What Are Developmental Leaps in Babies

What Are Developmental Leaps in Babies

A look into how cognitive leaps occur throughout infancy.

As your child grows and develops you may notice obvious signs of mental development. These can be referred to as developmental leaps. Babies can start to understand their surroundings, recognize people, understand the cause and effect of actions, and so forth. While some believe that all babies experience the same developmental leap schedule, not all agree. Whether you believe it or not, you should be familiar with the various stages so you can support the development of your baby. As babies go through developmental leaps they may become fussy, resulting in sleep disruptions. Keep reading to learn more about developmental leaps and how to calm your baby as they go through them.

What is a leap in baby development?

Development baby leaps are defined as mental changes that occur in a child at specific ages that affect the way they see the world around them. Examples include responding differently to sensations, recognizing patterns, and understanding changes in his or her environment. These leaps are said to occur within a specific four-week period until the child is about 18 months old.

Are baby development leaps real?

Baby developmental leaps are real. As a baby gets older their mental development leaps through a series. As a parent it’s important to stimulate mental development and pay attention to leaps. The Wonder Weeks, by Dr. Frans X. Plooj is a book that offers the promise of being able to predict and make the most of developmental leaps over the first two years of life. The book inspired a baby advice media empire that includes online courses, apps, and emails. But many researchers have found holes in Plooj’s theory.

Plooj has gone out of his way to protect his theories from questioning. He has even attempted to stop the publication of a study that challenged his work.

Doubters do not deny that baby leaps occur. However, they are not onboard with Plooj’s conjecture that they occur at set times.

They feel that babies develop at their own pace and may hit these milestones at any time. They also believe that some milestones can be hit simultaneously which further diminishes the strength of the theory.

As a parent it’s important to closely monitor the development of your baby, as your baby may develop faster or slower than others.

Are developmental leap timelines accurate?

It depends who you ask. Some argue that timelines can vary depending on the baby. While others such as Plooj believe developmental leaps occur on a timeline.

The biggest argument people have with Plooj’s developmental leaps is that his timeline is not accurate.

Plooj’s Wonder Weeks is meant to provide parents with a sense of control over their baby’s behavior. It provides them with a predictable timeline and makes them aware that there will be periods of fussiness proceeding a developmental leap.

If parents know the baby is fussing due to the coming of a developmental leap, they can promote a calm transition by helping the baby develop the characteristics specific to that stage.

Research that shows that there is no predictable timeline means parents cannot attain that sense of control making Plooj’s theory ineffective. 

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At what ages do babies have leaps?

According to Plooj, developmental leaps for babies occur at the following ages:

  • 4 ½ to 5 ½ weeks: Babies respond to senses differently noticing more about the world around them.
  • 7 ½ to 9 ½ weeks: Babies notice patterns and become familiar with the sensations, people, and things in their world.
  •  11 ½ to 12 ½ weeks: Babies will use their senses to understand things in their environments. It will follow things with its eyes, roll over and begin to develop motor skills.
  •  14 ½ to 19 ½ weeks: Babies will begin understanding cause and effect making them more interactive.
  •  22 ½ to 26 ½ weeks: Babies will understand more about separation and will begin looking for things when they disappear. He or she will also become more mobile.
  • 33 1/2 to 37 ½ weeks: Babies will begin to recognize shapes and colors and will start expressing themselves through social interaction.
  •  41 ½ to 46 ½ weeks: Babies will start comprehending sequences and how basic steps can result in an end product. This will aid with communication and functionality.
  • 50 ¼ to 54 ½ weeks:  Babies will get an even better understanding of sequences making him or her understand that getting dressed means going outside and that playing with toys is followed by cleaning up.
  • 59 ½ to 61 ½ weeks: Babies will develop social skills during this stage engaging more with others, copying their actions, and developing a sense of humor.
  • 70 ½ to 76 ½ weeks: Babies will use emotions to modify behaviors and express them through language, art, and conversation.

How long do leaps last in babies?

Leaps can last for different amounts of time depending on the leap and the baby, but they will generally go on for 3-6 weeks.

Are leaps based on the due date or birth date?

According to Wonder Weeks, developmental leaps are based on the due date of your baby and not the birth date. The theory states that mental development correlates with the age since conception and not the age since birth. So, if you fill in the due date, you will get your leap baby timeline.

Wonder Weeks states that the brain of a baby that’s born three weeks early is not as developed as the brain of a baby that’s full term. That’s why developmental leaps are based on due date and not birth date.

How do I know if my baby is going through a leap?

There are several signs that will tell you your baby is going through a developmental leap. These include:

  • An increase in the 3 Cs: crying, crankiness, and clinginess
  • Unpredictable mood
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in health: Babies going through leaps will be more prone to colds
  • Improvement in skills
  • Fussiness during feeding
  • Separation anxiety

Do developmental leaps affect sleep?

Yes, developmental leaps can affect sleep, and unfortunately, not for the better.

During a leap, a baby may be more resistant to napping and bedtime. They may wake up more often during the night and nap for shorter periods during the day. The exhaustion can soon catch up to the baby and the parents.

Fortunately, there is a way to promote better sleep as your child goes through developmental leaps. Dreamland weighted swaddles and blankets can help calm your baby while aiding them in falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer. Dreamland’s mission is to use the highest quality materials and adhere to stringent safety standards to craft weighted sleep solutions that help babies feel calm, fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Dreamland offers a Weighted Sleep Sack and Weighted Swaddle, both featuring our CoverCalm Technology that evenly distributes weight from your baby’s shoulders to toes to naturally reduce stress and increase relaxation. As your baby goes through developmental leaps they can become fussy as the world around them changes and all they know how to do is well, fuss. Dreamland Baby products can help you and your baby get the sleep you need and deserve.

Do leaps cause early wakings?

Leaps can cause early wakings, but hopefully only temporarily. As your baby grows, there is plenty of change to anticipate, especially regarding sleep schedules.

What is the difference between a growth spurt and a leap?

While unavoidable, it can be helpful to understand the difference between growth spurts and leaps in babies.

Leaps are developmental milestones, while growth spurts involve physical development. Leaps can impact your baby’s sleep patterns, behavior, and mood. Growth spurts can impact your baby’s hunger demand (more frequent feedings) and can also impact sleep patterns. With proper nutrition and exercise, growth spurts should progress on their own. However, leaps may require more support to ensure proper development, so it’s even more important to understand a baby’s developmental timeline.

Here are some examples of developmental milestones (leaps) and physical development milestones (spurts).  

Developmental milestones:

  • Cognitive development
  • Emotional development
  • Motor skills

Physical development: 

  • Height
  • Weight

Are leaps the same as regression?

Regressions and sleep both relate to a baby’s development, but they are not the same. Sleep regressions can occur when a baby goes through a leap (or growth spurt). Sleep regressions can be more unpredictable and occur for many different reasons. Whereas leaps are easier to explain and understand. Within the first two years of life, babies should go through ten leaps. Leaps generally occur on the following timeline:

  • Five weeks
  • Eight weeks
  • Twelve weeks
  • Nineteen weeks
  • Twenty-six weeks
  • Thirty weeks
  • Thirty-seven weeks
  • Forty-six weeks
  • Fifty-five weeks
  • Sixty-four weeks 
  • Seventy-five weeks 

Do all babies get fussy during leaps?

All babies cry occasionally, and most babies go through periods of being fussier than normal. Fussiness can be a sign of a leap. It can also be a sign of sleep regressions and or separation anxiety. As parents, we want to know why our baby is fussy as we try to help calm them, but the reality is, we don’t always know. If your baby is fussier than normal, your Pediatrician may be able to help you draw a conclusion. For babies that are fighting sleep, you may want to try something new. Perhaps a sound machine or weighted sleep sack is the trick that brings you back to dreamland. 

How long does leap fussiness last?

All babies handle leaps differently. While they’re bound to share certain similarities, some may be less bothered than others. Therefore, the duration of leap fussiness can vary, as can the duration of the leap itself. Factors such as age and individual development can influence how long the leap lasts. Commonly, leaps last from a few days to a few weeks. Leap seven usually lasts about four to six weeks. At the end of this long leap, you will hopefully find peace in returning to some normalcy that you may not have experienced in quite some time. You can only hope your baby is less fussy and less clingy after surviving leap number seven. 

Why is Leap 7 so hard?

Babies should go through a series of leaps, which can all come with side effects. After all, going through change is never easy - especially for our little ones who don’t understand what’s happening. Wonder Weeks’ Leap Seven can be an especially hard leap, so you’ll want to know what to expect. It can also be referred to as “The World of Sequences.” If you’ve arrived at leap seven, your baby now hears, smells, feels, and tastes in a new way. Watching them interact more and act more toddler-like right in front of your eyes can be especially exciting. Let this motivate you through the hard days or nights. 

During leap seven, your baby’s feelings become more intense, and they can start to recognize those feelings. Their reaction may be to fight those feelings, which can cause headaches for caregivers and parents. This can mean fighting sleep (both falling asleep and staying asleep). It can also mean more crying or fussiness. 

Leap 7 may be harder for some babies compared to others. Finding ways to calm your baby’s newfound anxieties and feelings can help the leap go smoother. Weighted sleep sacks and blankets (depending on your baby’s age) can help calm your baby naturally to help them fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Shop Dreamland for high-quality weighted sleep aid products that are proven to help babies and parents sleep more. 

Do babies sleep poorly during leaps?

Let’s face it: some babies are not the best sleepers. Leaps or not. However, leaps can interfere with sleep and the quality of sleep. In many instances, leaps can cause a baby to wake more frequently or sleep less. It can also cause them to struggle to fall asleep. Crankiness is commonly associated with leap seven, so prepare yourself for some sleep loss. We all know how important sleep is, so you may already be plotting new tricks to help get your baby to sleep and keep them asleep. Pro tip: Try a weighted sleep sack to survive The Wonder Weeks. The gentle weight is located on the front (or top) of our weighted sleep sack and will not restrict movement. Therefore, your baby can drift off to sleep with a feeling of safety, security (just like a hug), and the ability to safely roll, sit, or stand. Our sleep sack is a dream for parents and babies.

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