4 Must-Read Tips From Dr. Harvey Karp's "Happiest Baby on the Block"
Dr. Harvey Karp shares the most notable advice from his legendary book for new parents, "The Happiest Baby on the Block."
Be warned: when you're a new parent, taking outside advice is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you want (and need!) all the help you can possibly get. On the other, too many different opinions and directions can leave you feeling more vulnerable and insecure. Plus, excessive feedback limits your ability to hone in on your new superpower: parental intuition.
That said, there's a book that keeps making its way around the forum topics of must-reads, and rightfully so. Dr. Harvey Karp's "Happiest Baby on the Block" promises a new way to calm your baby's crying and help her sleep longer. What more could a new parent want? The book, which has sold well over one million copies, aims to transform a crying and colicky baby into one who is carefree, happy, and effortlessly calm.
We sat down with Dr. Karp to discuss some key learnings from his methods.
"As a parent, the most important thing you need to understand is the fourth trimester," Dr. Karp tells parents.com. "You need to be imitating the mother's womb. That right there tells you what you need to do for the first three months of your baby's life."
These 9 points below are the greatest takeaways from the "Happiest Baby on the Block." We recommend reading the book in advance of giving birth (you won't have time after!) and also watching the DVD so that you can have visuals for some of these methods.
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1. There is a fourth trimester. You're just not internally carrying the baby for it. The fourth trimester (the first three months of your baby's life) requires cuddles, cuddles, and more cuddles. The beautiful and peaceful nursery you set up offers absolutely zero comfort for a new baby. "A newborn would definitely want a couple extra months inside your womb if given the option," Dr. Karp says. "Creating an environment that makes your baby feel like he's still in there is the key. You can accomplish this by techniques that I call the 5 S's." According to Dr. Karp, these techniques explained below make a newborn feel like they're back inside the womb and trigger their calming reflex.
2. The rhythm is gonna get you(r baby to calm down). The rhythms that a baby experiences inside of the womb trigger a calming reflex that keeps a baby relaxed. "Consider the calming reflex as an off-switch for crying and an on-switch for sleep," says Dr. Karp. He recalls what he learned from the !Kung, a part of the San tribe in the Kalahari Desert. "The mothers carry and rock their newborn babies all day long," he says." Realizing how calm this made the babies was my a-ha moment for what I've dubbed the 5 S's."
3. Using the 5 S's are essential. Swaddle, Side-Stomach Position, Shush, Swing, and Suck. Rinse. Repeat. We're about to get right into it:
- Swaddle. Swaddling keeps babies snug—just as they were in the womb. When they're swaddled, they're also more responsive to the other S's and stay soothed longer. "All babies are different, so be mindful of that," says Dr. Karp. "But if you're going to do the 5 S's, you have to go all or nothing because if you hit a knee in the right place, you'll get a reflex. If you hit it two inches off, you won't. The same pertains to these techniques." If you think swaddling sounds complicated, Dr. Karp created a blanket that creates the perfect swaddle in 5-seconds.
- Side-Stomach. To calm a fussy baby, never put him on his back. Instead, hold him in your arms so he's laying sideways, or over your shoulder, so he's on his tummy. Of course, this advice is for waking hours. A baby should always sleep on his or her back. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends this position because it reduces the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
- Shush. "Shooshing loudly in a baby's ear may seem completely wrong, but when you understand that it's imitating the sound of the womb, it makes sense," says Dr. Karp. "There's a reason we relax when we listen to the ocean waves, or fall asleep to the loud whooshing noise of an airplane." Dr. Karp explains that the best way to mimic the sounds inside of the womb is with white noise.
- Swing. Use fast-but-tiny motions to soothe a crying baby. "I really recommend watching the DVD to perfect this move," Dr. Karp says.
- Suck. "Fussy babies relax when they suck." Dr. Karp calls sucking the icing on the cake when it comes to calming.
4. Might be time to check out the SNOO. While you won't find information about this genius invention in his book, Dr. Karp's SNOO imitates the womb so babies get what they need all night long. "I'm very proud to say that it's the most awarded baby product in history." The SNOO rocks and shushes babies all night long, but it responds with increased rocking and shushing when they get upset. There's even a special built-in swaddle to keep them on their back in the safest sleeping position. The SNOO is pricey, costing $1,100 to own, but it will be available for monthly rentals directly online beginning January 2019.
American parents aren't those of the !Kung tribe. Work, school, family, and other priorities take away the ability to be 100% focused on our one child for an extended period of time. Implementing these techniques should work to help calm your baby, which in turn calms parents. And we don't have to tell you how important that is for your growing family!