How to stimulate your baby’s mental development and help him turn these 10 predictable, great, fussy phases into magical leaps forward
Meg, (27) currently on maternity leave from teaching preschool/primary school and spending my days with my 9-month-old baby girl Amelie. I live near the beach with my beautiful daughter and darling husband Daniel (27)
According to the society in which we live, custom dictates that the foremost question you should ask new parents (or anyone related to an infant) is ‘are they a good baby?’.
Before I was a parent I don’t know that I ever asked anyone this exact question but having worked with babies and small children for years it definitely occurred to me that this was a rather pointless question (rather in the same category as bringing up the weather).
I created a human
When my daughter was born I suddenly began to hear this question constantly. ‘A little girl! Is she a good baby?’ people would inevitably ask. I was so proud of my tiny little bundle of baby and full of a sense of self-importance because I had created a human! A teeny, tiny, PERFECT human! ‘Such a good baby!’ I would reply enthusiastically, without elaborating on exactly how she was a ‘good’ baby as opposed to a ‘bad’ baby.
Babies are babies
As the new-born fog began to really set in and sleep started to become an obsession, my eager demeanour faltered somewhat and I found myself wanting to snap out ‘Good? I hadn’t really thought about it, but now that you mention it, this child’s been living in my house for nearly two weeks and not once have I seen her pick up after herself! She leaves her bunny rugs and booties everywhere, never bothers to wash a bottle and she is just so disobedient! Last night I told her it was bed time and she didn’t go to sleep for three whole hours!’. In my more sleep deprived days I was more inclined to just deadpan ‘No, she’s a bad baby.’
The idea that babies could be somehow good or bad seemed ludicrous to me from the start. In my mind, babies were babies who behaved like the tiny, developing little humans they were. However, for the first few weeks, my daughter was what you would classify as a ‘good’ baby. She slept a lot, cried a little and was generally quite peaceful. She was also three weeks early so this uneventful stage stretched a little longer than for others.
Then one day everything changed. My perfect child had started to become unsettled. She started to cry inconsolably every time she was put down for a nap. She was only happy if she was being held and cuddled. Bedtime was horrendous! My life turned into a blur of crying (both of us), refusal to sleep (her) and despair (me).
When I heard about leaps
One afternoon, at a mother’s group meeting someone mentioned the ‘leap’ their baby was currently going through. What is a leap? I asked. I was too tired to focus on the flurry of explanation that followed but I did remember the words ‘Wonder Weeks’, ‘download app’, ‘explains everything’. I promptly went home and downloaded the Wonder Weeks app. What I learnt about the phases of a baby’s mental development fascinated me and, much to my relief, I discovered that my daughter was on the last day of her first ever leap. All of a sudden, the crying and clinginess made sense! My daughter wasn’t a ‘bad’ baby! She was developing her little mind!
From that point on I began to see my daughter’s behaviour differently. More than ever the concept of a baby being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ seemed like something out of a comedy sketch. How could a child with no concept of right and wrong be either ‘good’ or ‘bad’?!
My daughter is now in the middle of Leap 6 but that first leap still stands out in my mind because as a confused novice parent I had actually begun to wonder if a baby could misbehave and, if so, was I the mother of a *gasp* ‘bad’ baby?!