My firstborn had awful colic. His nightmarish, hours-long wails had my husband and me pacing the floors, running the vacuum cleaner, burping him like mad and endlessly singing every lullaby and love song we could remember. Nothing worked. Half the time, I'd wind up crying too. Why wasn't he a happy baby like those TV-commercial cherubs? What was I doing wrong?
Nobody told me my squalling lumpling was like an unfinished cupcake that just needed more time in the oven. Or that by imitating the atmosphere of the womb (his "oven"), I could turn off the crying.
At least that's what parents over the past 20 years have been learning from Harvey Karp, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. In his best-selling book and companion DVD, The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer, Karp teaches an approach to baby calming that parents from Texas to Maryland are calling "magic" and "a lifesaver" in their five-star write-ups on Amazon.com. Even celebrities Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow have consulted the doctor about their fussy tots. Across the country, it seems, a hush falls over noisy nurseries as parents try out Karp's lineup of soothing strategies -- swaddling, sucking, side positioning, shushing and swinging -- that are the core of his baby-calming philosophy.These "Five S's" are not exactly revolutionary. In fact, they're probably as old as humanity: Various cultures have been using the same techniques on their children for centuries. What is fresh is his idea that when these tactics are used in just the right way, they can trigger a neurological reflex that instantly quiets most fussy infants and adds one to three hours to their sleep. That's right -- Karp believes that most parents can activate their child's "calming reflex" and soothe even the worst case of the crankies on the spot.But is there really a magic formula for fuss-free babies? Or is this just another gimmick akin to weight loss without exercise or making money without working? Well, some experts in the field remain skeptical, and a few of our road-testers were not completely sold. But legions of parents have become devotees of Karp's step-by-step method. If you're at your wit's end with a colicky or crying newborn, read on to learn more about the soothing secrets of the "baby calmer."