Book Review: The Happiest Baby on the Block

A friend lent us a stack of books before The Boy was born. One of them was The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp. This turned out to be our ‘go-to’ book for all things soothing when The Boy was an infant. That tricky time between birth and 4 months old can be frustrating in terms of soothing and sleeping. For both baby and parents.

Dr. Karp describes the first 3 months of life as the 4th Trimester. Evolutionarily, he explains, babies had to be born with smaller heads in order to not cause harm to the mother at birth. This 4th Trimester, then, is a time period in which babies should be treated to situations that are as womb-like as possible. Dr. Karp of course gets into much more detail in his book. He has developed 5 steps to create a soothing experience for your baby.

The 5 S’s are: Swaddle, Swing, Sucking, Side, Shush. We found that a tight wrap, or swaddle, on The Boy really calmed him when he was fussy and helped him to sleep through the night. We swaddled him during sleep times from birth until about 6 months of age. This gives the baby that tight, warm feeling of the womb. All during gestation, your baby was gently rocked by your movements. This is where the swing comes in. We used a musical swing for nap times for the first few weeks. Most infants need to suck. Many sucked on fingers in the womb and they instinctually need to suck in order to eat after birth. Dr. Karp recommends a pacifier for soothing infants. One position that babies often feel most secure is a side hold. We would sometimes swaddle The Boy and hold him ‘football style.’ Shushing (or a white noise machine) may sound like what the baby heard in utero. We also often shushed him loudly while he was falling asleep. In our own experience the white noise machine did not work as well as mommy or daddy.
Dr. Karp writes with humor and includes some funny cartoons. There are also many anecdotes and personal stories from his own patients included in the book. It is repetitive, but I believe that this just enforces the 5 S’s and other ideas that he has put forth in the book.

If you are watching your pennies, then check this book out from the library or scour your local garage sales for a copy.

NOTE: I was excited to read The Happiest Toddler on the Block when The Boy got a little older. However, I was not as impressed as I was with the first one. It is still an interesting read, but it didn’t hit home like The Happiest Baby on the Block.