book report: the happiest baby guide to great sleep by dr. harvey karp

I made a New Year's Resolution to read 12 works of fiction and 12 works of nonfiction. I'd planned to start with "Guests of the Ayatollah" by Mark Bowden. (This is a guilt read. When I saw a preview for Argo I leaned over to my husband and said 'Was that in Afghanistan? Like in "Charlie Wilson's War?' Yes, ok, I'm not exactly up to date on my mid-eastern modern history.)

But life had other plans for me.

My first book of the new year is Dr. Karp's "The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep." Guess why.

Chicken went on a sleep strike for several days and I thought I was going to lose all my hair and get a divorce. I wept in the shower and ate donuts for lunch.

Literally one day he decided to stop sleeping. His naps went from 2 hours to 30 minutes. His nights went from 9 pm - 7 am with a 4 am feed to 10:30 pm to 7 am with a 1 am, 3 am, and 5 am feed. We would rock him to sleep and lay him gently in his crib. As soon as his butt hit the mattress his eyes flew open and out of his mouth poured the most heart-wrenching wails you've ever heard in your life. Over. And over. And over again.

Karp's book helped a lot. At least last night and today it did.

The book is organized into sections by the age of your baby. The introduction covers the basics of babies and sleep; the basic needs of an infant, and how their sleep differs from adult sleep. Anyone who's read "Happiest Baby on the Block" will recognize a lot of Karp's "Fourth Trimester" lingo (namely, the 5 S's. 90% of the time they work every time.)

I skimmed Part 1, which covers newborns up to 3 months, because I was reading it on a Kindle and still can't figure out how to skip chapters. Part 2 coves sleep issues for infants from 3 to 12 months. Karp covers a variety common parent mistakes, as well as tactics to help your older baby go the fuck to sleep.

Here's the problem. Until a baby is 6 months old, you're in your very own "Survivor" competition. You do whatever it takes, wherever and whenever you can, to get the baby to sleep. Bounce. Rock. Shush. Wear him in a sling. Nurse. Sing. Hum. Drive around the block for hours. Put him to sleep in bed with you. ANYTHING GOES. Except whiskey. (wink.)

After 6 months, you must immediately stop bouncing, rocking, shushing, wearing him in a sling, nursing, singing, humming, driving, and co-sleeping. Why? Because all of these things that worked so well day and night for 6 months have actually been training your baby that the way we fall asleep is rocking/bouncing in mom and dad's arms, listening to mom and dad sing. After 6 months when the baby wakes up in the middle of the night alone in a crib, he thinks, "What the fuck! STELLLLAAAAA!"

So that's when you have to start teaching the baby how to fall asleep on his own. That way when he wakes up in the middle of the night alone in a crib he thinks, "Still in the crib? Coo. 'Night." There are all manner of ways to teach babies how to fall asleep on their own, from changing the routine you've been doing bit by bit over a period of weeks (bitch please I don't have that kind of time) to listening to the baby scream for as long as it takes while you tremble in the deepest corner of your closet.

The strategy that we settled on is called "Pick Up/Put Down." Here's how it works:

1. Put the baby in the crib
2. If the baby is asleep when you put him in the crib, wake him gently.
(PS I don't know who these people are who can move their sleeping baby from warm, soft mom-scented arms to a cold mattress that probably smells like laundry detergent even if you DO use unscented like we do.)
3. If (IF. HA.) the baby cries, pick him up and comfort him.
4. Once he quiets, put him down again.
5. Repeat 3 and 4 until the sun comes up. Or the baby rolls over and falls asleep.

The trick is to do as little as possible in step 3. Stop bouncing, humming, swaying. Do only what it takes to calm the baby down and then put him back in his crib. Then pick him up and do as little as possible to get him to stop crying. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

So far it's working. Chicken fell asleep at 8:30, woke up at 9:30, dad Picked Up/Put Down for about 30 minutes, slept from 10 to 1, dad Picked Up/Put Down for about 45 minutes, slept from about 2 to 5:45, mom fed him then Picked Up/Put Down for about 2 minutes (he was in a milk coma), slept until 9. I can't believe I just wrote this paragraph. So boring and not funny at all. Please feel free to skip this paragraph. Well, if you're reading this then it's too late. My bad. This, right here, is what ya call the literature of the new mom.


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