toys so that you can choose those best suited to your baby.
- A unique account of your baby’s development. You can track your baby’s fussy phases and progress throughout the book and supplement it with your own notes, so that it charts your baby’s progress during the first 20 months of his life.
We hope that you will use this knowledge of your child’s developmental leaps to understand what he is going through, help him through the difficult times, and encourage him as he takes on the momentous task of growing into a toddler. Also, we hope you will be able to share with him the joys and challenges of growing up. Most of all, we hope you will gain peace of mind and confidence in your ability to bring up your baby. We hope this book will be a reliable friend and an indispensable guide in the crucial first year of your baby’s life.
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