Book Review: The Happiest Baby On the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp

Parenthood has been filled with conflicting information for a researcher like me. Attachment Parents versus the Ferber Method. Pacifiers, no pacifiers.  Crib sleeping versus co-sleeping. Internet arguments abound.

If there is one thing I would recommend to any parent regardless of their parental leanings, it's The Happiest Baby on the Block.

When DH and I attended the Childcare Basics Class, the most valuable thing to come out of the entire experience, with the exception of maybe DH's phenomenal swaddling skills, was learning the 5 Ss.

Dr. Karp has come up with an effective 5 step method to calm a crying baby whose other needs have already been met, otherwise labeled as colicky babies.  Now, BB doesn't have colic but the 5 Ss did help tremendously in the first couple of days of BB's life when he would cry despite being fed with a dry diaper and well rested.

He explains that many babies experience their first few months as a fourth trimester where they still need to comforts of the womb while they adjust to life and learn more than the basic instincts they're born with.

Swaddling: Babies are used to cramped quarters and enjoy the security of swaddling.  It also inhibits the Moro reflex (that falling feeling you get when you sleep) which can be kept in check if their arms are prevented from jerking around. Dr. Karp explains that though swaddling alone might not calm a screaming baby (in fact, some babies continue to wail when swaddled), it puts them into a setting where they can pay enough attention for the following 4 Ss to take effect.

Below is a video featuring Dr. Karp's swaddling technique.

Side or Stomach Position: Babies in the womb are not sitting upright.  Nor are they laying flat on their back (which triggers the feeling of falling for them).  They find a side lying position or a stomach position more comforting.

Shushing: Contrary to popular belief, silence is not pleasant for babies.  In the womb, they are surrounded by the sound of rushing blood at a very loud level.  Shushing, white noise machines, the sound of rushing water are all familiar sounds to babies that can help to calm them down by making them feel more at home.

Swinging and Swaying: Imagine the feeling of being cradled and swung, like in a hammock.  Such a relaxing feeling.  Well, that has a lot to do with how we felt in the womb.  Babies before birth are used to constant motion and swinging and swaying a baby in a side laying position triggers relaxation for them.

Sucking: Lastly, babies are used to sucking, often on their own hands, in the womb.  It's one of the few instincts they are born with, needed for basic survival.  Dr. Karp recommends offering a clean finger or pacifier if all the previous Ss combined don't work to calm the baby.

The book is an easy read and fairly short though full of lots of anecdotes proving the success of his method which aren't really necessary.

He also includes some parenting tips and serious symptoms to look out for that might be signs of medical issues causing the crying.

I give this book a 5/5 for information, ease of reading and effectiveness. A parenting must read.

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