The Happiest Baby on the Block

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The next book I will be reviewing is The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D. I see this book recommended occasionally by moms and was interested in reading it. This review session will be a bit different than my others. Other reviews of books have been done after I have finished the entire book. This time, I am going to review as I read it. The downside to this is that I can’t give my overall opinion yet. I think with my pregnant brain, however, this will prove to be most effective at this time. This way I will be able to remember the most for the post. In this post I will be reviewing chapters 1-3.

The 4th Trimester
In chapter 1, Karp mentions the “4th trimester.” The 4th trimester refers to the first three months of a baby’s life. I have heard the first three months called this before, and I agree that it is a fair lable for those first three months. He discusses the fourth trimester later on in the book, so I will save more thoughts for then.

The 5 S’s
Karp has 5 S’s to use to calm a fussy baby:

  • Swaddling
  • Side/Stomach laying
  • Shushing
  • Swinging
  • Sucking

He says that a mildly fussy baby can be soothed by using one of these methods, but a really fussy, or colicky, baby needs all five together in his recipe to create the “Cuddle Cure.”
Crying Isn’t ManipulativeIn Chapter 2, Karp discusses crying and points out that a baby’s cries are not manipulative (page 21). I have mentioned this a few times in various posts. The Baby Whisperer, Tracy Hogg, discusses this. I like to point this out because I often hear parents refer to their babies this way (See Combating Babywise Myths #6: BW parents call their kids words like “manipulative”: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/02/combating-babwise-myths-6-bw-parents.html). I agree with Hogg and Karp that your baby does not cry in order to manipulate you.
Parents Cannot Distinguish Meaning in a Newborn’s Cries (I Disagree)In Chapter 2, Karp states that parents cannot distinguish meaning in a until possibly 3 months of age (page 22). I very much disagree with this. I know I got to know the cries of my children long before three months. Tracy Hogg also claims to be able to distinguish between cries of a newborn.
Karp sites a study done by the University of Connecticut in 1990 that he claims proves parents cannot decipher meaning in a baby’s cry. The study basically had mothers listen to recorded cries of babies and tell what the cry meant. Researchers in Finland did the same with baby nurses. Moms were right less than half the time while nurses were right about half of the time.
I find problems with these studies. One problem I have is who were these researchers to decide what the baby’s cries meant in the first place. The people responding to this study were wrong or right based on the researchers’ determination of what the cry meant. If Karp is correct in stating that we cannot distinguish meaning in cries, then these studies in no way could possibly prove nor disprove that. If there is no possible way to distinguish among cries, then the researchers couldn’t have done so in order to judge whether the moms and/or nurses could do so.
Babies Do Not Ever Need to Cry to “Blow Off Steam” (I Disagree)In Chapter 3, Karp states that he strongly disagrees with experts who have “guessed” that some babies need to cry to unwind from the day (page 30). I strongly disagree with him. I believe that some babies need to cry sometimes. Perhaps even all babies need to cry every day. I remember reading in a book printed by the American Academy of Pediatrics that all newborns need to cry for at least one hour a day. I don’t have the book to reference it, so take that information for what it is worth. Suffice it to say I disagree with Karp on this.
So far, I am not sure what I think about this book. Karp seems to have very different theories from Ezzo and Hogg, two authors I tend to agree with. Therefore, I am inclined to say I will not agree with much in this book, but I am trying to keep an open mind as I read on. I am hoping to find the helpful information that some parents swear saved their babies. Next week, we will visit chapters 4-5.

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