Wednesday 30 April 2014

Special guest interview - Xaviera Plas Plooj from The Wonder Weeks

I've been given the fantastic opportunity to speak to some of the biggest and best experts in the baby field, thanks to Dorel UK - the makers of Maxi-Cosi and Quinny strollers - who will soon be unveiling something rather exciting at The Baby Show, Birmingham NEC, in just a couple of weeks' time.

In the first of three exclusive expert interviews, I've had the pleasure of speaking with Xaviera Plas Plooj from the best-selling book and app The Wonder Weeks. I've enjoyed using this app ever since Ethan was born and was keen to ask Xaviera about the popularity of The Wonder Weeks and whether they feel there's enough support out there for new mums and dads...

How difficult was it to summarize everything that can happen to a child in the first 20 months of their life into one book?

That would be impossible do so we focused on providing a list of examples and we tried to show how much variety there is. Some babies are trying to master the more visible skills like crawling or walking. We parents love to see these new skills. But…. what about the baby that doesn't crawl yet, but is ‘only’ busy touching or feeling the rim of something? These babies are actually doing mind-blowing brain-related work! They are experiencing gravity and playing with it. 

By showing parents what a baby perceives and what type of things a baby can discover, we hope to empower parents to observe and discover all the incredible things their baby does. We don’t make a definitive list of what their baby will definitely do; we can only point them in the right direction. The thing is, if you know where to look and what you are looking for as a parent, you see things you would normally not see.

This is so true! Ethan is still toying with the idea of crawling but just can't seem to figure out how to move forward on his knees. But there's lots of other things he can do so we need to appreciate that he may develop differently and there's nothing to worry about.

Why do you think the book and app have proved so popular with parents?

We’re all used to hearing the old sayings like ‘oh, it’s cramps’, or ‘he must be teething’ but as parents, we often know it's not the case and we've had enough of hearing such comments.  Our app and book are so popular because we show people the real reason why their baby is fussy, not sleeping or crying a lot. Our research has proven that it’s not the parents fault (so don’t feel like you're doing something wrong), it’s not your baby (thank goodness), it's just normal, and can even be a sign of good development. The Wonder Weeks aims to give parents confidence as it's based on pure research.

Do you think parents have enough resources / support available to help them understand the stages of their child's development?

No, I don’t! Our book and app are there and they give enough information on the first two years of life. But hey, parenting doesn't stop there! I've always wondered why nobody got up and researched the years from two onwards so thankfully parents now have The Wonder Weeks to help.

What's the most common concern / question parents ask?

Parents still always wonder if it’s just a ‘wonder week’ or if something more is going on. So I get a lot of emails everyday with these concerns. It's impossible to answer them all unfortunately and for medical diagnoses, a doctor is best placed to advise. I can however say that it is almost always ‘just’ a wonder week. I'm just very glad that more and more doctors now ‘diagnose’ wonder weeks and reassure parents it will pass.

Do you think mums can worry too much about the development of their child? Is there a lot of competitiveness / comparisons made do you think?

Worrying too much… yes and no. A baby is the most precious ‘thing’ ever, so it’s logical and normal that you would always want the best for your baby. That (impossible I may add) strive for perfection is what keeps us sharp as a parent. This impossible quest to perform at your best level of parenting can impact on your life in a negative way. 

Now, as for the competing, that is a totally different thing. We at The Wonder Weeks make quite a huge deal of not judging, not saying how to do something, but when it comes to competitiveness and comparisons, we make an exception. STOP DOING THAT. It’s no good for you, no good for your baby and from experience I can say that over 90% of these 'my-child-is-better-developed-and-much-faster-than-yours' discussions are rubbish. It’s always someone who only looks at motoric skills or the pure schoolish cognitive skills. 

Well, I shall let you in on a little secret: we all learn to walk at one point! But remember that baby I was telling about in the beginning, playing with the rim of something? He became a brilliant doctor in physics. Bet you his mum had to hear a zillion times her baby was dumb, as he didn't walk until later on! The thing is, his brain was just too busy for walking, and he was using it for something else.

Thank you Xaviera! Very inspiring words - who knows what the quiet child playing in the corner may become? We all learn things at different times and have different strengths. Here's to giving our babies time to grow at their own pace.

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