Friday, December 4, 2015

Review: The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D.

Image from The Happiest Baby on the Block 

Oh my God, Afsha... You did not just publish a review for a book on baby care and parenting thingies!!!

Yes, dear reader. I did! I can actually hear your shock all the way in my little office/nursery in Bangalore. What can I say? I have been forced to broaden my 'interests' over the last one year. Good thing too because I don’t know how I would have survived the first three months of being a mum without this book. I owe my sister a big ‘Thank You’ for recommending it to me.

Like many mothers-to-be, I thought that What to Expect… was all I needed to waltz into motherhood. But after reading pediatrician Harvey Karp's The Happiest Baby on the Block I realised just how ill prepared I would have been had I not expanded by reading list.

The book spends its entirety preparing the new parent for the first three months of their child’s life, a period plagued by crying, tummy troubles, sleepless nights (that they drag their poor parents into) and cluelessness in general. To explain the reasons for this, Karp draws on the theory of there being a fourth trimester which went missing in the process of evolution because babies just got too big to come out the natural way.

If you think about horses, for example, who are able to sprint on the first day of their lives, or any other newborn animal, raw as it might be but can still move itself towards a food source, you'll see how ill prepared our newborns are to survive in the first three months of life. I mean, they're practically lumps of very cute and cuddly lard that need all our time, patience and energy to thrive. Especially when finding out what's plaguing them can be anyone's guess. Is it hunger? Diaper discomfort? Gas? Reflux? Colic???

Ah... that dreaded colic. Karp spends most of the first few chapters trying to explain what it is and how it differs from tiny tummy troubles (gas, constipation) and big tummy troubles (acid reflux, food sensitivities). Of course, having read the entire book from cover to cover, I still haven’t the foggiest about what colic is exactly, other than the fact that it makes babies crying for hours and hours for seemingly no apparent reason, or what causes it. However research does show that it disappears by three to four months of age so phew… I guess? 

What it does tackle quite well is how to handle tummy troubles and sleepless tykes using what Karp calls The 5 Ss – swaddling, shushing, sideways/stomach sleeping, swinging and sucking – in great detail. These are techniques adapted from tribal cultures such as the Bushmen of the Kalahari desert whose babies are known to hardly ever cry and sleep like, well, babies! 

"For the first few months of life, we need to treat our babies the way our ancestors treated theirs thousands of years ago, with the reassuring rhythms of the fourth trimester. In other words, we should no longer mistake our newborns for little horses. Rather, we should treat them like little kangaroos! Kangaroos "know" their babies need a few more months of TLC before they're ready to go hoppin', so they welcome them into the pouch the moment they're born. Likewise, we need to offer our sweet newborns "pouches" of prolonged holding, rocking, shushing, and warmth. If you do this, you'll be amazed. Once you master the skill of imitating the womb, you'll be able to do exactly what the !Kung (Bushmen) moms do: settle your baby's cries in minutes." 
From Chapter 6: The Woman Who Mistook Her Baby for a Horse; pg 85

Now I know that all babies are different and perhaps my baby was just an easy baby which is why this book’s content worked so brilliantly for us.... But that isn’t a hundred percent true. My baby, like every other baby out there, is unpredictable. I would think a million times before calling him ‘easy’ or ‘angelic’ or boast of him 'sleeping through the night’ – which he did, like, once last week after which he hasn’t been sleeping well at all.

But through the sunny days as well as the blue, I’ve been able to calm him down and ensure he sleeps that little bit longer with the implementation of the 5 Ss. In fact, the few nights that have been the worst were actually the ones when I decided to forgo the swaddling because I felt guilty for “keeping his hands trapped” all night long. I did however learn my lesson from overthinking it the next morning as I sat nodding off into my bowl of porridge.

I would recommend this book to parents – new and seasoned – looking for a way, any way, to calm their crying babies and help them sleep longer. If you’re not a new or seasoned parent and frankly, don’t plan to have babies now or any time soon, you should still keep the details of this book handy for the next baby shower you’re scrounging around for gifting ideas. Hey, if you’re enthusiastic enough you should read this for your siblings and friends with babies and haven't the time (or inclination). Read, understand the theory, master the technique and as a mom, dad, aunt or uncle, you will be nothing short of magic!

Buy The Happiest Baby on the Block - The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Sleep Longer from Flipkart // Amazon

So now that I know how to get him to sleep, most of the time anyway, it might be worth teaching him to sleep on his own. A lot of reading and research is going to go into this but I've been told that one of the best books on the subject is Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber. It may be a few months before I can report back with a verdict on it though so stay with me, ok? I'll be back next week with the usual and maybe if I have the time in between baby time, a little bit more. 

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...