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.