The Happiest Baby

Even though my wife and I got pregnant fairly early in the year, we were still both working and focused on all the things that made up our lives. It wasn’t until August that we really started to prepare for our birth in earnest, when we began our Bradley classes. We had no idea the volume of information we needed to ingest and the degree of preparation required.

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Once we had gone through half of the 12 classes included in the Bradley course, we realized that we not only needed to get ready for the birth, but we also needed to know what to do once this bundle of joy arrived at our doorstep.

So starting in October we took some classes offered through a program at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Burbank. Part of the classes included an excerpt from a video by a Dr. Harvey Karp, entitled “The Happiest Baby on the Block.” The concept behind the video is the notion that, for the first three months of life, infants are more like fetuses in the womb than babies in the world. Dr. Karp calls this the “fourth trimester” of pregnancy. He posits that, because the defining characteristic of the human race is the size of our brains, women cannot give birth any later than nine months because the child’s head would be too large to pass through the birth canal. That means babies must spend their fourth trimester outside the womb and that infants less than three months of age have needs that are more akin to their life before than after birth.

The bottom line is that babies for the first three months of life have a calming reflex that responds to conditions similar to what they experienced in utero. In other words, to calm a young infant you need to provide stimuli that remind him of what he experienced being carried around in his mother’s tummy. Dr. Karp calls these the “Five S’s” of calming a baby:

  1. Swaddling
    – Wrapping in a square blanket to immobilize the baby’s arms and keep them from flailing.
  2. Shushing
    – Making a somewhat loud shushing sound in the baby’s ear to create a kind of “white noise” or static sound.
  3. Side-Stomach Position
    – Cradling the baby on its side or stomach.
  4. Swinging or Giggling
    Moving the baby in such a way that its head giggles gently from side to side.
  5. Sucking
    – Pacifying a baby by allowing it to suck.

Each of these is to be applied in succession until the crying baby’s calming reflex is triggered and he becomes tranquil. You only need apply another “S” if the baby does not calm down in response to the S’s you’ve already applied.

Whenever our son Kerrigan cries, we first eliminate some of the most common causes, such as the need to burp, the presence of a dirty diaper, or simple hunger. Once these possibilities have been eliminated, we conclude that the baby may be tired and just needs to be calmed down, and we start to apply each of the five S’s until his calming reflex kicks and his crying stops or diminishes.

I can’t tell you just how valuable this technique has been in getting our baby to calm down when we have already fed, burped and changed him and are ready for him to take his nap. The key is first getting a good swaddle, which usually requires wrapping him in two receiving blankets, so that his arms are not able to get loose. This process usually upsets him so much that he’s screaming his head off. But then all I have to do is start shushing directly in his ear and gently giggling him and within 5 to 10 minutes he stops crying and is ready to start falling asleep.

About Tony Sneed

Married with three children.
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2 Responses to The Happiest Baby

  1. Laura Thrasher says:

    Zuzana and Tony congratulations on the birth of your baby. I am excited for you and look forward to visiting your blog frequently to see what is going on in your lives.

  2. Kimberly says:

    Happiest Baby on the Block was a sanity saver for me with my daughter! I love that book and highly recommend it to everyone I know.

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