My copy of The Happiest Baby On The Block looks like it has been through war, which is how you can tell how good it is. It was essential during the first few weeks of my first baby’s life. This book is warm, engaging, and, best of all, practical. It gives concrete ways to calm and soothe your newborn baby, which is invaluable for new and exhausted parents.
Dr. Karp provides a lot of detailed, but accessible and understandable, instruction about colic: what it is, different theories about its origin, and how to ameliorate it. He discusses the “fourth trimester,” which is the idea that human babies are born a few months too early neurodevelopmentally. They really need another trimester in utero, which is why they act like fetuses during their first three months of life. Anything that can replicate the feeling of being in the womb will calm a baby and make him feel comfortable and safe.
That idea leads into the key theory in this book, which Dr. Karp calls “The 5 S’s.” These five techniques are: swaddling, putting your baby on his side/stomach, making a “Shhhh” sound, swinging, and giving baby something to suck on. These are seemingly magic ways to calm your infant, especially when they are done simultaneously. I can vouch from experience that these techniques work, most of the time. The best part is that dad or another caregiver can do the 5 S’s too, so if you’re exhausted and need a break from nursing or you’re asleep, someone can still soothe the baby.
The reason that the 5 S’s work is because they replicate a womb-like environment for the baby. in the womb, the baby was held close, unable to really flail his limbs, he was rocked gently by you walking or moving around, and he heard your blood rushing past him in a soothing white noise. Some babies even suck their thumbs in utero too. So everything that you’re learning to do to soothe your baby is something that is already familiar to him from the 9 months he spent inside your womb.
Each one of the 5 S’s is explained in detail by Dr. Karp. He discusses how the 5 S’s have been utilized to help calm babies in every time and every culture. He provides education about reflux, sleep, and milk supply. This was very useful to me, as I experienced oversupply, which can make babies fussy because the milk shoots out too fast and too hard for them to latch on well.
Dr. Karp obviously loves babies and respects their needs. His tone is gentle, insightful, and experienced. He covers a lot of ground in this book; he does not only discuss how to soothe babies in the moment of their distress, but also lays groundwork for how to ensure that your baby has the best chance at feeling calm and peaceful throughout the rest of his day. To this end, Dr. Karp discusses baby massage techniques, survival strategies for stressed moms (because a stressed mom will be less able to soothe a stressed baby), and how to be “the best cuddler on the block.”
The Happiest Baby on the Block is not only a newborn care manual, but a great comfort to parents who feel frazzled and overwhelmed. It speaks to moms, dads, and any other caregiver in an empathic and knowledgeable way. This book is an excellent gift for a new mom, and will likely turn into a well-worn bible the way that my copy did.
Like this book review? Check out another on Bringing Up Bebe!