Thousands of parents, from regular moms and dads to Hollywood superstars, have come to baby expert Dr. Harvey Karp to learn his remarkable techniques for soothing babies and increasing sleep. Now his landmark book—fully revised and updated with the latest insights into infant sleep, bedsharing, breastfeeding, swaddling, and SIDS risk—can teach you too! Dr. Karp’s highly successful method is based on four revolutionary concepts:
1. The Fourth Trimester: Why babies still yearn for a womblike atmosphere . . . even after birth
2. The Calming Reflex: An “off switch” all babies are born with
3. The 5 S’s: Five easy steps to turn on your baby’s amazing calming reflex
4. The Cuddle Cure: How to combine the 5 S’s to calm even colicky babies
With Dr. Karp’s sensible advice, parents and grandparents, nurses and nannies, will be able to transform even the fussiest infant into the happiest baby on the block!
Praise for The Happiest Baby on the Block
“Dr. Karp’s book is fascinating and will guide new parents for years to come.”—Julius Richmond, M.D., Harvard Medical School, former Surgeon General of the United States
“The Happiest Baby on the Block is fun and convincing. I highly recommend it.”—Elisabeth Bing, co-founder of Lamaze International
“Will fascinate anyone who wants to know how babies experience the world, and wants to answer their cries lovingly and effectively.”—The San Diego Union-Tribune
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Babies: A New Insight
• All babies cry, but most new parents have little experience soothing them.
• The missing fourth trimester: Babies cry because they’re born three months too soon!
• The calming reflex: Nature’s brilliant “off switch” for your baby’s crying.
• The 5 S’s: Five simple steps to imitate the womb and turn on the calming reflex.
• The Cuddle Cure: Comforting your baby with his/her preferred mix of S’s.
Suzanne was freaking out. Her two-month-old, was a nonstop screamer. Sean could cry for hours—even through the night—and his mother was desperately exhausted. One afternoon her sister, Angie, visited to help. As soon as Angie picked Sean up, Suzanne bolted to the bathroom for a hot shower. Twenty-five minutes later, she awoke, curled in a ball on the shower’s blue tile floor being sprayed with ice-cold water.
While this was happening in California, on the plains of Botswana, Nisa nursed her baby, Chuko. Chuko was delicate and small, but she rarely cried for more than a few seconds.
Nisa carried Chuko everywhere in a leather sling. She never worried when Chuko cried, because—having cared for so many little cousins—she knew exactly how to calm her.
Why did Suzanne fail at soothing Sean’s screams? And what secrets did Nisa know that settled Chuko so quickly?
Your Baby Is Born
When perfectly dry, his flesh sweet and pure, he is the most kissable object in nature.
Marion Harland, Common Sense in the Nursery, 1886
If you’re pregnant or have a new baby, congratulations! Having a baby is a wonderful—and wonder-filled—experience that makes us laugh, cry, and stare in amazement . . . all at the same time. It’s a miraculous and profound life event that can make gamblers give up gambling, drug addicts stop getting high, and hard-core bikers buy minivans!
After giving birth, your top jobs for the next few months will be feeding your baby well and calming her cries. After thirty years as a pediatrician, I can tell you that parents who succeed at these tasks feel proud and confident. However, parents who struggle with them feel distraught and incompetent.
Fortunately, baby feeding is usually pretty easy. Most newborns happily gulp down the milk as if you were a five-star restaurant. And if you run into difficulties, there are many places to turn for help. Soothing crying, on the other hand, can be unexpectedly hard.
No couple expects their sweet newborn to be “difficult.” (Your friends may share horror stories about screaming babies, but most of us think, That won’t be my child!) So we’re usually shocked when our little one’s wails go on and on no matter what we do.
Now, I’m not saying crying is bad. In fact, it’s brilliant! Leave it to nature to equip helpless babies with a way to make even the most exhausted mom vault out of a warm bed—on a cold night—and hustle over to meet her little one’s needs.
Once your fusser has your attention, you’ll want to zip through a short checklist:
• If she’s hungry . . . feed her.
• If she’s wet . . . change her diaper.
• If she’s cold . . . bundle her up.
• If she’s hot . . . unwrap her.
• If she’s lonely . . . pick her up.
The trouble comes when none of these steps works.
Fifty percent of babies have bouts of inconsolable fussiness lasting two hours a day—or more. And 10–15 percent—about half a million new babies born each year—suffer three-plus hours of red-faced, eye-clenched screaming a day.
This is why new parents are such heroes!
A baby’s scream is heart-wrenching. And hours of inconsolable crying can trigger a panic of self-doubt: “Is my baby in pain?” “Does she hate me?” “Am I spoiling her?” “Does she feel abandoned?” “Am I a terrible mother?”
Distraught parents are often counseled that there’s no cure for fussy, sleepless babies. They are told they must wait a few months for their baby to “grow out of it.” Yet, it feels like torture to sit by while your baby cries and cries.
Confronted by this barrage, even the most loving parents may get pushed into waves of anxiety, depression, or the tragedies of suicide or child abuse.
Note: I’ve been told that Navy SEALS are trained to endure severe sleep deprivation and hours of infant crying blasted over loud speakers. In other words, the military prepares warriors to handle torture by exposing them to . . . a typical day in the life of a new mom or dad!
Help Wanted: Where Do Parents Turn When Their Baby Cries a Lot?
Today’s moms and dads are among the most educated parents who ever lived. But when it comes to babies, they have less experience than any generation in history! Shockingly, we’re required to have more preparation and training to get a driver’s license than to have a baby.
Of course, regardless of your training you should still expect to be the target of an onslaught of advice. Family, friends—even total strangers—shower us with their counsel. “It’s boredom.” “It’s the heat.” “Put a hat on him.” “It’s gas.” I think America’s favorite pastime isn’t baseball. . . . It’s giving new moms unsolicited advice.
And, advice is something parents of fussy babies definitely need. One in six couples takes their baby to the doctor because of persistent crying. Yet, while thousands of clinics have been created to solve feeding problems, very few are set up to help with screaming babies. In fact, most doctors have little to offer families of colicky babies, other than sympathy. “I know it’s hard, but be patient; it won’t last forever.” Or, even worse, “Just put your baby in a dark room and let her cry. She just needs to blow off steam.” (Hey, babies aren’t pressure cookers.)
Top baby experts usually confess that they have few tools to help really fussy babies:
Very often, you may not even be able to quiet the screaming.
Heidi Eisenberg Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, Sandee E. Hathaway, and Sharon Mazel, What to Expect the First Year
The whole episode goes on at least an hour and perhaps for three or four hours.
Penelope Leach, Your Baby and Child
Crying up to five hours a day is not unusual. When you begin to become very frustrated with a baby’s crying, it is time to set the infant in a safe place and walk away.
Period of PURPLE Crying program
Well, it turns out that these ideas are all obsolete. Screaming does not have to go on for hours. And what’s even more concerning, when left unchecked, nonstop crying can trigger serious problems, like postpartum depression, crib death (from unsafe sleeping practices), and failed breast-feeding.
Of course, if your patience is frayed and you fear you might hurt your child, you must put her down . . . take a break . . . and call a friend for help. But if a mom in the wilds of Africa can calm her baby in under a minute, you can bet that there’s probably a way to help unhappy babies in our culture, too.
The Four Principles of BABY Soothing
Botswanan moms carry their infants in leather sacks twenty-four hours a day (cuddling and bouncing as they walk). They also calm their infants by nursing them fifty to a hundred times a day . . . including all through the night! You may not be ready to adopt the Botswana lifestyle, but the key lesson of their success is that colic is not inevitable. Persistent crying is an unintended side effect of our culture. However, the good news is that, with the right techniques, we, too, can calm most screaming bouts in under one minute.
By teasing out shreds of wisdom from past cultures and weaving them with modern research, I’ve found that the key to calming crying and boosting sleep can be explained through four simple ideas:
• The missing fourth trimester
• The calming reflex
• The 5 S’s
• The Cuddle Cure