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The Happiest Baby on the Block

The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer

By Harvey Karp
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The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp

The Happiest Baby on the Block (2002) tackles one of the biggest issues new parents will face: the constant wails and tears of their baby. These blinks explain why your baby’s survival depends on your responding to its cries, and how, by triggering the calming reflex, you can make your baby feel calm and safe.

Key idea 1 of 6

Babies cry because they’re brought into the world before they’re ready.

When a foal is born, it’s able to run. But what about human babies? Well, there’s really no animal born more helpless. Newborn babies can’t sit up on their own, they can’t turn on their own and they can’t even burp without assistance.

Frail, fragile and constantly overwhelmed, babies need a soothing, stable place with constant nourishment: the womb. Unfortunately, babies are born about three months before they’re physically ready to enter the world.

Why do we enter the world so early?

We have our big brains to thank for that one. Human survival depends on having a sophisticated brain and babies are born with rather large heads to allow for this. If the baby stayed in the womb longer than nine months, its head would grow too big for it to be born, and it’d get stuck in the birth canal.

Because of this early arrival, babies cry for help. And they rely on you to respond. Crying is a baby’s instinctual reaction, its way of ensuring it gets constant care. When a baby is hungry, cold, in need of a fresh diaper or feeling afraid, its first reflex is to cry.

Crying is natural, and parents shouldn’t worry about spoiling their baby by responding to every cry. Think about it – how can you spoil something in its very first months in the world? Letting your baby cry is dangerous, too. It’s been linked to increased breastfeeding problems, and even crib death.

Most colicky babies cry excessively because they were born too early. Only ten percent of colicky babies suffer from a physical ailment, such as a food intolerance, while the rest exhibit colicky symptoms because they missed the fourth trimester in the womb.

So, as your child follows its instincts and starts crying, let your own instincts guide you and show your child love as soon as it needs it. Soon enough, your baby will learn to feel safe when you’re around. Nonetheless, you’ll sometimes need a few tricks up your sleeve to soothe your baby. We’ll explore these next.

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