I was both intrigued and impressed the first time I saw a YouTube video featuring Dr Harvey Karp on my Facebook feed. With an ability to consistently calm crying, cranky babies in just seconds, he seemed to be part paediatrician, part magician.

My husband and I are new parents to three month old twins: one who can self-soothe and lull herself to sleep from a semi-awake state; and one who tends to have difficulty easing into sleep on his own. We’ve had some success using the Karp method on our son simply by replicating it from YouTube videos. However, after reading Dr Karp’s book The Happiest Baby on the Block, I feel inspired to keep trying and am hopeful that we’ll be able to nail it with additional practice.

There’s very little support for parents of screaming babies. As Dr Karp points out, whilst the urge to quiet a baby is instinctual, the ability to do so is a skill that must be learned. Dr Karp’s book can offer sanity savers on those sleep-deprived nights when you’re saddled with a screaming baby. It will teach you how to calm your baby’s cries in minutes and help prolong his sleep, whilst educating you on how your baby is built.

I recommend this book as it will radically change the way you think about babies by showing you the world through your baby’s eyes. Babies do what they do because they’re designed that way. Your baby isn’t intentionally trying to make you feel guilty or inadequate. A baby’s basic instincts and behavioural patterns are really there to protect it in the early months the way nature intended. Each baby comes wired with crucial reflexes that enable it to respond to circumstances that threaten its well-being.  Some interesting reflexes mentioned helped me understand my babies better. For example, to poop, an infant has to simultaneously tighten her stomach and relax her anus. This can be hard for a young baby to do. Many accidentally clench both at the same time and try to force their poop through a closed anus, causing them discomfort. Also, ancient babies developed a “Moro reflex” that goes off the moment they felt that they were falling out of their mother’s arms. When a baby is crying, putting her on her back may make him feel like she’s in a free fall; setting off this reflex which starts her thrashing and screaming.

Crying is just another reflex, nature’s way to ensure helpless babies get our attention. Once your baby has your attention, you’ll probably zip down a checklist of questions and offer related solutions. The trouble comes when nothing works and your baby is fussy for no apparent reason. Can you blame the poor thing? She was recently evicted without much warning from a place where she used to get great “womb service”.

Dr Karp’s feels that the basic problem, in many ways, is that babies are born three months too soon. He believes that we have a “missing fourth trimester” and that most babies cry because they’re just not biologically ready to be born. He likens your new baby to a traveler who’s going on a very long trip but can only bring one tiny suitcase i.e. her small brain that can only be fitted with the most basic abilities she’d need to initially live outside the protection of your womb. Hence, the 5 “S’s” approach that he advocates aims to help the baby by mimicking her life in the uterus and return her to a cuddly, rhythmic, womb-like world until she’s ready to officially join her new family.

Part One talks about why babies cry and why some cry so much. It explores the dreaded “CRYsis” of colic and explains why the missing fourth trimester is the true cause of colic. Part Two provides details on each of the 5 “S’s” and exact instructions on how to administer them.

Dr Karp gently reminds us why we should be grateful for our baby’s crying as it’s one of their most wonderful abilities. So, try not worry when your baby cries but consider it an opportunity to perfect your new parenting skills as you learn how to turn your fussy infant into The Happiest Baby on the Block!

Li-Hsian recently left a career in corporate communications to become a full-time mum to twins. She is learning new things daily as she tries to balance the romance of motherhood with the messy realities of her latest role.

Image credit: Amazon.

Tandem Breastfeeding

There has never been a better time to be a breastfeeding mum. There is currently a breastfeeding renaissance and the movement is gaining momentum. There are many resources you can rely on today for an enjoyable breastfeeding experience. Here are some that I found the most useful when I started breastfeeding my three-month old twins:

1. Get Good Breastfeeding Information and Support
My hospital lactation consultant said something that really stuck with me: “Breastfeeding is a very natural thing but it does not come naturally.”  Having the right products without the appropriate knowledge and skills can lead to problems and pain. Don’t wait until your baby is born as early education is important. Find a credible website or join a Facebook community like The Breastfeeding Advocates Network (TBAN).  Reading posts, questions and responses will give you inspiration and insights as well as the confidence to follow through on your breastfeeding commitment. Watch relevant videos (e.g. those by Dr Jack Newman on YouTube) or read the right books (Gina Yong, founder of TBAN has just published one).

Connect with the lactation consultant at your hospital before and immediately after your delivery.  If you can afford it, engage the services of a midwife from an organisation like Jenlia Maternal Services who can make home visits to assist you in breastfeeding and baby issues.

2. Purchase a Breastfeeding Pillow
Sore nipples and low milk supply are two main reasons for the failure to breastfeed. Getting a good latch helps to prevent these problems. A good latch is more likely with a proper breastfeeding pillow that positions baby perfectly at breast level, something you will not be able to achieve consistently with clumsy cushions. It will also help you avoid awkward wrist manoeuvres that can later lead to medical issues like De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis. I say this based on painful personal experience. My Brest Friend has a great range.  They even have a nifty deluxe version for mummies of twins like me; a great time-saving tool as it allows for tandem breastfeeding that spares us from energy and sleep sapping successive feeds.

3. Shop for Nice Nursing Wear
You’ll not carry on breastfeeding if you feel like a c-grade cow, and how you look can influence how you feel. Nursing mums can still look chic with the wide choice of clothes available to us today, outfits that are functional yet fashionable. Some of my favourite labels include Spring Maternity and Mothers En Vogue (MEV). MEV also offers a beautiful nursing poncho made from luxurious yet lightweight bamboo fibre that can also serve as a stylish wrap. If you’re willing to pay a premium for something unique, you can shop online from specialists like A Pea in the Pod (they now ship to Malaysia!) or artisans on Etsy. Japanese brands like Uniqlo and MUJI also present affordable non-maternity alternatives such as soft tees and light button down tops.

4. Look into Resources for Pain Relief
You need to prepare for the dark side of breastfeeding that its champions and cheerleaders don’t always discuss. Have some lanolin or lavender oil ready to deal with cracked and sore nipples. Most people lament about their low supply and wish for situations where they can have milk squirting out by the gallons. However, an oversupply of breast milk also has its own set of issues like engorgement, blocked ducts and at its worst, mastitis. So, do stock up on hot and cold compresses to face these nasty situations when needed. A disposable diaper filled with hot water can be a cheap and cheerful alternative to help relieve a sore breast or back.

5. Regulate Production with the Right Products
An effective breast pump can not only help you build your breast milk empire, but also to strategically regulate it. I use my Medela Freestyle electric pump to extract milk for storage but also to empty remnant milk from my ducts after feeds. This sends signals to my system to adjust my supply according to my babies’ needs.  There are also the “garden variety” resources you can utilise – natural galactagogues like fenugreek (in pure or pill form) to increase your milk stream, or cabbage leaves to stunt it.

6. Find New Ways to Fill Up Your Feeding Time
Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to bond with your baby. However, there are eight to 12 feeds a day for the rest of your breastfeeding life and sometimes your baby may not always want to make that connection. Breastfeeding releases oxytoxins, “cuddly hormones” that make you feel warm and fuzzy but also very, very sleepy. When baby is drowsy and you need to stay awake, good apps on your gadgets can come in handy. I’ve used days like that to watch whole Korean drama serials using the Viki and Drama Fever apps, read entire volumes of baby books and catch up on my correspondence with my iPhone.

These are just a few tips.  Do take time to understand what works best for you as you breastfeed.  Talk to other mums who will usually be more than happy to share their own tools and tricks!

Li-Hsian recently left a career in corporate communications to become a full-time mum to twins. She is learning new things daily as she tries to balance the romance of motherhood with the messy realities of her latest role.

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When we became pregnant with our twins last year, we suddenly found ourselves part of a secret club. The hidden trapdoor to the secret society of parenthood opened and welcomed us within. When my bump started showing, we began bonding with existing members who were keen to initiate us as we took the first steps in our rite of passage as new parents.

Some of them were excited family and friends, whom we began to see in a different light, discovering new facets of their histories and personalities. We re-connected with long lost friends, mostly people who had dropped off our social radar after they became parents. We also started interacting with strangers on a whole new level; people with whom we would ordinarily just make small talk – colleagues you meet in office corridors, guests at wedding dinners, stall holders at the market etc. People will take one look at your big belly and swoop in with suggestions on how to care for your baby – sharing their “nuggets of baby wisdom” with you, whether you ask for them or not. Somehow when you have a baby (or in my case, two babies), you become a big magnet that attracts all sorts of attention and advice.

Many of us modern mums tend to already read widely. So, excessive advice can really addle your brain and drive you crazy. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that as annoying as it is, most advice is well intentioned. I personally try to keep an open mind (as much as my hormonal, sleep deprived postnatal self will allow!) because if you ignore every piece of unsolicited advice you hear, you may miss out on that one brilliant titbit that can be a real lifesaver. After all, before the World Wide Web and the What to Expect series, child rearing wisdom was transferred by word of mouth.

Fortunately for my husband and I, the two wonderful women who gave birth to us are open minded and receptive to new information that has surfaced over the many decades since they last changed a diaper. They have also given us useful advice. When I had food poisoning during my pregnancy and could not take drugs, my mum made me some starchy boiled rice water that eased my discomfort. Likewise, my mum-in-law told us about the benefits of Indian drumstick leaves long before we heard that it was the new super food at a breastfeeding bazaar.

Our parenting peers told us about tips and traps that you would not find in any baby book. We learnt about the best place to buy baby car seats, drawbacks relating to certain baby carriers; shops with the best price for our brand of baby formula and bedtime routines. We even discovered how disposable baby diapers soaked in hot water make great warm compresses to relieve sore body parts. As a new mother of multiples, I also leveraged off more experienced parents of twins and triplets.

However, not every suggestion is useful. Hence, learning to ignore unwanted advice is essential for your sanity. You will encounter lines that are more examples of coincidence than statistical incidence e.g. “if you eat a lot of blueberries, your baby will not get jaundice.” It can be hard though to keep blowing some people off. Unfortunately for new mums who are still insecure about their parenting instincts, there will always be those tiresome types who, having raised children without any major mishaps, feel that they are experts with the right to point out all your mistakes as new parents.

Sometimes the best defence is to smile graciously, thank the person for their input with a reply like “Every baby and family are different, so that might not work with mine, but thanks for sharing” and move on. If the advice is coming from someone whom you know you will encounter regularly, offer simple explanations for your personal choices. For example, when accosted by formula advocating aunties, bring up fact based benefits of breastfeeding. Adopt a firm stance on matters you feel strongly about e.g. “I am committed to and confident of breastfeeding my child.” Once you have stated your position clearly, change the subject to cue the other person that the topic is no longer open for further discussion. Quote persons of authority when needed e.g. “my gynaecologist / paediatrician / husband supports my position.”

All said, the best advice I received was from a new friend. She told me: “Take care of yourself because you are the anchor that everyone (including your husband) will be holding on to.” I keep that in mind daily, especially on days when I feel the strain from the very physical and emotional work that comes with caring for two babies. Much like what they tell you at the beginning of an airline journey: “put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on your child.” So, new mummies, just take a deep breath and relax. As you become more confident in your parenting skills, you will become better at sorting out the helpful from the harmful and disarming bearers of bad advice with charm and style. Remember that happy, well-adjusted mummies result in happy, well-adjusted babies.

Li-Hsian recently left a career in corporate communications to become a full-time mum to twins. She is learning new things daily as she tries to balance the romance of motherhood with the messy realities of her latest role.

Image credit: Grace Tan of