The Essential Baby Stuff - Part 2 - Harvey Karp

image from Amazon.com
I want to continue with last week's topic of "things that every hospital should teach new parents..." meet Harvey Karp.
Every generation has a baby guru: Spock, Leach, Sears, Brazelton etc...
I'm just glad that Harvey Karp was the one to listen to when we had our first baby, and he still is today.
His ideas are easy, they make sense and they work.

We know that unlike most mammals, humans are born in a very dependent state.  For goodness sake, many other mammal babies can walk when they are a few hours old.  We learned in our birth class that humans have bigger brains in proportion to their bodies when compared with other mammals.  Because of this, humans are born in an earlier state of development (the beginning of this video explains this).  If humans developed to the stage where they could walk as soon as they were born, then their heads would be huge and impossible to fit through the birth canal.
Seeing as human babies are born in such an immature state, Harvey Karp says, the first three months of life for a baby should be thought of as the fourth term of pregnancy.  His theory is that, when an infant in this phase of life is incessantly crying it is (as long as they are not hungry or cold etc) because they want to be back in the womb... their happy place.  Harvey Karp teaches "the 5 S's."  These are 5 things you can do to recreate the womb experience for your baby and make them think they are back in their happy place.
Our hospital lends new parents the movie of "Happiest Baby on the Block" and strongly recommends they watch it before leaving the hospital.  We did, and thank goodness for that.  We used these methods religiously with both of our babies.

Here are the 5 S's:
  1. "Shhhh" / Shushing - that is white noise (my best friend) - Babies in the womb have white noise louder than a vacuum cleaner.
  2. Sucking - Babies often have their thumb or fingers in their mouth while in the womb and obviously pacifiers wouldn't exist if sucking wasn't a babies favorite thing to do.  You can give them a pacifier or your finger.
  3. Side - Holding a baby on its side mimics the way they were in utero.
  4. Swaddle - This makes them feel secure and tightly held like they were in the womb.
  5. Swinging - This mimics the frequent motion of being carried around in a belly full of fluid.  It can be putting them in a baby swing but typically (in this method) it refers to the safe, secure jiggle Harvey does to calm a baby.  It is a very controlled jiggle (keeping their head and body supported safely) that gets them to lull into a calm state.  For safety sake, don't take it from me- watch Harvey Karp below.

  Although the methods are for infants, we (incidentally) trained our babies to associate specifically the "shushing" with a calm state and so even as they grow I still use shushing to trigger them to calm down and it works!  Using white noise has become an important piece of our world as it creates calm from chaos.  When our second daughter was very little I was sitting on the edge of our older child's bed brushing her teeth.  She has an electric toothbrush but often wants it off.  On this night the baby was crying loudly as I was holding her and brushing the older one's teeth.  My older daughter looked at me and said "Mommy, turn on my toothbrush; she needs white noise on."  We had never used the toothbrush motor as white noise; my daughter put that together all on her own.  I replied "Good idea!"  I turned the toothbrush on and continued to brush the older one's teeth and wouldn't you know?!  The baby stopped crying.

Harvey Karp explaining the process:

An important note:  When you do these techniques they are much more effective if you are sure of yourself; if you believe that it will help, then you send that feeling to your baby.

A dad in action... the REAL deal:

My Recommendation List:

I strongly urge you to share this with anyone you know who is having a baby or anyone who has an infant.

On a side note: babycenter.com which I enjoy getting emails from recently sent this video on "how to calm a crying baby" and while it covers some very important safety factors (and does generally cover some of the S's), I am so glad that this traditional take was not all that we had to rely on.
babycenter - How to Calm a Crying Baby

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  1. You're baby is really cute and lovely. I wish my baby will also be healthy and cuddly like your baby when he comes out.

    1. I'm glad you found this page to learn about Harvey Karp if you are having a baby soon! Hope it goes well! The baby video above is just a baby video from you tube, not my baby but thank you.

  2. I immediately thought of:
    and a comb and a brush and bowl full of mush

    and a quiet old lady who was whispering "hush"

    1. David,
      Too funny that you had that thought because I think the same thing now when I read that part of Goodnight Moon!

  3. I could both recite and use all 5 S's with Phebes. It was often a full 5 affair. Thank god for Happiest Baby on the Block. She lived in the sling from 8-11 every night. Oh those were rough days.

    1. I remember you talking about that Jill. I will always thank my lucky stars that we were taught these methods!

  4. I wish I had read this prior to having Brody. The shushing worked great when Brody was an infant & still works when he gets upset @ 3. All great tips!

    1. Sorry that you didn't get taught this stuff with B, I know so many people who were not taught these methods. That's exactly why I wrote this post. Please feel free to share it with anyone you know who is going to have a baby. Thanks for reading!