Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr Harvey Karp

I am now starting on the stack of baby books which have been sitting on my night stand. I know that some of the books have very different philosophies than others but I am hoping to better understand some of the methods I have been hearing about (positive and negative). I will try to pull out the things I like or agree with as I am reading. I hope that by the time our little boy arrives we will have some thoughts and plans about how we want to care for him, especially in the early months. Of course, even our most solid ideals are only theoretical. Once he gets here I am sure, because he will no doubt take after us, that he will have his own ideas about what he likes and dislikes and we are open to being flexible as necessary!

I would say that 'Happiest baby' makes a lot of sense to me. It is a book with strategy for the first few months of your baby's life. The philosophy being that infants need time to adjust from the comfort and security of the womb to life in the outside world. This book encourages carrying your baby more often than other philosophies would recommend but it makes sense that that is a comfort to a baby that has been carried around 24/7 for 9 months. It also promotes feeding on demand for those first few months. Basically it recognises that it is impossible to spoil an infant and that at first the most important role that parents have is to be a source of comfort and that discipline can wait until they are at least a few months old!

"As the bible says, "To everything there is a season." I believe disciplining is a very important parental task - but not with young infants. The beginning of the fourth month is the earliest time concerns about accidentally spoiling your baby becomes an issue. However, before four months you have a job that is one hundred times more important than preventing spoiling: your job is nurturing your baby's confidence in you and the world." (Karp 70)

I loved that concept. I have spent a lot of time with little children, and I know that a lot of times parents can underestimate their children's understanding. If this underestimation continues into toddler-hood children can become 'spoiled' but that doesn't happen by offering comfort to a newborn in the first weeks of life. I see that by around four months babies are more capable of soothing themselves to sleep without lots of involvement from adults, and they need to be taught those skills but only when they are old enough to learn them. This seems to line up with Karp's findings.

I have also read some other research about how more strict schedules from birth (not baby initiated) can lead to problems with attachment later in life. The Happiest Baby philosophy seems to provide opportunity to nurture and make a baby's adjustment from womb to world as un-traumatic as possible while promoting healthy attachment. I also enjoyed the chapters at the end of the book describing how to wean infants from this method when they are older.

I recognize each parent makes their own choices regarding what they believe is the best parenting philosophy for their baby. By no means are any posts about the parenting books I am reading meant to be a criticism of any choice a parent has made. This is only my/our personal opinions, but hey, it's my blog so that's what you get. Clearly, this will be our first time at this particular rodeo so we are very open to learning; from books and mostly from people who have been there before us.


  1. i haven't read that book but i've heard tons about it and i totally agree with everything i've heard. For sure the feeding on demand thing. every time i hear someone talk about putting a newborn on a feeding schedule or even a sleeping schedule, i can pretty much guarantee like clockwork that they will be done nursing pretty quick. I'm not sure if you intend to nurse, but if you do, you have to expect that you will nurse for an hour and off for an hour. you pretty much spend all your time nursing. however, that's how you get your supply and make sure your baby is gaining weight okay. even if you don't nurse, it just makes sense to feed a hungry baby. You want to teach them early on to eat when they're hungry instead of ignoring those feelings and eating on a schedule or even if they aren't.

  2. We learned in my Family Healing class how important it is to give security to infants in order to help them develop secure, healthy attachments (which are so important in life!) and that you can't spoil infants (which was some misconception going around for while). Anyway, everything you just wrote falls right in line with what I just learned in my class. :) You're going to be a great mom. :)

  3. Pearl! :) I agree with you! I think so many moms give up on nursing because of "supply issues" when it's most likely that their scheduling has caused the supply issue. Yes, it's frustrating in the beginning sometimes, especially those seemingly "marathon" evenings but I think you are so right about that being important in establishing a good supply.
    Chrissie, go you for reading books. I didn't, although I did have lots of google research sessions and made tons of phone calls when Will was little and I was confused! :) I wish I had, but I think in hindsight I am finding out that my parenting in the early months was squarely in the middle. I was more "attachment" at the beginning but eventually transitioned him to a schedule as I discovered his unique sleeping/eating patterns. Every baby is so different and I think the big key is finding out how to make YOUR particular baby the "happiest baby on the block." This may be overboard but in the beginning I kept a notebook and jotted down every time Will ate, slept, pooped etc. At first I did it so that I could remember what to tell the doctor at appointments when he asked how many times I had nursed him in the last 24 hours, but eventually it became a way of understanding what kind of schedule Will was developing on his own! It was really helpful. Will has been so good about letting me know when he's been ready for each transition (weaning, bassinet to crib, solid foods, moving to a toddler bed etc) and I haven't had to do much prodding.
    Gah, didn't mean to write that much! You will be a great mom and I am so impressed by your preparation! You will be well armed for the first year! :) Praying for yall!

  4. Hi Chrissie... I totally agree and feel relieved that you feel this way too... before Hunter was born I read this book about putting the baby on a strict schedule and that the baby is manipulative etc etc... Babies aren't being manipulative... They are people at their very most vulnerable and are completely and totally dependent on us to look after them... They can't talk and it took me weeks, maybe even months to figure out exactly what each cry meant... was it his nappy? was he hungry? was he tired? was he bored? did he need a cuddle? Babies need love, just like we do and touch and attention. The books I recommended to you all follow this principle (mostly)... I hope you can feel confident in your approach and seek advice from the people you want it from and ignore the stuff that doesn't agree with your instincts... and keep reading... you will come across some interesting stuff... X



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