Happiest Baby on the Block

This is going to sound like a sponsored review but it’s totally not.
Now that my baby girl is just a few days away from turning 3 months old, I’d like to share what I think might have a lot to do with why I have such an awesome baby.
She seriously *NEVER* cries. And when she does it rarely lasts more than about 2 minutes. I’m not 100% sure whether it’s nature or nurture that should be receiving the credit, but the techniques I’m about to share have worked for me about 98% of the time for when she does get fussy.
They come from a book called Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp. I think most mamas have probably heard of it by now, but I was totally unaware of it when my friend passed it along to me while I was pregnant. She swore by it, and now I do too.
Since I have a little background in Evolutionary Biology, I immediately loved the theory behind the techniques. Very basically- because humans evolved to have such large brains, our mothers had to birth us before our brains were significantly developed or our heads would be too big and we’d get stuck. That’s why newborn babies are so helpless compared to most other animals who can walk and what not as soon as they’re born. Because of that, newborns need another three months before they are really “babies.” During that time, they’re in what’s called “the fourth trimester.” To keep a newborn comfortable and content, it’s best to sort of recreate the womb for them.
The book goes into a lot more detail that I will, of course, but the technique the book teaches is how to soothe a crying baby. It’s done through “the 5 S’s”- 1) Swaddling, 2) Side/Stomach, 3) Shh-ing, 4) Swinging, 5) Sucking.
1) Swaddling– This is often all Eva really needs when she’s fussy. She loved it from the moment she was born. The book says that not all babies do (or at least they don’t seem like they do), but usually it is because the person doing the swaddling is doing it wrong (I’m not the expert here… just passing along what I read). I’ll admit, I can’t blanket swaddle. When I do blanket swaddles, she just kicks and flails and wriggles herself out of it and gets even more worked up. That’s why we invested in some swaddles from Target that have velcro on them and are super easy to do right.
2) Side/Stomach- The theory behind this one is that when babies are on their backs they often get the “moro” reflex and feel like they are falling backwards which startles them and makes them fuss. To calm a crying baby, you’re supposed to hold them on their sides or on their stomachs. We’ve done this a couple of times with Eva but she never really needed this “S.”
3) Shh-ing– I learned from the book that the universal “shh” that people have been calming crying babies with for centuries actually works because it mimics the sound of fluids moving in the womb. “No duh,” I thought when I read it but really I had never thought of that before. Eva definitely likes white noise, but I’m not a very good shh-er. It makes my mouth all dry and I get tired and give up too easily. Instead, we have one of those tornado fans that usually does the trick. I also installed an app on my phone that makes white noise (heartbeats, rain, etc.)
4) Swinging- The faster, the better, according to Dr. Karp. Not shaking-baby-syndrome fast, of course, but faster than you would think. This is another one that Eva doesn’t really need but definitely helps when she goes on the occasional rage.
5) Sucking– Before reading this book I was intent on never giving Eva a pacifier.
I guess there’s a lot of stigma behind them and a lot of people make it seem as if it’s a sign of weak parenting. The book convinced me to just let her suck. She’s not going to be one of those 4 year olds with a chupie in her mouth because I’ll cut her off when she needs to be cut off, just like with everything else. But being able to suck does a lot for the mental well-being of newborns by triggering their natural calming reflex. It also prevents against SIDS. The book convinced me that there’s nothing wrong with it so I went for it. I’m glad I did. Eva is not addicted to her chupie like I was worried she’d be. She played this game with me for about a week a while back but has been fine ever since. She spends most of her day without it and pretty much just needs it after she’s eaten and needs a nap.
Anyway, maybe it’s all common sense stuff wrapped up in a well-marketed book, but it worked for me and I’m not sure whether or not those were things I would have tried had I not read the book. There’s a lot more in there than just the five S’s though so I’d read it if you can. I’m pretty sure there is probably a bunch of information on it you can find online and maybe a video too. Google it or You-Tube it or something. I’d send out my copy but I already passed it along to another pregnant friend of mine.

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  1. I read this before Wyatt was born, not the book but about the S’s. We swaddle Wyatt for bed every night and he is a GREAT sleeper! It definitely helps when he is fussy from being tired. Also, I didn’t plan on letting him have a pacifier either, but he is like Eva and not addicted to it or uses it as a crutch or anything. Great post! All new mommies should read!

  2. I loved the advice from that book. And we did all those things and also have a baby that rarely cried. We actually swaddled Nora up until about 6 weeks ago (so about 7 months). We have an awesome white noise machine/stuffed giraffe thing that sleeps in the room with her (okay, us) and we usually have set to the whoosh noise. It calms her down right away, even now.

  3. I hadn’t heard about this book until this pregnancy, but was a firm believer in Swaddling, Shh-ing and Side Sleeping when K was born. Unfortunately she has never liked being swaddled, and despite my judgy-first-time-mom-know-it-all-ness, ended up with a swing and a binky. I’ve never looked back on those decisions! They literally saved my sanity. K still has a noise machine, swing and binky (for bed time only) to this day, I haven’t the heart to take those things away before she has to get used to being a big sister.

    This pregnancy I started hearing about the “Fourth trimester” and couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the term, but was surprised to find out that my parenting methods- at least as far as newborns are concerned- completely match up here. Guess that’ll show me to never judge a book by it’s catch phrase! 🙂

  4. I’ve never read that book- but we have followed all the S’s and it worked for us too! Although I must say swaddling didn’t work for us- maybe we WERE blanket swaddling wrong. Note to self: buy swaddlers next time around.

  5. Be oh-so-grateful for your quiet little bebe. My 6 week old is a big time fuss-butt! She’s just now starting to slightly mellow out, each day gets a little better. BUT…for the first 4 weeks, she was every bit of your typical “colicky” baby. SCREAMING for a few hours straight in the evening, crying and fussing whenever she was awake (except during feeding, changings and naps). She’s super needy, I have to hold her most of the day and stay “on the move”, meaning I have to be rocking her or bouncing her or even sitting on one of those big work-out balls and bounce with her in my arms. No wonder I’m physically exhausted at the end of each day. YIKES! I’ll have to check out this book. We’ve literally tried just about everything. So I say again, you’re lucky…be THANKFUL 🙂 Thanks for the book tip.

  6. I’m sure you’re an awesome mama but at this age it’s almost always “nature” not nurture. It comes down to a baby’s temperament. Some babies are chiller while Others are more intense. That being said the book is great. I read it a year before we started trying for a baby. I actually bought it for a girl I knew who just had a baby who kind of scoffed at it and said her pedi told her not to pick her newborn up too often because he’ll get used to it (yikes).

    The funny part is all the techniques he used are pretty common place in many cultures and countries. Like Russia where I come from. You do those things because that is how it’s always been done not because some guy told you. The funniest part is if you ask people there why they sush a baby or swaddle they wouldn’t have an answer. It’s because you just do. Lol

    Good for you for writing about the book, more people need to read it.

  7. These are great swaddling blankets for such an adorable new baby! The leopard-print blanket is especially fun for such a cool infant! Another swaddling blanket we love is the Beba Bean Herringbone Blanket. Its stylish knit is funky and different, yet high-quality and comfortable for your perfect new baby!

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