If you’re a mom in today’s day and age, you’ve no doubt heard about The Wonder Weeks. This book, written by a husband-and-wife team, outlines the 10 “wonder weeks”, or regression stages, that all babies go through in the first 20 months of life. The book outlines when and why each “wonder week” happens; it also offers parents insights into how to help their babies navigate each wonder week, and turn it into a leap forward for baby.
The book is quite interesting, and we’ve heard from many parents that this is in their list of top, must-have baby books (you can see comments from real moms over on the Wonder Weeks Facebook page). Of course, as people who eat, sleep, and breathe baby sleep, we’ve always been most interested in how each of these wonder weeks stages impact a baby’s naps and nighttime sleep.
And we thought it was about time that we shared what we’ve learned about the wonder weeks and sleep with you!
Wonder Weeks Chart: How The Wonder Weeks Affect Baby and Toddler Sleep
|Week||Name||Description||Impact on Sleep|
|5 Weeks||Changing Sensations||Your newborn is “waking up”, becoming more alert, and noticing the world around her. This is understandably overwhelming for newborns!||This is when “the witching hour” usually starts – that period of fussiness from about about 5 – 10 or 11 p.m. Be available to cuddle baby often (wearing baby is a great idea at this time); you may also need to feed more frequently in the evening. Baby may also go through a growth spurt at this time. Finally, keep in mind that this wonder week overlaps a bit with the 6 week peak of fussiness.|
|8-9 Weeks||Patterns||Baby is beginning to recognize and create simple patterns in his world; he’ll practice moving his hands in the same way over and over, or make the same grunting sound again and again.||All this curiosity and alertness can make it hard for baby to settle and fall sleep, so be sure to make your nursery sleep-friendly – it should be dim and quiet. This is also a great time to begin working on simple sleep time routines – start doing the same patterns of events at nap time and bedtime.|
|12 Weeks||Smooth Transitions||Baby’s movements become smoother and more coordinated; baby also begins to recognize changes in her world, and the patterns of these changes (i.e. every time the dryer buzzer goes off, mom leaves the room).||Baby is getting squirmier at this age, and becoming more active – and that can mean changes to your sleep routine. Your baby may start breaking free of the swaddle. Some parents find that baby’s newfound ability to roll interferes with sleep – baby can roll from back to tummy, but not the other way around. Other parents notice that their babies settle into a semi-regular sleeping and feeding schedule at this age.|
|15-19 Weeks||Events||Baby is learning to recognize cause and effect, and to predict outcomes (i.e. ‘If I drop this toy, it will fall to the ground, and dad will come and pick it up’).||Welcome to the 4 month sleep regression! If baby’s sleep was predictable up to this point, it may all fall apart now. Continue to work on building consistent sleep routines; this will help baby learn that certain events mean sleep is coming. You may also want to work on identifying any sleep associations baby may have; that will help with sleep training. There’s also another growth spurt that happens around 4 months.|
|23-26 Weeks||Relationships||Baby begins to perceive distance at this point – the world becomes a much bigger place for her! This may be one reason why many babies begin rolling/crawling at this time.||Separation anxiety may become a problem at nap time and bedtime, since baby now understands that when you leave, you’re far away. This is also a great time to sleep train your baby – work on weaning your baby away from her sleep associations, and on helping her learn to fall asleep independently. Finally, there’s yet another growth spurt that happens around 6 months, for most babies.|
|33-37 Weeks||Categories||Baby is learning that various things can be grouped together – for example, his blocks may all look different, but he recognizes that they are all blocks. Baby also makes big strides in mobility, learning to crawl well, to pull up to standing, and possibly to take assisted steps.||This Wonder Week coincides with the 8/9/10 month sleep regression. Baby’s sleep may be seriously disrupted, thanks to all his new-found mobility. But baby may also begin to experiment with cause and effect at sleep times – ‘If I cry, what will mom do?’ Your baby will quickly pick up on any patterns, so make sure not to create any new sleep associations at this stage. Finally, if baby is still waking to feed at night at this age, we usually recommend an attempt at night-weaning. (Oh, and P.S. – there is (you guessed!) another growth spurt to watch out for, around 9 months.)|
|42-46 Weeks||Sequences||Baby begins recognizing the steps involved in simple tasks, like getting dressed, or making lunch. Baby can also apply this to his own tasks – socks have to go on before shoes.||Routines are so key at this stage; most babies love knowing what comes next, so work to continue strengthening your sleep routines. You may find that your baby goes through the brief 12 month sleep regression around this time, and tries to give up her morning nap; we advise that you stick to two naps for now, as most babies this age can’t manage with just one nap.|
|52-55 Weeks||Programs||Your toddler builds on his understanding of sequences, and starts to learn that there is more than one way (or one “sequence”) to accomplish the same task. This is also when most toddlers start showing strong preferences (i.e. pink socks are great, but green socks are bad).||Welcome to toddlerhood, parents! At this stage, separation anxiety often comes back with a vengeance. You may also start to see some nap time and bedtime resistance at this point, as your toddler is learning to assert his independence and preferences.|
|61-64 Weeks||Principles||This stage is related to the cause-and-effect breakthrough we saw in the 15-19 week stage, only now, your toddler is learning how to use cause-and-effect to achieve her goals. She is also learning that her actions have certain consequences||It’s time to talk about the D-word, parents – discipline. Your toddler is learning fast how you respond to her actions, so be sure that you are sending the right messages with your responses. This is the time to start establishing boundaries and setting limits for your toddler surrounding sleep, and enforcing them. We often tell parents that at this age, sleep problems are rarely sleep problems – they are discipline problems.|
|72-76 Weeks||Systems||Your toddler is capable of understanding larger systems now – for instance, she knows that the procedures and expectations at daycare are different than those at home. Your toddler can also change her behavior and actions to suit different situations, which explains why your toddler may be sweet and helpful for the babysitter, but grumpy and whiny for you (which is not at all uncommon, by the way!).||If it hasn’t already, your toddler’s ‘toddler attitude’ may show itself full-force around this time. Continue to enforce your sleep time boundaries and limits. By 17 or 18 months, tantrums are common. Toddler tantrums at bedtime and nap time are especially frustrating – it’s key that you stand firm during these tantrums. Also, watch for the 18 month sleep regression that happens at about this time; it tends to be one of the toughest.|
(Chart created by The Baby Sleep Site®. All views regarding how the Wonder Weeks impact baby and toddler sleep are ours, and are not taken from The Wonder Weeks book. For full information on each Wonder Week, reference the book itself.)
Whew – that’s a lot of information to take in, isn’t it? If you’re struggling to make sense of all this, remember that you don’t have to make sense of it alone. Check out our Baby Sleep Site resources below, and let us guide you down the path to better baby and toddler sleep!
Baby and Toddler Sleep Resources That Work – Guaranteed!
If you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.
For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
Or, join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!
If you are looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation, and want plenty support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations. Your consultation package will provide you with the chance to interact one-on-one with a trained sleep consultant, who will create a Personalized Sleep Plan™ for your family and then work to help you implement it at home.
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Has your baby gone through the Wonder Weeks stage? How has it affected your baby’s sleep?