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pregnancy reads: The Happiest Baby on the Block

One of the first books I came across after getting pregnant was The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp. It was highly rated on Amazon and looked like a useful read. As luck would have it, my sister gifted the book to J and I for Christmas. She told me that it was hands down the best resource they encountered when preparing for their first baby. With a review like that, I got started right away!

The Happiest Baby on the Block

I’m not 100% finished with the book, but I feel as though I’m far enough in to give a good review. First off, the whole focus of the book centers on a strategy for calming a fussy baby. Karp definitely takes his time setting the stage for his calming technique. He overviews how parenting practices have evolved throughout the ages and how they differ around the world. He also goes to great lengths to dispel common misconceptions about why babies are fussy/colicky and how best to deal with them. At first I was kind of annoyed that he didn’t just “get to the point” and tell me exactly what I needed to do, but in retrospect, I think it’s really good that he eases the reader into his train of thought.

His entire belief system centers on the idea that the first 3 months of an infant’s life are essentially a 4th trimester. Human babies do not come out of the womb equipped with everything they need to survive in the world around them and they are not developmentally advanced enough to deal with all of the stressors in their lives. The Happiest Baby on the Block approach uses the 5 S’s (swaddling, side/stomach, shushing, swinging, and sucking) to recreate the soothing sensation of a mother’s womb to calm a baby during the 4th trimester. As the book progresses, he goes into detail about exactly how to carry out his technique successfully.

My highlights and main takeaways from The Happiest Baby on the Block:

  1. You can’t spoil a newborn baby
  2. Listen to your instincts (not your 2nd cousin, or a message board, or the lady at the grocery store checkout line)
  3. Don’t give up when your efforts to quiet baby don’t work the first time
  4. Babies require human touch – don’t withhold affection
  5. Get to know YOUR baby
  6. Respect the 4th trimester


I have really enjoyed the read, and J and I plan on using this approach with Baby M. I definitely agree with Karp that it is impossible to spoil your newborn – Baby M will be picked up, rocked, kissed, loved and fed on his/her own schedule. I also liked that Karp overviewed the subtle cues that babies give when there is something specific (milk usually) that they want. He explained that crying is a last resort feeding cue. I know it will take time for J and I to get to know our little one, but I definitely believe that the information we gained from The Happiest Baby on the Block will make us more confident in comforting our newborn!

Have you read Harvey Karp’s The Happiest Baby on the Block? What “must reads” do/did you have for preparing for baby? 

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