Let me preface this post with saying, I don’t think I could have survived the first three months of my
crazy adorable son’s life without this DVD. Dr. Harvey Karp is a nationally renowned pediatrician and child development specialist. He is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine. Now that I’ve gotten the technical stuff out of the way, I’m going to tell you how he saved my husbands and my sanity. I swear I would have thought my son was “colicky” if it were not for this DVD.
Babies are wonderful miracles, and it still amazes me today that I have the privilege of being a mother. It is the hardest job I’ve ever done in my entire life. We’re talking about 24/7— 365 days a year, and no your work doesn’t stay at the office when you go home! But, the first three months are the hardest time in a parent’s life. Why? Let’s see, after a crazy experience called “birth” you are thrust into “motherhood” with little to no training. No matter how many books you read, how many shows you watch, and how many friends tell you their version of motherhood, NOTHING can prepare you for your journey.
So what happens after you give birth?
Well, for me I was thrust into a semi private room (after 22.5–and yes I will add the .5 in there–hours of labour) and not having slept in two nights, was given my baby. Not that I’m advocating leaving your child with someone else, but birth is such an emotional rollercoaster, and even with it taking almost 24 hours for it to be completed, you’re so tired, and almost shell shocked and thrust forward into reality. So for the past 10 months (that’s right for all of you who think pregnancy is 9 months, it’s 40 weeks long) you’ve been incubating this little baby, while you go through the rough part of morning/noon/night sickness in the beginning, gaining lots of extra padding, and then feeling like you’re a beached whale, trust me pregnancy is the “easy” part. You only really have to worry about you for those months, you get to eat when you want, sleep when you want and run to the store when you want. Well after your little one comes out, it ceases to be about you.
No matter how tired you are, your baby comes first. You need to feed, change and love this little bundle of joy. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Well the premise is good, but what happens when your baby is crying. Generally you ask yourself these questions:
- Is (s)he hungry? Feed baby.
- Is (s)he wet? Change baby.
- Is (s)he lonely? Pick baby up.
- Is (s)he gassy? Burp baby.
- is (s)he cold/hot? Bundle baby or remove some layers from baby.
Uh oh… baby is still crying. What now?
Welcome to parenthood. It seems like people are forever giving advice, that’s all well and good, but the problem is that half the time, its conflicting advice. More often then not when a baby is crying, people assume it’s Colic. So… What is Colic? Most websites describe Colic as this:
“When a baby’s crying lasts longer than three hours a day, it is called colic. Almost all babies develop a fussy period. The timing varies, but it usually begins at about three weeks of age and peaks somewhere between four and six weeks of age. For most infants the most intense fussiness is in the evening”
Alright ladies and Gentlemen, have you ever had to endure a baby crying for any length of time? Let alone for 3 hours? Now as a new parent you’re seriously supposed to wait until 6 weeks before things get better? NO!!!! A lot of people believe that colic is gas, well hate to tell you this, if when you try Dr. Karp’s method’s and baby stops crying instantly, it’s not gas. Newborns have this shrill cry, about everything when they get worked up. It sounds like they are in constant pain, in reality they’re just trying to get used to their surroundings to our world. Imagine, you’re in this temperature controlled environment, with constant rocking, hugging, sound (it’s louder than a vacuum inside the womb), and food. And then you’re born– all of a sudden, there is no constant in your life. It’s quiet, you feel hunger for the first time, you bum gets dirty and then someone places you in a big open space and expects you to sleep!
So what can I do?
You’ve checked baby’s bum, fed baby, comforted baby (baby probably won’t let you put him/her down), burped baby, and made sure (s)he is not too hot or cold. Now it’s time to help your baby with their “calming reflex” Dr. Karp insists that babies are born with a calming reflex (much like the sucking, or rooting reflex) and it’s our job as parents to turn it on!
The 5 S’s
Swaddling - Tight swaddling provides the continuous touching and support the fetus experienced while still in Mom’s womb. He Swaddles using the Down Up Down Up (DUDU for short–no I’m not kidding) The best way to explain this–And this is seriously the most important of all 5 S’s, is get a large square blanket. Make it yourself tip: Get enough stretchy cotton from the fabric store, to make three or four 42 Square Inch blankets–have someone or do it yourself, serge the edge of the material or place ribbing around the end and sew it on. Or you can buy them off the site. Now lay the blanket flat on the ground in a diamond shape. With the top edge of the diamond, fold it down just a tad, that is where baby’s head will rest. Take the left side of the swaddle (note: babies will try to fight you but sleep much better wrapped up, because they don’t have control over their arms yet) and fold it over baby, tuck tightly under baby leaving right arm free. Bring bottom part of diamond blanket up and tuck around right shoulder, encompassing the right arm. Now this is the tricky part. Take the right side of blanket (often holding arms so they don’t wiggle out)and bring it down towards the chest–stop half way down. Notice you still have material left over? That’s what you wrap your baby with all the way around and tuck into the fold. To buy the video go to their site or rent it from your local library for free–note, there is usually a waiting period so if you are expecting, I’d get on a wait list near the end of your pregnancy. Here is my take on how to wrap the DUDU way!
Sidebar: Here is the RealTechMom’s swaddling technique. I’ve combined the Happiest Baby’s technique with a little twist. My son has very strong arms, and while the DUDU way works very very well, my son would always manage to get out of it after 3 or 4 hours thus waking up. There are a number of different swaddle makers out there, but honestly for me to spend the kind of cash they want to ship to Canada is ridiculous. My solution? Make one myself (well actually my MIL made it), you take your 42 square inch blanket and lay it down the same way, here’s the difference, there is bound to be some left over material when you’ve made your swaddle blanket or (you can purchase some from the store), lay that down across the blanket so that it’s near the top where the head would go (see video for instruction), then you are going to take the sides of each blanket and individually wrap the side of each arm so the material goes under baby’s bum/back. Then proceed to wrap baby like the happiest baby does (the DUDU method). When I started to use this method my son started to sleep longer and longer and is now (I am proud to say: sleeping through the night!) I went from getting 2 or 3 hours of sleep, and around three months, he started giving me a 4 hour stretch. When I implemented the new swaddling technique, he gave me 5 hour stretches waking around 2 am, for a feed for about a week and now, does not wake at all for a feed between 8 and 4/5 am! Here is my take on the swaddle, but either way, the key is to make the swaddle out of stretchy cotton material, and when you are pulling tight at the end, make sure it’s snug. I guarantee that baby will sleep longer if baby is swaddled.
Babies will fight you, and you have to be strong (you and your partner/support person(s)) and commit to swaddling. It looks like they don’t like it, but you are the parent and you know what’s best. This will definitely help you get more sleep. Babies’ arms wake them because they lack the ability to control them themselves. If/when they hit themselves, they really have no clue that those thing flying around are their arms, hence the startle and the waking. Now the important part to remember is that swaddling often by itself will NOT calm baby down. Once you’ve swaddled, it allows them to focus on the next S’s so that you can get them to the best “s” Sleep!!!!
Side/stomach position - You place your baby, while holding him/her, either on her left side to assist in digestion, or on her stomach to provide reassuring support. This is often called the “football hold” or reverse breastfeeding hold. You want to make sure that baby is placed with their stomach to the side, if baby is laying flat on your arm it will help but if you tilt baby to the side a bit, you’ll notice your baby has a “sweet spot.” This can often (in combination with the swaddling) can calm your crying baby. Once your baby is happily asleep, you can safely put her in her crib, on her back. Dad’s some of you may excel particularly well at this hold because your arms are bigger, and you feel comfortable holding football’s. For me, I could never quite hold my son in this style. But sometimes baby needs a little more help.
Shushing Sounds – This is the most amazing to see on the Video (that is why I seriously recommend renting or buying it, I liked having a copy that was purchased for me because I could re-watch it over and over to get some of these techniques right. Dr. Karp goes right up to the baby’s ear and goes (shushhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh— loud enough to match baby’s cry) At first, mom’s, grandmom’s, sister’s and anyone else watching may freak out. It appears that you are making baby deaf. But in the video, you watch Dr. Karp do this to numerous babies and it’s like and automatic switch that turns on their calming reflex. Dr. Karp advocates that it is louder then a vacuum in the womb and that baby’s are “thrust” into silence, the “white” noise comforts them. Have you ever turned on the vacuum to calm a baby down? Try it, unless they are hungry, uncomfortable, or in pain, crying will subside. These sounds imitate the continual whooshing sound made by the blood flowing through arteries near the womb. The good news is that you can easily save the motors on your household appliances and get a white noise CD which can be played over and over again with no worries. *Note: if using a hair dryer to make white noise for longer then 1 minute, move the hair dryer at least 6 feet away.*
Swinging - Ahh the Swing, where would I have been without my swing. I think I would have been thrown in the loonie bin. Dr. Karp advocates that newborns are used to the swinging motions that were present when they were still in Mom’s womb. *Note: the swing will not calm your baby, baby must be calmed before placed in swing, if baby starts to fuss, give the bucket a little jiggle to re-calm baby* Every step mom took, every movement caused a swinging or jiggling motion for your baby. After your baby is born, this calming motion, which was so comforting and familiar, was abruptly taken away. Your baby misses the motion and has a difficult time getting used to it not being there. “It’s disorienting and unnatural,” says Karp. Rocking, car rides, and other swinging movements all can help. This jiggling that he demonstrates in his video is amazing and is what saved my husband and me. Also dad’s this is where you can swoop in and save the day, men often feel more comfortable using this jiggling then the mom’s. *Note: this is not shaking your baby, you should never EVER shake your baby, if you ever need a break, place baby in a safe spot (crib, play yard) and walk a way for a few minutes or call someone to help.
Sucking – The last but certainly not the least S “Sucking has its effects deep within the nervous system,” notes Karp, “and triggers the calming reflex and releases natural chemicals within the brain.” This “S” can be accomplished with breast, bottle, pacifier or even a finger. He advocates that pacifiers are very useful for the first 3 to 4 months of age to help baby to self soothe, and I 100% agree (we’re not talking about a 3 year old having a sucky here, these are newborn’s.)
Now some babies just need a little bit more help then others and what one of his parents described as the “cuddle cure” (using all 5 at once) takes some practice to find out what works for your baby. Don’t get frustrated, you may not get how to do these right away, but I promise if you give it time to work, it will! You will also get better at each of these things and will learn what works for your baby. Here is Dr. Harvey Karp talking about the 5 S’s.
Back to Sleep
What is SIDS?
SIDS stands for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. SIDS rarely occurs before 2 weeks or after 6 months of age, while still possible most deaths occur in children who are between 2 months and 4 months of age.
The number of SIDS deaths has declined significantly in recent years, thanks to research that has identified simple measures parents can take to greatly reduce their child’s risk. The most important of these measures involves placing infants to sleep on their backs instead of their stomachs.
The Moro Reflex
Many parents find it very difficult to get their baby to sleep on the back. Most of the time, this difficulty is due to a startle reflex infants have called the Moro reflex. The Moro reflex is a normal reflex for an infant when he or she is startled or feels like they are falling. The infant will fling out his or her arms sideways with the palms up and the thumbs flexed. This reflex can be activate while sleeping if your child is dreaming. This “jerking awake” motion can startle your child awake, upsetting him or her in the process.
Swaddling, arguably the most important component of Dr. Karp’s method, helps your baby feel more secure and allows you to place, an otherwise unwilling baby, on his or her back, instead of the stomach. The swaddling gives your baby a safe secure feeling, as if you are holding them, and will limit any of the sudden movements which can cause your baby to startle awake.
Swaddling makes is easier to place your baby in a safer, recommended, sleep position which reduces the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
For more information on the “Back to Sleep” campaign call Toll free at 1-800-505-CRIB (2742)
The Bottom Line
Buy or Rent the DVD, it’s only about 20-30 minutes that will save yourselves from hours of crying. It is worth the money as a purchase in my books. There is also the book that goes into much more depth about the missing 4th trimester (basically our babies are born 3/4 months too early and need to adjust to the outside world). He also advocates that what you are doing is not spoiling your baby. He says you have to look at it from this perspective, in the womb, baby had all of these things 24 hours a day, so holding them, shushing them and rocking them is not spoiling them even if you’re doing it half the amount of time. So let’s say they go from getting these things for 24 hours a day to 12 hours a day, that hardly sounds like spoiling to me. Remember, your job is to love your baby the best way you know how, these are just some tools that helped me. My son has slept in his crib from day 7 (that’s another story, I did not have my crib mattress yet as he was 3 weeks early) and I’ve never looked back. I’m not knocking co-sleeping because for many people it works, but for us this works better. You can also implement these techniques if you are co-sleeping too.
If you can’t calm your baby, and you are feeling closer and closer to losing control:
- STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING!
- Put your screaming baby down in a crib, swing, or other safe secure spot.
- Walk a way. Go stand on the porch. Go take a shower. Go do something that will get you away from the situation until you have regained your composure and are able to deal with your baby.
- REMEMBER—It’s normal to feel upset and angry. Women have a natural instinctual reaction in us to feel (hormonally) upset/frustrated when babies cry, not that men don’t get frustrated but for women it’s chemical.
Taking care of a baby can be tiring and sometimes extremely frustrating, I can’t tell you how many times at the beginning I would sit and cry with my son when he cried because I was so frustrated, so tired, and felt like I was doing a bad job as a mom–It does get better (I know, I hated that saying too but it’s true) . But there are ways to comfort him and yourself, and people nearby to help. Never yell at, hit, or shake a baby!!
If you are having a difficult time dealing with your birth experience, and the emotions that come with having a baby, you are not alone. Do not ignore these feelings. Postpartum Depression is normal and should not be ignored. Feel free to look at this site(http://www.postpartum.org/supportgroups.html) and contact the closest location to you, or talk to your public health nurse–they are wonderful resources! Remember being a parent is not easy, especially when you come home from the hospital your hormones are all wacky, but never let that be an excuse. Talk to your doctor if you are even slightly concerned, and if your doctor dismisses your feelings, GET ANOTHER DOCTOR.