What makes the Happiest Baby on the Block?

Cover of "The Happiest Baby on the Block:...

Cover via Amazon

Last week I reviewed one of my favorite books as a new mom, “On Becoming Babywise”. I hope that my key point summary was helpful to get you started on figuring out what type of parent you will be.

Today I will summarize another book that my husband and I really enjoyed reading. Again, it may not be for everyone, but we took some key points away from it that we felt helped us with our twins. The book is called “The Happiest Baby on the Block” and is written by Harvey Karp. My personal opinion is that there are definitely some things that Dr. Karp says that seem a bit “out there” to me. For instance he talks about the “fourth trimester” and how babies really are born too soon. He compares them to other species, and animals that are born ready to walk and talks about the disadvantage they face being born a few months too early. I personally feel that God knew what he was doing when he created humans and if we were meant to carry our babies for longer than 9 months, we would. We may be miserable, but it would happen that way. I also don’t think that comparing humans to other species is fair. Baby horses are born ready to walk. So what? They also spend the rest of their lives chewing on hay and never speaking. I don’t see the relevance of comparing.

Having said all that, we did garner some great tips for calming and soothing babies that we implemented almost immediately. I may not agree with all of Harvey Karp’s musings, but that’s what is so great about reading books from different parenting perspectives. You can custom build your own style of parenting according to what works for you and your family.

In addition to what I’m about to summarize below, the book gives great thoughts on the basics of baby care and other common new parent concerns including colic and fussy babies.

For the most part, the book talks about “the 5 S’s” which are basically five methods to help keep your baby calm. My husband and I liked the idea of using the strict “Babywise” principles on feeding and napping, but were drawn to the “Happiest Baby” more attentive and nurturing ways to help calm our boys or maybe even prevent them from getting upset. The 5 S’s are:

how_to_swaddleSwaddling-tightly wrapping your baby (so that it resembles a burrito when finished) to mimic the coziness of the womb and prevent their limbs from flailing about. In the first months of their lives, babies are not aware that their limbs are their own and so when they unintentionally or reflexively wave them about, it often startles them and makes them feel insecure. We learned how to swaddle tightly and properly before the boys were born, we practiced on a teddy bear, and it did well for our confidence that the nurses used the same method to swaddle them immediately after they were born. We swaddled completely (both arms and legs) until about 5 months and then slowly started letting out limbs. Now, at almost 10 months, the boys sleep without their swaddle.

Side/Stomach Lying-This is something we didn’t really do since we rarely let the boys sleep with us and it is recommended to put your baby to sleep on their back.This is a great “feel good” position for fussy babies to prevent them from feeling like they are falling. Although we didn’t use it (until they started moving into this position on their own), I can see how it would be beneficial if you were trying to soothe a fussy baby.

Shhhhhhhhing-Basically the idea here is that your baby hears a similar, very loud version of this in the womb, so replicating it makes them feel like they are back there and it is calming. You don’t have to use your mouth to make this sound, any other loud sound will do. Hair Dryer, Vacuum Cleaner, etc. We bought a white noise machine that I think is awesome. Not only is it a familiar sound for them when it is time to sleep, but it creates the perfect decibel of white noise so that we can go about our day (and night) without tiptoeing around the house. Nothing more annoying than having to unplug your phone or ask people not to ring the doorbell. I always said I didn’t want my life to change too much when I had kids. Having to be extra quiet around sleeping babies is one of those changes I didn’t want to make. I highly recommend getting a white noise machine, or downloading some “white noise” sounds on to an iPod.

Swinging-This is pretty obvious. I think the natural inclination to rock or swing fussy babies is innate in most humans. It mimics the 9 months the baby spent in mommy’s tummy, almost constantly on the move. It is soothing for them, and when your baby is fussy, a combination of this and all of the above is a surefire way to make your baby go from uneasy screaming to cooing.

Sucking-This one can be a little controversial, especially for those parents who are hesitant to introduce pacifiers and the like for fear that their child may become “addicted”. The fact, is babies have a sucking reflex that they need to exercise. It triggers something deep in their nervous system to start the calming reflex. I am that mom that didn’t want babies who were constantly attached to their pacifier, and  yet, I knew that one of my babies seemed to really need it. I liked the idea that a pacifier would help my babies soothe themselves so I introduced it at about 2 months. I only allow it in their crib when it is time for sleep. At 10 months old, it is time to wean them off of it, and after Christmas, I will start to do that. One of my boys is really attached to it while the other seems like he could be fine without. It will be interesting to see how the weaning goes, and I’m definitely scared, but am glad that I allowed my boys to take pleasure in their need to use this reflex.

So there you have it. In summary, these are the main points in the book, among some other discussions. Overall, a great read with some great tips on ensuring you have the best tools to help your child stay happy and calm.

Did you use the 5 S’s with your baby? How did it work for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Have a great week everyone!


  1. Sarah on December 18, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    We did a little bit with the 5 S’s. It definitely helped when our baby was colic-y from gas pains, but it hasn’t stayed in our “repertoire,” if you will. Shushing still helps her a lot (she’s 3 months old) and she never really took to the pacifier. She won’t even keep it in her mouth these days!

    • suchdev on December 18, 2012 at 2:06 pm

      That’s great Sarah! Having two, I definitely agree that some babies need to suck and others not so much. I’ve got one that goes ballistic if he loses his soother while the other could take it or leave it. Thanks for popping by!