Like most new parents, when my husband and I first took our baby home from hospital we felt completely bewildered. We’d been given a tiny little person and were now completely responsible for his safety and happiness. Where on earth were we to begin?
The first few days and nights were a blur – struggling to understand what he wanted when he cried, what he liked and didn’t, when we should be changing or feeding him. Everyone we spoke to and every book we read had a completely different theory. It was utterly exhausting, but we quickly learnt to trust our instincts. By the fourth week we felt like we were getting the hang of it, our little one seemed relatively content and had fallen into a natural pattern of sleeping, feeding and filling his nappy with reassuring regularity. All seemed well in the world. “Look at us!” we’d think, “We know what we’re doing!”
Then one day, EVERYTHING changed. First, he woke up three hours earlier than expected and, instead of smacking his lips for milk as he had every night previously, he screamed so loudly I thought the whole street would hear. I found myself standing shellshocked at the bottom of his Moses basket thinking “You’re not meant to be awake yet! What’s wrong? And what do we do now?”
Over the next three or four days things got increasingly worse. He’d wake up to 8 times a night and was often inconsolable. None of the things that had soothed him so effectively before seemed to make any difference at all and we were back to square one. He seemed to cry all the time and became permanently fussy, refusing to be put down for even a second. There were times when I could have sworn that my baby had been abducted by aliens. I begun to panic that there was something “wrong” with my baby – maybe he was ill or maybe we were just destined to have a miserable child.
Then, a week or so later, as quickly as it had arrived, the grey clouds lifted. Our contented little boy reappeared, but now he seemed so much more alert and aware of what was going on around him.
When I remarked on this to a fellow mummy, she suggested with a knowing smile that I should read The Wonder Weeks book. Although reluctant to buy yet another ‘baby handbook’, she reassured me that it wasn’t designed to provide parenting advice, but an insight into babies’ development.
Trusting her judgment I bought the book and started to read about the different ‘leaps’ in mental development that all babies take. According to the authors, each baby experiences these at approximately the same age. What’s more, as the baby struggles to make sense of the new skills they are acquiring, these periods tend to be accompanied by what the book refers to as “the three Cs: clinginess, crankiness and crying”. Suddenly it all made sense. It was as if the book had been written about my baby. There was nothing wrong with him, in fact what we’d experienced was perfectly normal.
As he continued to grow, future developmental leaps detailed in the book came and went and my little one exhibited the three Cs with alarming accuracy. But instead of being worried, we were reassured by the book each time that this was a sign that he was making great progress, and that it would pass in time. Although the pain of the hourly wake-up calls and exhaustion caused by a fussy and demanding baby was still acute, the book and the app that accompanied it really helped to provide an understanding of the changes he was going through, how he was developing and, most importantly for me, an idea of how soon it would end! The book quickly became our lifeline. The reassuring passages written by other mums who’d experienced what we were going through, together with the checklists of the skills our little one was developing, really saved our sanity.
The tiny little baby that caused us all that stress and worry is now a happy go lucky three and a half year old. He now has a baby brother who is showing the three C’s with gusto as he enters the fourth (and in my opinion, most vicious) leap but, armed with the book and the app, this time I feel maybe we do know what we’re doing.
– Lisa Clark