Once upon a time, your bedside table was stacked with Pulitzer prize-winning novels and new issues of The New Yorker. But between round-the-clock feedings and weeks of choppy sleep, you may find yourself struggling to make it through the dizzying array of books about optimizing babies’ shut-eye. Our Big Idea series is here to help by summarizing the essential ideas you’ll find in popular sleep books.

 

Background:

Harvey Karp, a Los Angeles-based pediatrician to the stars, published The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Baby Sleep Longer in 2002. His (relatively) simple five-step method continues to be hugely popular, and though your mother-in-law will likely think it’s a little kooky, you’ll be hard pressed to find a parent of an infant today who hasn’t given it a shot.

Philosophy:

Karp’s method hinges on his theory that human babies are born too early and the first three months are essentially a “fourth trimester.” Thus, while you may think babies want calm and quiet, what they actually find most comforting is a reproduction of the conditions in the womb—where it’s loud, jiggly, and confining.

Takeaway tips:

The meat of Karp’s book is his “Five S’s System,” which advises parents to soothe babies by swaddling tightly, making a loud “shush” noise in their ears, rocking them in a swinging motion, holding them in a side or stomach-down position (only while awake), and satisfying their sucking reflex with a pacifier. And, yes, he advises doing all of that at the same time.

Pros/cons:

Some parents find that it really works like magic, while others see that their babies simply don’t respond to it.

How to get more info:

You can borrow the book from another new mom, but we recommend downloading the video, since you really need a visual demonstration: https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/the-happiest-baby-on-the-block/id537048114.