The Happiest Baby on the Block: 5 S’s


This post reviews chapter 6 and 7 of The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp. Chapter six is pretty much more stuff I disagree with, while chapter 7 starts to get into the 5 S’s, which is what readers have told me is the best part of the book.

Chapter 6:

  • Need to Imitate Womb: page 81. Karp states that “stone age” people realized the need to imitate the womb. When I read this, it reminded me of the statement found in Babywise that suggests cultures that carry the baby around with them all day and co-sleep, etc. do so out of need, not out of a belief it is the best way (sorry I don’t have the reference, a friend is borrowing my book right now).
  • Newborn Expectations: page 83. I found this funny. Karp says our babies expect us to handle them like our “stone age” ancestors did. When I read this, I was reminded of his earlier statement that “babies are just babies” (page 47). For baby that is “just” a baby, that is quite the expectation.

That does it for chapter 6. I tried to just ignore my qualms with it :).

Chapter 7:

  • Top 10 Ways to Imitate the Uterus: page 93. While your goal might not be “imitating the uterus,” this list might be helpful if you have a fussy baby: holding, dancing, rocking, wrapping, white noise/singing, car rides, walks outside, feeding, pacifiers, and swings. I personally would add structure, adequate sleep, and avoiding overstimulation. Take note that many of the top 10 items listed by Karp can create overstimulation or make overstimulation worse.
  • Swaddling: “Many irritable babies resist wrapping. However, it’s a mistake to think this resistance means your baby needs his hands free” (page 95). I really disagree with this. It was obvious from the first day of Brayden’s life that he hated swaddling. We didn’t swaddle him. Kaitlyn, however, loved it–though as she got older she got very particular about how she wanted to be swaddled, and that changed over time. (see Swaddling posts for more).
  • Side/Stomach: Karp says to place your baby on side or stomach in order to shut off the Moro reflex (the feeling of falling when baby is on back). Both of my children, however, hated stomach positions and much preferred backs. Even before we started Babywise with Brayden and he would have his crying fits, he wanted to be on his back on a bed with us holding his arms. That is what calmed him. So while I know the side/stomach position works for many babies, I don’t think that means all babies prefer it.
  • Shhh…: Shhh or white noise like a vacuum. Before we started Babywise, we did try the vacuum thing with Brayden. One time it worked. Other times, not. We never needed to try it with Kaitlyn, and never needed to try it with Brayden after starting Babywise.
  • Swing: The swing was something both of my children liked.
  • Sucking: Karp says this is the “icing on the cake” (page 98). He says this helps baby to maintain the calm state.
  • Vigor: Karp says you must be forceful when applying these steps to your baby. He points out the vigor of nurses in the hospital (page 99). I remember when Kaitlyn was in the NICU. I was shocked at how roughly the NICU nurses handled the babies–and she was my second! Karp says to match the level of intensity of your baby’s crying. The louder the cry, the more vigor you apply. As the crying subsides, you ease up on your vigor.
  • Takes Time: Karp says getting the 5 S’s to work takes time. Not only do you need to practice, but there are three reasons he states babies take time before the 5 S’s work. One is that babies brains have a hard time shifting gears. Another is that their brains are slow to respond. The third is that babies brains get into a cycle of crying (page 102).

If you are interested in the 5 S’s, don’t worry. There is a chapter devoted to each S. Also, I agree with many who have commented that it might be better to watch the DVD of Karp doing these 5 S’s rather than reading the book. That way you skip all of the “theory” behind it and just see the 5 S’s in practice. Also, it is probably easier to figure out what to do by watching him do it than it is to read how to do it.

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7 thoughts on “The Happiest Baby on the Block: 5 S’s”

  1. Hi there. I came across your blog recently and have found it tremendously helpful. I have a 9 wk BW baby who is just starting to sttn. I had noticed that his nighttime feedings were being pushed later and later and that he fed poorly at his first feeding, so I tried giving him the paci when he woke up at night. After 2 nights of taking the paci and going right back to sleep, he just slept straight through until 7 am. Awesome. My problem, however, is that since then, in the last couple of days, he’s napped really poorly. He has been on a 3 hour schedule, and his first nap is great, but the rest of them are terrible – waking up early, lots of crying, etc. He has always cried for a few minutes before his naps, but he’s waking up throughout them now, and it’s really messing him up. When he does get to sleep for a stretch, I wait 3.5 hours before feeding him. Otherwise, I just feed him after 2.5 hours of trying to go to sleep and then try to put him down early for the next cycle. The naps get fussier and shorter throughout the day, until his last one is almost nonexistent. At bedtime, however, he goes down normally and sleeps normally through the night. Today I let him sleep longer (for a 3.5 hr cycle) for his first nap, thinking that since he’s eating so much at 7 am, he might not be eating as well at 10 am, which could be throwing him off. It didn’t help at all. So my questions are 1. Is this normal for sttn to mess with daytime naps? and 2. Am I doing the right thing? Are the varying times confusing him? What am I not thinking of? Tomorrow I am planning on trying to really shorten his waketimes to see if that works (although I’m really skeptical bc he has his 2 month appt, which will obviously keep him up even longer than normal).Thanks for the help!

  2. Kevin,1-No, it isn’t2-I would agree to really watch waketime lengths. Keep the first one the same since the nap is good. Then work with the others. Try shorter, try longer. Keep notes so you can keep things straight (see the blog lable “logs” for more). Keep in mind that 5 minutes can make a difference.And you can do a combo 2.5/3.5 schedule. If his first interval can be 3.5, that might be a good idea to make up for shorter intervals in the day.

  3. Every S from the 5S's worked brilliantly and kept my baby happy and asleep for so much longer, especially the swaddle and the white noise. The book's theories were ridiculous, but the methods worked. The DVD was much more tolerable because it didn't go into his crazy science about the 4th trimester.


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