The Happiest Baby on the Block

Happiest Baby on the Block

The best $45 we spent during pregnancy was for a class called “The Happiest Baby on the Block.” If you haven’t heard of Harvey Karp’s book by this title, I’m so glad you’re reading this post right now. Karp takes parent-wisdom that has been around for centuries and explicitly teaches it in such a way that new parents come away feeling empowered to minimize their baby’s crying. The book describes the 5 S’s — Shushing, Swaddling, Swinging, Sucking, and Side/Stomach. Harvey’s 5 S’s are easy to remember and draw upon when your baby begins to wail. We implemented the S’s before we even left the hospital. When my husband used Karp’s method of “shushing” our son for the first time, our jaws dropped. He. Just. Stopped. Crying. It was like an “off” switch. I can’t claim Karp’s methods always works. But I can claim they almost always work. And that’s pretty darn cool.

Here are the 5 S’s as I view them. To hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, read his book. Or for a quicker and more fun way to learn his methods, watch his video.

1 – Shushing

We all know to shhh babies; it just comes naturally. Karp suggests amping up your shushing sound to create a white noise in your child’s ear. You must shush as loud as his crying in order for the sound to calm him. Karp says that in baby-language, “shhh” means “I love you, and I’m here for you.” I think of that sweet message every time I shush my son.

2 – Swaddling

Parents have swaddled their babies in some form since the dawn of man, so this isn’t a groundbreaking discovery. But, I know that I wouldn’t naturally swaddle as tightly as Karp suggests. Remember, a newborn is used to the confines of the womb, so a secure swaddle makes him feel safe. We use the HALO SleepSack to calm H. Swaddling is fool-proof with the SleepSack. You can velcro the warm fleece around your babe without having to futz with a complex blanket-swaddle.

3 – Swinging

Giving your child a little bounce or swing just seems like the right thing to do when he’s crying, and Karp agrees. Your baby was jostled around a bit in the womb, so a gentle jiggle comforts him. In fact, if his head wobbles back and forth a wee bit, you know you’re doing it right. Our swinging-lifesaver is the Fisher-Price Cradle ‘N Swing. It’s truly worth every penny.

4 – Sucking

At least weekly, Andy and I say aloud to each other, “Thank goodness he takes a pacifier!” This is the quickest and most effective way for us to calm H. Though we were warned of the dangers of offering a pacifier to a breastfed baby, we gave him a paci in the hospital anyway, and it hasn’t interfered with breastfeeding for us. We have to keep the pacifier close, so we use the Booginhead Pacifier Leash to make sure it’s always handy.

5 – Side or Stomach

According to Karp, babies are comforted by being on their side or stomach. Frankly, we use this least of the 5 S’s. H likes to be carried in strange ways, so we follow his cues rather than impose the side/stomach method. Every baby is different, though, and maybe this will be the magic ticket for you.

Obviously, don’t use any of these methods in excess. You don’t want to shush so loud his ears ring, or swaddle so often he can’t develop those muscles. The S’s are tools to draw upon when needed, but it’s more important to Trust Your Instincts than blindly follow these techniques.

Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, writer of The Happiest Baby on the Block

The 5 S’s are best used in the first three to four months of life, or the “fourth trimester,” as Karp calls it. According to Karp, unlike most other animal species, human beings aren’t prepared for the world when they’re born. Babies need time to develop the skills that enable them to function on their own. In essence, all 5 S’s attempt to mimic the womb, providing your child with a familiar and comfortable environment. As Karp predicted, H outgrew most of these methods at about 4 months old. We’re now modifying and changing what we do to calm him. I look forward to reading one of Karp’s other books, The Happiest Toddler on the Block, but we aren’t there yet…

What works to calm your baby? Anything out of the ordinary?

You might also like Top 10 Newborn Must-Haves and 5 Apps for Pregnant and New Moms.


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