When a couple becomes a family, we know that a new journey begins and each phase is a new challenge! They went from an individual life to a couple’s life, and now as a family, responsible for a small being with needs so different from those of the couple. This, due to the baby’s accelerated development and because of the natural path of life. Just like a video game, we are always moving up to the next phase, always with new challenges and new goals to conquer. In the early years of your baby’s life it is no different. According to scientist Frans X Plooji, children have their brains developed rapidly, about 80% by the age of three, and 90% by the age of five. In the first year, we become familiar with the famous leaps in development, which you may have heard of. Some of them are more noticeable than others, as the child tends to change their behaviors, get out of their sleep routine and, consequently, becomes more irritated.
The eight-month development leap
We have already talked about the four-month development leap, which results in a regression of sleep, but it does not stop there. When the baby is around eight months, there is, usually, another leap due to so many learnings that take place in this phase. It can happen that the baby, who before was receptive and calm, suddenly starts to cry for everything and becomes quite fussy and “opinionated”. The leap in the development of eight months usually happens between 26 and 37 weeks of age; this is one of the leaps that Plooij named “Wonder Weeks”.
How do I know if my child is in the eight-month leap phase?
This is characterized by the separation anxiety of the mother with the baby, as the baby starts to be more mobile, gaining more autonomy and begins to be afraid of strangers. It is at this stage that they begin to notice and really recognize individuals apart from themselves and understand that we are all different people, from different places. This separation is part of the child’s mental development, so they begin to recognize, too, who is always with them in their daily life and who is a stranger.
This phase is very important for the construction of the child’s autonomy, since they are also, in most parts, crawling, scooting, maybe even cruising; however, changes tend to come with fears and insecurities, especially when you are a being with few defenses and you don’t have your mother around the whole time. Imagine how tense it is for a baby who is relatively new in this world, who did not even notice much difference between environments, but suddenly, being in the middle of strange people without their mother? Minutes without having their favorite person around, will seem like days to them.
Obviously, the intensity of the developmental leap will vary from child to child and your child may not even go through it at this extent. It all depends on their personality, temperament, and the environment around them. Some children may be sulky and irritable, crying for any reason. Others can deal with these changes more calmly, sometimes just a brief change in their sleep routine, to the point that parents don’t even notice.
How to give your baby the necessary support at this stage?
If you identified something different in your little one around this age, you need to help them go through this phase by being reassuring, so that they can overcome their fears in the best way. And no one is better than mom, dad, or caregiver to calm the child. Of course, the entire support network can and should support, giving the necessary attention and support that the little one needs.
Stay calm so you can help him
Unfortunately, your baby may actually look agonized and distressed, but you need to make it clear that you are there, close to them, and that they are safe. They need to feel loved and comforted. Give all the cuddles and snuggles. Be affectionate, give attention, be really present, with quality time. Do not skimp on affection.
Never leave without saying goodbye to your child
It is very important whenever you go out, say goodbye to your little one. Don’t leave without talking to them, ever! In my teaching years, I would beg parents not to create this awful habit of sneaking out when their kids turned their back to them. I know it may seem “easier,” to sneak out, but this attitude only serves to feed the child’s insecurity. Okay, well, we know they will probably cry, they will be sad when you leave. But it is important for them to know that you have told them about you being away for a few hours, so that they don’t feel abandoned. And most importantly, don’t lose trust in you. Tell them that you’ll be back in a few hours. That you always come back!
Play hide and seek with your baby
Playtime in general helps children process their feelings. During this stage in which the baby is starting to explore their autonomy, one way to help them is with peek-a-boo games. You can hide in a room or behind a wall and reappear after a few seconds. It is a way to help them understand that your absence will be just for a short time. And babies love these games, so they will get used to little absences which will then help them manage better the longer ones.