What to expect from the "8 Week Leap"

At 11 weeks, Quinn is now clear of the 8 week developmental leap that effects all babies somewhere between 7.5 and 9.5 weeks after birth. Extensive studies in to baby behaviour have identified a number of key developmental leaps which all babies go through in order to understand their new world and gain the skills needed to thrive within it. Thanks to this research, child behaviourists (and in turn, parents and child carers) are able to identify when, within a matter of weeks, all babies will begin to show signs of further development.
 
One such developmental leap takes place at around 8 weeks and can render even the most contented and happy baby a crying, clingy mess until the isolated fussy stage has passed.

Incidentally, if anyone wonders how to spot a baby with oral thrush - Quinn had a particularly bad bout when this picture was taken as you can see from her tongue - if your baby has that white fuzzy stuff it's worth seeing your pharmacist for treatment.
 
 
Developmental leaps are usually identified by increased demands upon a baby's parents. Babies in the midst of a developmental leap will usually be less content in their own company, crying more, and wanting to be held or carried as much as possible. They'll usually feed more often or for longer periods of time, especially breastfed babies.
 
During the 8 week developmental leap it's common for a baby's sleeping pattern to go straight out of the window - during the leap Quinn was waking for night feeds at around 1:00am, and staying up later in the evenings, typically proving difficult to settle. Now that we're clear of the leap, she's returned to her previous routine of sleeping 8:30pm until 5:00am.
 
Often a baby's behaviour during the 8 week leap can be so at odds with their usual temperament, and so alarming, that parents are convinced that the baby is unwell, and often take them to the doctors or even emergency hospital departments. Obviously if you're ever worried about your baby you should seek appropriate attention, but more often than not, the 8-ish week old baby is  perfectly healthy - just screaming and fretful.
 
I'd recommend every parent download the Wonder Weeks app to their Smartphone, or visit the Wonder Weeks website to keep track of their baby's developmental leaps and prepare themselves for what's to come, the book is also excellent.
 
So what happens during the 8 week leap?

The 8 week leap is defined by the transition your baby goes through from the soft, fuzzy world of the newborn, where everything is in soft focus and they enjoy an existence that, in many ways, mimics their time spent in the womb, to being more sharply aware of their surroundings. During the leap a baby begins to recognise patterns in their environment, and basically, everything that they thought they knew, is thrown out of the proverbial window, and they're thrust in to a new, more overwhelming world where they notice the rows of tin cans on the shelves in the supermarket, or their own fingers, or the changing pitch in your voice as you're speaking to them. The world suddenly becomes both significantly more interesting, and significantly more terrifying, for the baby during this leap.

What will the baby do?

Well, on a positive note, the baby will become more "interactive" as they pick up on these patterns in the world around them. They'll become more interested in their surroundings, more fascinated by faces, they'll become somewhat self aware - realising that their limbs are actually their own, for example. You'll notice your baby making lots of strange, jerky robot moves - these aren't random spasms, but in fact your baby trying to make deliberate movements. Spatial awareness isn't great at this point, so the baby may have the urge to touch your face, but the action may equate to them flinging their arm hastily in completely the opposite direction - so it isn't always obvious exactly what they're trying to achieve! Your baby's head control should improve to allow them to take in more of their surroundings by looking about, and they may become more interested in toys dangling overhead, the sounds your baby makes may also seem more deliberate and more like "chatter" as they gain control of their vocal cords.

There's some bad news too though, this sudden sensory overload, as well as the acquisition of new skills, mean that babies will usually become more difficult as they go through the leap. Most babies cry more, become clingy, feed more often and wake more through the night. This is due to the increased brain activity and also, their need to hang on to the only familiar thing in a world which is suddenly unrecognisable - their Mum. In many cases we're not just talking an unsettled baby - we're talking a distraught and inconsolable baby - so prepare yourself, and try not to panic when it hits. Parents of colic-prone babies may feel that the colic symptoms have come back ten-fold.

What can you do?

Comfort and reassurance is key here. Your baby is bewildered, and probably a little scared, as well as incredibly over stimulated. Now is not the time to "train" your baby in any way, shape or form, cuddles are in order. Increased feeding may well be for "comfort", but this shouldn't be discouraged, if your baby feels soothed by being on the breast, then you can't harm them at all by letter them suckle, although be prepared to lose entire days to this as you may find they scream blue murder when they're removed from the familiarity of their "happy place". (N.B you're not suddenly suffering from a reduced supply of milk, there's nothing wrong with you, and your breastfed baby isn't unsatisfied. The boob is just their favourite place to be, so when times get tough, it's only natural that they want to be there all the time). Bottle fed babies may also demand more food as feeding is a positive experience for them in a world of brand new unfamiliar experiences. A dummy might help if they'll take one. Investing in some overhead toys that babies can look at, such as play gyms, mats with a toy arch overhead, or dangly things to hand from the hood of your pushchair or car seat are great, and keep talking to your baby at every given opportunity. When it's tough, remember that this will pass, all babies go through the same leap at around this time and they still love you!

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for the warning lol this is actually very helpful information

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for the warning lol this is actually very helpful information

    ReplyDelete