Is Your Baby a “Happiest” Baby?
Having a happy baby makes us feel better about our parenting skills. But how do we have a happy baby? According to a recent MSNBC survey, one in three U.S. parents lack knowledge about babies, which means that 31.2 percent said they have low knowledge of what to expect from children.
Whichever side of the spectrum a parent falls when it comes to baby knowledge, there are times we all need help to keep a household calm and nurturing.
Some of the best advice comes via Dr. Harvey Karp’s The Happiest Baby on the Block series. From books to DVDs to local classes, parents can incorporate these positive insights into their family dynamic.
Although she was already a therapist, Susan Martinez discovered the Happiest Baby program after becoming a parent. Besides using the techniques with her two young children, she now teaches classes at Natural Lullabies.
As Martinez explained, “New parents have two main jobs—feeding and calming their new babies. But while there is a lot of help about feeding, people with crying babies often feel helpless and don’t know where to turn.”
The techniques of the Happiest Baby rely on what Karp calls the “4th Trimester.” The strategies are meant to trigger calming effects similar to the womb. By replicating the womb experience, babies learn how to calm and stop crying. Parents or caregivers do three things:
- Feed the baby and change the diaper.
- Do the Five Steps—see below.
- If the crying continues, check with a doctor to make sure there isn’t a medical condition. Parents should be concerned if crying lasts longer than three hours.
The Five Steps
The Five Steps should be completed in order, and parents stop at whatever step the baby becomes calm. Some babies take all five in order, but Martinez said others stop after the first few. In order they are:
- Swaddling–offers continuous touching and support, but takes practice. It’s not easy to swaddle kicking babies, but they really like it. In Martinez’ classes parents practice with their babies or by using a doll.
- Side/Stomach Position–after being swaddled, Martinez said to hold babies in a slightly turned side position or on their stomachs across your arm.
- Swishing Sound–a white noise machine, a fan, a vacuum, anything to replicate sounds in the womb.
- Swinging–walking, a car ride, jiggling while carrying the baby, or walking with the baby in a sling.
- Sucking–this can be breastfeeding or a pacifier. A 2007 study, related to the Maternal Child Health Meeting in Boulder, CO, taught 42 families the Happiest Baby techniques. After only one class, 41 out of the 42 were able to calm their babies. The parents who could not readily calm their children found later that the infants had ear infections, and success came once that was cleared.
According to Martinez, The Happiest Baby techniques also help with sleep. While not sleep training, the method does help babies sleep longer. In fact, she said babies often have to be un-swaddled and awakened to eat at proper times. There are also medical/cost benefits, including less pediatrician and ER visits, enhanced breastfeeding experiences, less depression, and a reduction in frustration and risk of shaken baby syndrome.
Martinez also noted a probable reduction in the incidence of SIDS, as swaddled babies won’t try to move to stomachs.
Recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the DVDs are also available in the La Leche League catalog. Prevent Child Abuse America endorses the program, and their president and CEO, James Hmurovich said, “Calmer babies equal calmer parents! Dr. Karp’s insights into soothing crying infants are a key to reducing the anger and frustration that can lead to shaking [babies syndrome].”
Besides Happiest Baby classes for infants, Martinez leads classes for 3 to 12 months, toddler, and sibling care. Register with Natural Lullabies at (918)488-9969 or online naturallullabies.com/parenting-classes-tulsa.html. The Happiest Baby and The Happiest Toddler on the Block are in bookstores, and Dr. Karp’s website is thehappiestbaby.org.