Wednesday, November 10, 2010

DVD Review: Happiest Baby on the Block

A friend of mine recommended that I watch The Happiest Baby on the Block. She said the DVD was way better than the book, so Matt and I netflixed it.

Although I found aspects of the movie disconcerting, I still recommend that parents of newborns watch it. I feel like I have some strategies in my toolkit to pull out when Matt and I are trying to cope with fussiness.

The main ideas presented by the movie are listed below. I'm not sure how I feel about swaddling, and shhh-ing really loudly in a baby's ear seems alarming. Then there's the whole "jiggle your baby's head like it's a plate of Jell-O" thing. It left me wondering if there are more proactive ways of preventing the kind of fussiness that needs to be dealt with in these ways (like by frequently wearing your baby in a wrap/carrier/sling so it's close to you and moving around).

However, watching the techniques in action as they quickly calmed babies was really compelling. I'm also compelled by the numerous positive reviews on Amazon. I'm definitely going to try them out if I need to!

My notes about the DVD:
  • Babies are like smoke alarms. They have one cry for everything.
  • Fourth Trimester: Babies are immature when they are born. They need lots of rocking, calming, and smoothing. The first three months are like the fourth trimester. They are often upset because they are missing the sensations that they experienced in the womb: confinement, noise, constant rocking.
  • Calming Reflex: Babies have a calming reflex, just like a knee reflex. The trick is to figure out how to trigger it. Swaddling, side or stomach holds, shushing (white noise), swinging or jiggling movements can trigger the reflex.
  • Swaddling: Most successful with square blankets. Swaddling makes a baby feel like it's protected and safe back in the womb. Pattern of wrapping = down up, down up. Put blanket in a diamond shape. Fold the top corner down. Line the baby's shoulders up with the top fold line of the blanket. Fold the left corner over the baby's right arm (which is in a down position) in a very, very snug position; tuck it and snug it underneath the baby's left side; fold the bottom corner up to the baby's left shoulder and tuck it a little under to keep the arm snug; pull the right corner out, snug it a little, pull it to the center, hold it in place; pull the bottom right hand corner of the blanket diagonally up across the baby's right side; snug it around, and tuck it into the back or side.
  • Swaddling is most important for the first three months.
  • Roll babies onto their sides with their faces slightly facing down--getting the right angle is very important.
  • The third S is "ssshhhing" or white noise. You sssshhh as loudly as the baby is crying. You can use white noise machines, the static of a radio, a vacuum, hairdryer, etc.
  • The fourth S is "swinging." You jiggle the baby's head like it's a plate of Jello-O. You can put your legs hip-width apart, lay the baby on your knees with its head on your hands, move your knees closely together to cause a jiggle in its head.
  • The fifth S is "sucking" on the breast, fingers, or pacifiers. When a baby is sucking on a pacifier, you should try to pull it away a little to build a baby's sucking strength (they are trying to keep the pacifier in their mouth).
  • Don't give a baby a pacifier until breastfeeding is going really well.

If you're interested in seeing the updated version of my infant care notes, you can go here.

One of the main benefits of watching the DVD was that it involved Matt in the preparation process. I'm the one who's doing all the reading, and I think it was really good for him to hear crying babies and see struggling parents.

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Carrie said...

Sara, I SWEAR nothing bad is going to happen to your baby if you shush and bounce him. Seriously. IT WORKS, AND THE BABY LOVES IT. It's not violent or strange or anything. As you know from the DVD (I read the book), it's merely attempting to replicate the very loud sounds and movements the baby has experienced for the previous 9.5 months. You will very likely need these techniques. Sometimes no amount of wrapping, kangaroo care, swaddling, or any seemingly gentler methods will work. Your baby will not break; I promise.

LauraC said...

I agree with Carrie! IT TOTALLY WORKS.

Nate was one of those babies who went from 0 to 60 in two seconds. Using the 5 S's jolted him out of his cycle of crying to calm him down in ways nothing else could. He woke up from sleep crying immediately, even from co-sleeping and in a carrier!

While you are doing baby prep reading, I would also recommend The Baby Whisperer ONLY for the baby type quiz. If you end up with a Textbook or Angel baby (Alex was a Textbook baby) you may not need the 5 S's. Nate was a Spirited baby (also a spirited kid) aka His Royal Highness who cried whenever we didn't do things exactly the way he wanted. As new parents, we had no idea what we were doing so we did a lot of floundering with Nate.

Jessica said...

I loved reading the book and have found the techniques useful. My seven week old is very content thanks to Dr. Karp. However, once the baby was actually here I didn't feel like it was all necessary. Like you said, most of those situations can be avoided altogether when you wear your baby. Mine gets in the wrap and calms immediately 90% of the time. The rare occasion she doesn't calm down, I will walk around with her in it or gently bounce up and down. It works like a charm and I've never had to jiggle her head like jello. I only swaddle her when she's sleeping or if I need to have a break from bouncing her in the wrap (it can be a little trying on the back). But don't go out and buy a bunch of receiving blankets like I did; most of them are not square and the ones that are square are not big enough to swaddle a baby. The only ones I found to work are Dwell Studio (Target brand). I've heard amazing things about the Miracle Blanket though, I'd love to buy one but I stocked up on those Dwell Studio blankets. As far as shh-ing, I very rarely use it and never for more than a minute or two. I find it disconcerting.

I would like to note though that some babies are much fussier than mine and may need more of Dr. Karp's suggestions. I don't want to contribute it 100% to my parenting skills because different babies have different temperaments and I'm sure there are far better parents out there with much fussier babies. I loved that I had these techniques in my tool kit because it gave me so many ideas for the fussies and I use them in different combinations as needed for my child. You'll find your own baby's combination when he gets here :)

Claire said...

Curious why you're concerned about swaddling?

Nerdlove said...

Babies definitely do not have one cry for everything, in my experience. There is a milk cry and an I'm tired cry and a few other cries from the very beginning. So that part sounds...ill informed.

But swadling totally, totally, TOTALLY WORKS. Even in older kids - when my friend's 18 month old is freaking out in her car seat and is exhausted, she pulls her own hair, thus making her more upset - when I sit back there with her and gently hold her arms down and talk to her she goes to sleep in under 5 minutes.

L said...

I agree the whole process can appear disconcerting--but it was the _only_ thing that worked for my very colicky nephew. Okay, holdingand walking and distraction sometimes worked too--but you can only spend so many hours a day walking a baby outdoors--especially in a northern winter--and indoors held no interest for him. Every one of the 5 Ss won't be necessary for every baby--but it seems good to have in the toolbelt.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with everyone here that the S's work for a lot of people. But. As a lactation consultant I will say that many breastfeeding educators have concerns that the S's mask feeding cues. I have all the confidence that you will educate yourself enough to know the difference, but be careful with them!

Heather said...

I agree with everyone above - it totally works. For those times when babies are just too tired to fall asleep, or too overstimulated, it really calms them (at least, it did for all three of mine).

Catfish said...

My nephew was also very fussy (like @L's) and swaddling was one of the only things that worked to calm him down. (I lived with my sister at the time so did the whole baby-rearing thing). I don't think you can decide ahead of time how to soothe your baby. Each baby will be different, so I wouldn't rule anything (reasonable) out. Sure, for some kids fussiness can be addressed proactively, but for some it can't. If you don't accept that a lot of your plans might have to go out the window depending upon your little one's personality, you're setting up to feel like you "failed" at things that don't make sense for your baby.

I personally think swaddling is a wonder for those babies who are easily over-stimulated.

bklyn76 said...

i loved this book and most of the tactics in it. the swaddling, shhhing, side hold, sucking/feeding and perpetually bouncing [where my blog name came from] on an exercise ball really helped make life bearable for my babe and i during the first few months...i also constantly wore him but when i needed a break, my husband was able to take over, which was a great relief.

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