Monday, March 19, 2012

The Happiest Baby on the Block

I just finished reading The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp.  I guess I'm feeling mixed emotions about it.  Our first child was a Babywise baby.  We followed it pretty well.  (I've heard criticisms about the method being too restrictive -- holding back feedings to maintain a schedule, but the book does say, feed the baby when the baby's hungry, which is what we did, so I didn't feel we were starving our kid at all under that technique.  He was a fatty.  I actually wonder if I over-fed him as I nursed him forever and he spit up all the time.)  I also had Secrets of the Baby Whisperer back then, but didn't really use it for our son.  It's similar to Babywise, but a bit nicer and gentler.

A couple years later when our daughter was born, I realized I'd felt jipped in a way because I'd always put our son down to sleep and never had all the snuggling I wanted.  So, when #2 came along, I snuggled her more and also carefully read the Baby Whisperer and tried to use that on her.  Our efforts were slightly curtailed, though, because at 3 weeks, she came down with RSV, which landed us in the hospital for five days.  After that she got reflux -- perhaps partly a result of the RSV -- something to do with the mucous left over from the RSV?  So, #2 got lots more snuggling, and we'd do anything to get that girl to sleep and not scream her guts out!  If a baby's sick, I wouldn't use these techniques on them.

A few years later, when #3 came along, we mainly used the Baby Whisperer, but she was just an easy baby as it was.  Everyone says how #3 is the one that throws you a curve ball.  In our case, though, 2 kids was hard, 3 was fairly easy -- all dependent on the kid.

I didn't re-read the books before #4 came along, but when she got here, she sure was (is) a mad, temperamental little thing (at least she's cute!). This baby has the problem of falling asleep then waking up about 2 minutes later.  She's done it anywhere between 4 - 14 hours in a 24 hour period.  It's caused her to sleep up to 9 hours a night (only once) because she's soooooo tired from being up for so long and crying so much.  I'm not so sure if so much sleep is a good thing at 2 weeks!  She's obviously tired, she just can't stay asleep.  She's also had the problem of sucking on the binky, but when it falls out, she wakes up and cries and wants it again.   I think I gave it to her 7 times this morning around 5:00.  Yesterday she took a 45 minute nap in the front-pack and a 2 hour nap later in the afternoon -- after an hour of coaxing her to sleep.  After 4 hours had gone by since her last feeding, I woke her up.  I feel like I haven't gotten that "sleepy newborn grace period" with this baby.  Two weeks is apparently when they get more alert and colic starts.  I'd say she was colicky from the get-go.  She's also a noisy sleeper -- lots of grunting -- maybe it wakes her up?  It doesn't help that the 3 older siblings want to see her ALL THE TIME.  That can't help her relax.

I'd heard a lot of good things about The Happiest Baby, and thought I'd give it a try.  I really wanted to find out how to get this baby to STAY asleep.  It seems like with the other kids, once they got drowsy, I'd put them down and they'd konk out.  They'd also get up on their own every 2-3 hours to eat.  Not with this one!  Anyway, after reading the book, I realized it's more of a how to calm your kid book, rather than a how to get them to be a good sleeper.  After being somewhat of a Babywise/Baby Whisperer convert (I guess I'm a control freak, and I find it a fun/freakish challenge to see if/how/when I can get the baby to sleep), I think I have a hard time believing that I can cuddle my baby so much now, and then convert my kid at 3-4 months to being a more independent sleeper.

I was talking to my sister about this today.  With her 2nd, a girl, who was also a bad sleeper, she did anything to get that girl to sleep (rocking, swinging, holding...).  Now that she's just over one, she's still a bad sleeper!  That's what I dread.  What if I do the Happiest Baby techniques now, and I end up with a lousy sleeper later?  My other 3 kids sleep great -- so I do have a little faith in the other books.

I did like the concept of the "4th trimester" (baby needing a more womb-like atmosphere) the first three months of life in The Happiest Baby.  I also appreciated the calming techniques (swaddling, side/stomach, shh, swing, suck) described in the book.  I feel pretty confident in getting a baby to calm down because of what I'd read in the other books, but just was stumped at what to do when you put the baby down, she wakes up, and cries, cries cries -- again, again, and again!!! (She's actually doing better today -- she's fallen asleep 2 times on her own.  Maybe it was just a bad first two weeks.)

What's your experience with the above mentioned books?  Did Happiest Baby work for you?  Were you able to get baby to sleep on his/her own around 3/4 months?  Were you able to discontinue binky and white noise use?  Any suggestions on what to do when baby just won't stay asleep?


Julie P said...

I'm so sorry it's been rough! My favorite sleep book is Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. But it doesn't even start talking about sleep training or give any suggestions to use until baby is 3 months, I believe.

Jocelyn Christensen said...

I thought that Happiest Baby on the Block was a joke. It actually made us laugh to read. Actually it did give great tips on how to soothe a colicky or gassy baby, etc...but Babywise was by far my pick for actually having the happiest baby on the block!:)

Emily said...

Jocelyn -- I did wonder if he wrote Happiest Baby just to see if he could get people to follow his advice -- whether it's good or not! My husband would do something like that!

Julie -- I'll have to check that one out! Thanks!

Stephanie said...

I have to second the Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (after having read all the other books you mentioned as well). It gave us schedule and routine, while still allowing room for plenty of flexibility and snuggles. I did snuggle my daughter to sleep when she needed it, but it was the exception. we also did small periods of crying to sleep. When she was two months, she slept through the night. At seven months old, she'd hardly ever cry when we put her down. Now, at a year she has one nap from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. (give or take,) and her bedtime is at 8:30 p.m. and she wakes up at 9:30 a.m. HEAVEN! Anyway, I really think I owe it all to that book, because she did NOT start out a natural sleeper and was never a sleepy newborn and initially took short little naps. Good luck with things!

Polly Scott said...

I'm a baby-wise fan through and through. And I like baby whisperer too. The fourth trimester thing scares me to death - I've already been suffocated enough for 10 months:).

Becca said...

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is the best sleep book anywhere. Not necessarily because of the "methods" but because if you read that book you will become an expert on sleep - it explains a lot of the science behind sleep and why sleep matters - which is really vital to helping your kids sleep. How you get your kid to sleep varies from parent to parent and kid to kid and household to household, but understanding what sleep is and why we need it was really beneficial for me.

I also wrote a few posts about training babies to sleep based on a lot of reading I did. It's what we did with #2 and she was always a great sleeper (she's about 3 now and is having problems staying in her own bed at night, but a lot of that is related to her daddy being gone a lot :( )

Good luck!

Robyn said...

I have found many of the ideas in Happiest Baby on the Block helpful. Not every baby was the same for what they liked and how. I think it is so important to listen to our mother's intuition on those things. Tune into our babies, not tune them out.

I don't mind rocking my babies or nursing them to sleep. They are only babies once. We gently move them from stage to stage as they and we are ready. I think a parent can use methods to teach their babies to sleep better but it needs to be done in a way that the baby knows they are safe. Obviously you get that because you noticed that not all your babies were the same on this issue. Some babies respond well to one thing but not another. This is from the Parent's Guide:

"To guide their feet properly, we must show natural affection to children from the very beginning. Infants need to be physically and emotionally cared for. They need continual intimate contact with their parents. It is in this intimate closeness that their future relationships begin to develop.

To develop close, loving relationships with infants, keep them clean and fed, and meet all of their needs kindly and consistently. From this steady, predictable care, infants develop a sense of emotional security and learn that they can trust other people. Constantly give approval to them. Watch, applaud, hug, and kiss them when they lift their heads, turn over, crawl, sit up, or stand."

The Parent's Guide also states,"avoid making a child fearful by locking him in a dark room or threatening to leave him alone."

I think the important thing is to not get caught up in thinking this baby is going to be the same as the others or the next door neighbor's who is perfect. Every family is different and has different expectations about what is normal.

Want to laugh about sleep deprivation?
Just so you know she is being sarcastic. She happens to be LDS too.

Sweet dreams, enjoy the babymoon. I love the first days and weeks. I just nap with my newborn baby as I am able. That helps.

Bridget said...

I'm sorry she's having a hard time sleeping - that sounds just like Rachel! She would sleep for the shortest increments ever and was just always tired! We also had the binky falling out problem which was so, so frustrating. I've read all these books too and my favorite is Healthy Sleep Habits... However, looking back, when Josie started getting extremely fussy liked that we 1) put her on relux medicine (I've heard that "every baby" could be diagnosed with reflux, so I don't know how much this medicine actually did) and 2)I totally cut out dairy from my diet and I know this made the difference for her. If I accidentally had dairy I would find her fussy and waking up more easily within a couple hours of nursing. Good luck though - it's crazy how different these babies come! We can't wait to meet her when you're up to it!

Raisin4Cookies said...

I can't read those books. The author doesn't know my baby!

Just enjoy your baby and follow her cues.... you know her best.

Nicole said...

I agree with Raisin 4 cookies. God gave baby to you, and while you may be able to find some nice tips in books, you can also drive yourself (and everyone else) crazy trying to implement other people's techniques. Listen to your inner voice, listen to your baby, and enjoy them. In the olden days, babies weren't really expected to be independent little bundles...they were expected to be, well, babyish, lol. I have slept with my babies, rocked them to sleep, never used a binky, ect...some of my kiddoes were and still are great sleepers, others weren't and are now, and was wasn't and still has a hard time. She has allergies/intolerances and finding those out and eliminating them from her diet did help a ton! But she is still my most sensitive child--and often has a tough time sleeping at age 7.
So do what works best for you. (it could be a food issue, though. Many babies are bothered by certain foods. Dairy is the number one culprit...just FYI)
By the way, I've enjoyed your site in the past. I hope I didn't come off too strongly, lol. I've just seen some friends drive themselves to distraction trying to follow a program to "independent-ize" their babies and then wish they would have just relaxed a bit more and enjoyed baby a bit more. =)
I have also had good luck taking my babies for a chiro has helped alot with the colic stuff.

Mormon Women: Who We Are said...

My feeling is follow your gut. Pray about it if that clicks, but imo, those books can make us crazy. Sometimes I think we as moms these days have too much info and we don't trust ourselves to do what makes sense or feels right.

My first baby was like this. It was hard! We did what made sense, and it probably violated rules in all the major books and latest 'wisdom.' We figured out more scheduled sleep stuff later on, as we went, not according to any 'rules.'

If cuddling helps, do it. My personal feeling, too, is that as they get older, they can be 'trained' better. I've liked to work with my babies for those few early months. I think the transition to mortality can be hard for them sometimes, maybe depending on their personality or biological adjustments to living in the world.