Dr Harvey Karp’s solution for endlessly crying babies: a local expert’s response

By admin
13 April 2014

It’s something that pushes new moms to their wits’ end. What do you do when your baby won’t stop crying? An American paediatrician gained fame with his book The Happiest Baby on the Block, in which, among other things, he suggests a special method, the so-called Five Ss, to help moms with their crying babies.

Go here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_64-LbhT3M) to watch an interview with Dr Karp on the talk show Dr Phil. In it he gives a brief explanation of the methods

The so-called Five Ss are thus:

  1. Swaddling
  2. Side or stomach position
  3. Shhing
  4. Swinging
  5. Sucking

If you’re battling with a niggly baby this method might strike you as manna from heaven. Indeed it’s also impressive to see how Dr Karp makes magic with the babies!

Local advice

Jenny Wright, breastfeeding and parenting specialist at The Parent Centre in Cape Town, cautions however that new moms shouldn’t necessarily blindly follow Dr Karp’s method as show in the video.

“Most concerning of all is that in the information you sent and in the video, Dr Karp doesn’t mention at all the fact that the baby may be hungry and require feeding. Ignoring that need to breastfeed can have serious consequences for the health of the baby,” she says.

Jenny explains that breastmilk is digested very fast and that this, combined with the small stomach of the new-born, means that breast babies should be fed frequently.

“It’s concerning that sucking is mentioned only in Step 5 and that Dr Karp then recommends that you first use a pacifier, then your finger for the baby to suck and only in the third place suggest that you place your breast to the baby’s mouth.”

Furthermore Jenny warns that an upset, crying baby probably won’t easily breastfeed. “If all those other steps are tried first and the baby will not settle for anything other than milk, he may be too upset and even too exhausted to be able to feed when the breast is finally offered.”

Jenny also wishes to reassure moms that regular feeding is normal and essential. Newborn babies don’t always continue crying when they’re hungry either. “So if a mother misses the cues and the baby doesn’t insist, then feeds may be missed that the baby needs. Underfeeding of a baby can have very serious consequences.”

It also troubles Jenny that Dr Karp just briefly mentions to Dr Phil that babies crave the closeness of their mothers. “Needing to be with mom (or someone) and needing a feed are two of the most basic needs for babies and yet they’re not mentioned at all in Dr Karp’s 5 steps.”

Regarding Step 1 (Swaddling) Jenny says some babies like to be swaddled and others not. “But the current recommendation is that it’s very important that if swaddling is done, the baby must have its hands up near the face so it can suck its hands. This is a way for a baby to self-soothe. It can also be an early indication to a mother that her baby may be ready for a feed.”

- Suzaan Hauman

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