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How to keep your baby happy

Happy babies and toddlers make for happy families. Nobody knows this better than Dr. Harvey Karp, the nationally renowned pediatrician and child development specialist. Karp has taught thousands of parents how to soothe colic, get their babies to sleep and cut down on tantrums.

Karp is perhaps best known as the author of best-selling books and DVDs, The Happiest Baby on the Block, The Happiest Toddler on the Block and The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep.

Hey Baby Chicago recently had the chance to ask Karp to share his best advice with expectant and new parents in Chicago.

What question do expectant and new parents most frequently ask you?

The number one question I get is, ‘How do I get my baby to sleep?’ Parents know that they will be tired with a newborn, but the amazing thing about pregnant parents is that they have such a wonderful sense of optimism and focus on delivery. They don’t really get a full picture of what it is going to be like once baby arrives. Did you know that the military trains Navy SEALs to endure torture by blasting the sound of crying babies and waking them constantly? Parents today should really pat themselves on the back because they do an amazing job. Historically, parents didn’t do this alone like they do now.

What is the biggest myth or misconception about taking care of a newborn?

The biggest myth is that it is just natural to take care of a baby. It is certainly natural to love your baby and want to take care of your baby. But baby care is a skill—not a hard skill, but it is a skill. So many parents haven’t taken care of babies in the past and they don’t have a support network. Parents think that the answers are in books, but they are really experiential. Parents have three main jobs: feed the baby, calm the crying and get sleep. This is where my DVD can be a resource. Parents can focus on mastering just a few techniques—the five S’s (swaddle, side-stomach position, shush, swing and suck), how to turn the off switch for crying and the on switch for sleep.

Much of your advice focuses on not just baby, but overall family wellness. How do the techniques in The Happiest Baby on the Block help achieve that?

If we help parents feel more confident and competent, we will promote a positive cycle of parents feeling connected to their kids. Succeeding with your baby is a focal point of your self-esteem and well-being. You will remember it for the rest of your life. We also know that mom’s postpartum wellness is impacted by three major factors: (1) crying baby; (2) exhaustion; and (3) support from a partner. That is one of the biggest values of the Happiest Baby program. Dads want to share in the techniques, and they do them so well. The result is that mom feels supported and her anxiety is reduced.

What products do you recommend for new parents wanting to implement the techniques in your books, DVDs and classes?

  1. A big swaddling blanket or a pre-made swaddling wrap.
  2. A pacifier, but don’t introduce until baby is breastfeeding well.
  3. A good swing. The Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies not sleep in swings, but it can be entertaining for them and give you a break.
  4. A carrier because baby can also sleep in it.
  5. White noise (both high and low pitch). High-pitched white noise is good for calming a crying baby and low-pitched sounds are great for promoting sleep.

Where can parents in the Chicago area learn more about the Happiest Baby program and resources?

We have a number of Happiest Baby educators throughout Chicago, including at the University of Chicago and Lurie Children’s Hospital.

Hear Dr. Karp in person

Dr. Harvey Karp will be the keynote speaker at the annual Best of Bump Club event in Chicago on June 4.

For tickets: bumpclubandbeyond.com/bestof.

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