There are moments in your parenting journey you never forget. One of mine looks like this: I’m sitting on the floor in my living room. My infant son is next to me on his playmat, absolutely wailing. I’m frantically googling “6-week-old won’t stop crying.” I remember feeling lost and confused. Up until week 6 he had been so “easy”—was this sudden change in demeanor “normal?” Was it colic? Was it just his personality? Thankfully, I had my answer in minutes.
It didn’t take long to discover (thanks to a number of sources) that growth spurts are very common at that age and can cause fussiness (cue enormous sigh of relief), but what’s more, “mental leaps” are common too. OK, I thought, what are mental leaps? Thankfully The Wonder Weeks was there to give me all the details.
What Are Baby’s ‘Mental Leaps?’
According to The Wonder Weeks—a bestselling book and popular mobile app—babies’ cognitive development follows a predictable timeline. During the first 20 months of their life, each baby will experience 10 separate leaps. After each leap, the baby will demonstrate new skills as their mental development progresses. While the prospect of watching your baby learn new skills is really exciting (from learning to babble in leap four to understanding the flow of events and relationships in leap seven), the temporary side effect that leaps have on a baby’s disposition is less so. The Wonder Weeks website says it best:
With each leap comes a drastic change in your baby’s mental development, which affects not only his mood, but also his health, intelligence, sleeping patterns, and the ‘three C’s’ (crying, clinging, and crankiness).
In other words, if your near-angelic infant is suddenly a wild beast set on avoiding sleep and keeping you glued to their side, they’re probably in the throes of a leap.
Having found a reasonable explanation for my problem on that fateful day, I quickly downloaded The Wonder Weeks app. Upon doing so, I was happy to discover that it only took a few minutes to get the app set up and customized to my child. Truly, the only thing required was filling in my son’s due date (which is a more accurate way to track leaps versus actual birthdate).
From that moment on, The Wonder Weeks became one of my most-used phone apps. I used it to navigate the first 20 months of my son’s life and I’m currently using it with my second child, who’s nearing 3 months old.
How The Wonder Weeks App Works
After filling in your child’s due date, the app generates a leap chart that specifically illustrates your child’s leaps. Color-coded in yellow and green, the calendar very clearly outlines when your child will be on the fussy side and when they’ll be “the sunshine in the house.”
You can use the app to not only track your child’s leaps but also to record the signals they demonstrate and the skills they begin to show off with each leap, if you choose. The app also contains a helpful overview on what leaps are, as well as a detailed description of each. Each leap description provides users with “playtime” prompts which can help you and your baby get the most out of each leap. Also included is information to help you imagine and “experience” what each leap must be like for your baby.
And for those who prefer a more analog experience, there’s also a book:
The Wonder Weeks: A Stress-Free Guide to Your Baby's Behavior
My Experience With The Wonder Weeks App
My experience with this app has been overwhelmingly positive; I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s changed my life for the better. Here’s how.
It’s Made Me a Calmer Parent
I can’t emphasize it enough: The information presented by this app has made me a calmer, more self-assured parent. So often in parenthood, as soon as you start to feel comfortable with a particular age or stage, the universe throws you a curveball. I came to learn very quickly that, when dealing with babies, those curveballs are almost always leap-related. Once I knew more about leaps and had the app to refer to, I stopped doubting myself so much. It was no longer, “Ugh! Why isn’t he taking his nap? What’s wrong?” Instead, it was, “Oh, yep, he’s entering a new leap this week. Everyone will probably be a little more tired for the next few days, but I’m excited to see his progress when the leap is over.” As the saying goes, knowledge is power. In parenthood, that power comes in the form of confidence and calm.
It Helps Me Plan Better
Once my husband and I caught on to leaps and the impact they can have on a baby’s mood, we quickly started considering the leap chart when making plans. Looking to book several vacations the year my son was born, we actually consulted his leap chart before reserving our Airbnbs. And I’m so glad we did! Instead of toting a crying, clingy baby around on our trips, we were able to share our travel experiences with him when he was his best, happiest self.
Knowing when my children’s leaps will happen has also helped me to adjust my expectations on various holidays and events. If I know my child will be “leaping” on a day when we have plans outside the home, then I also know that those plans are subject (in other words, likely) to change.
It Helps Me Understand My Children Better
It’s hard to put yourself in the tiny, adorable shoes of a baby—but this application makes it easier. By reading about each leap as my children are going through it, I can start to understand how their behavior is a direct result of how their perception of the world is changing. Knowing exactly how they’re feeling helps me feel even closer to them and empowers me, as their mother, to be a support system as they adjust to their new skills and ways of perceiving the world.
It Helps Me Get the Most Out of My Time With My Babies
Sometimes, time spent with babies can start to feel monotonous. I know I personally used to question whether I giving them exactly what they needed at any given moment. One thing I appreciate about The Wonder Weeks app is the baby playtime prompts provided for each leap. My daughter is currently 12 weeks old, and I’ve been enjoying playing the suggested “games” with her as a way to help her get the most out of each leap. It makes me feel like I’m giving her exactly what she needs regarding both entertainment and cognitive stimulation as she develops.
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A Few Things To Be Mindful Of
While my experience with the app has been almost entirely positive, there are—as with basically any app, IMHO—a few hiccups to be mindful of.
Leap Timing May Not Be To-The-Day
Having used the app with two different children now, I can say that the leaps are rarely spot-on to the day. For example, my son almost always entered his leaps early, and my daughter is currently following the same pattern. However, while the timing isn’t always exact, it’s usually pretty darn close. This has never bothered me, but it’s worth noting that the leaps may begin or end slightly sooner or later than expected.
It’s Not the Fanciest App on the Market
The only other downside to the app is that, truthfully, it’s not always the easiest to navigate. The design is clunky and it can sometimes be difficult to find what you’re looking for. That being said, I’ve been using the app for two years now and have noticed improvements during that time. This gives me hope that The Wonder Weeks will continue to refine the app’s design.
While this app may not be perfect, I still believe it to be an invaluable tool for parents with babies at home. Using it helped me better understand my children and, as a result, boosted my confidence as a mother and provided me with a much-desired sense of calm pertaining to their changing moods and behaviors. If you have an infant at home, I highly encourage you to download it straight away—I think you’ll find it’s more than worth the real estate on your phone.