There's been a baby boomlet in my life, as several young friends have recently given birth; I've been making the acquaintance of newborns. It has been blissful. There is nothing like the smell of babies' heads, unless it is the tight reflexive grip of their tiny fingers, or the perfection of their toes, or the way they curl like tiny marsupials around the limb of an adult arm, or the way they grunt and squeal and slurp and slobber through feedings. Babies hide nothing, but they can be mysterious and hard to understand, perhaps because we have forgotten so much about the time when we were babies.

Well, all this new baby business has brought a new doctor into my life. That would be the estimable Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block. I had to do a crash course in new baby life so that I could be of some use to my exhausted new parent friends. My skills are rather rusty, and dated.

As it happens, the best baby techniques these days seem to be as ancient as civilization. I love Karp's formulation of a fourth trimester, the idea being that babies are born needing another three months gestational time ex utero. To give them the most soothing environment you must replicate what they've left behind as closely as possible--short of having them live underwater in the tub. So I remastered swaddling techniques, learned about Shhhh-ing loudly--their ear drums are not yet fully developed, so they don't hear so well--helped them find their pacifiers so they could practice sucking, and got into swinging, as they love that motion. Karp's techniques involve several S mantras...very useful handles for aging or exhausted brains.

Anyone who expects to be around newborns (and I hope to see many more in my future, hint hint) ought to get acquainted with Dr. Karp. His book is a must for every auntie or uncle, grandmother or grandfather, sister, or friend. Frankly, I loved reading it just to try to remember what it felt like to be a baby....but I'm strange that way. Karp's tone is authoritative but friendly and reassuring; you feel like you've met a wonderful new friend just reading the book.

Next perhaps he will address the S mantras for new parents: Sleeplessness; Speed-eating; Slippage of Sanity; Shell Shock; Skewed Reason; Slow Brain. Etc.

But most of all Slow Love! I wish I had had his book when I had my babies. They probably wish so too.


Luciane at HomeBunch.com said...


This is my very first time here and I'm so glad I've found your blog. Really!

I love reading this post... I have 2 kids and I think I won't have more. I agree 100% with Dr. Karp. Quietude, even I LOVE that! :-)



Luciane at HomeBunch.com

kathi said...

I also have young friends with babies and love being with them. I also wish I knew then, 35 years ago, what I know now.............

david terry said...

Dear Ms. Browning,

I'd advise folks (or maybe just those who aren't the actual mothers of the babies) to go easy on the "swinging" you so glibly recommend.

My sister-in-law woman recently reminded me (talk about blocking unpleasant memories?) of the Christmas Eve when I first encountered my twin, 6 month old nephews. At one point during the evening, my mother persuaded me to "hold" one of them...which went off fairly well and then progressed to some gentle "swinging", which went off VERY well..baby smiling, laughing, and gurgling,etcetera. I'll admit to having been pleased with and rather surprised at myself.

I don't, as a very general rule and for at least twenty years, fall prey to flattery, but on that night I allowed myself to be overly-encouraged by the family's women. I was, after all, PROVING that the gay, dog-raising, curmudgeonly, childless uncle was in fact ADORED by The Baby.

I'd given Baby (his actual name is Andrew Jackson Terry) several, increasingly energetic "swings", and then I shifted my hold (i.e., I was mostly holding him around the stomach region), and suddenly lifted him above my head.

Cameras were clicking all around the room. My sister-in-law shouted "Not the stomach!...he just A...(te).....!

She hadn't finished her sentence before my father's rapid-image camera caught a 8-shot photo-series of that damn baby's vomiting straight into my mouth.

I kid you not.

To my credit, I didn't do anything more than to hand the baby to its mother and go to the bathroom, since I was about to throw up, myself.

In any case, I'd advise a bit of caution when it comes to thar "swinging" bidness....although, come to think of it, the baby went straight back to smiling and laughing the moment he'd finished with me.

Advisedly yours as ever,

David Terry (Bachelor)

Anonymous said...

Harvey was my babies doctor. He was young and just setting up practice in Santa Monica. I think the most valuable advice he gave was that there is absolutely no need for baby food. It is an invention of the food industry and leads to allergies and probably the beginning of obesity.
Harvey had some other advice some of which made no sense at all.....I use to kid him....do you have any children??? He was a young bachelor at the time. After he got some celebrity clients he stopped being the local young doc....sigh...and then he wrote books....don't assume just because it is in print, that it is written by an expert.

david terry said...

Dear "Anonymous"....

I do think that the "baby food" bidness is "an invention of the food industry".

No one in my French family uses American-style "baby food", and they never have. Just this past Christmas, I watched (daily) my two sister-in-laws (one's a doctor and the other's an urban-planning architect, so they're scarcely undereducated) making perfectly pleasant conversation in the kitchen as they casually put some previously simmered vegetables and stuff through a mouli. The babies happily and healthily (as far as I could tell) ate it later. Essentially, they ate the same stuff the adults ate, albeit with fewer spices, etcetera.

An Italian friend of mine hereabouts (a psychiatrist with two very young children) can always be found, an hour before an "adult" dinner at her house, simmering-up various things and putting them through (once again) the mouli for the children's dinner.

Actually, I asked her about "baby food", and she just scoffed at the notion.....declaring that babies were just like the very elderly....they don't take well to highly-spiced foods, and they don't have many teeth to speak of. Otherwise, though?....they're just people. She added that even Americans didn't fall for "baby food" until young, first-time mothers were all scattered about (and isolated)in suburbs during the 50's and didn't have their Nana around to tell them what you DO with a baby....

Her "take" on the issue seemed pretty simple andconvincing to me.

My own mother (who raised her three sons during the sixties) never used "baby food". She made a very vocal point of never letting us eat anything she hadn't eaten at the same age (hence, and to our great dismay, no "Tang", no "Poptarts", and basically nothing EVERYONE ELSE GOT TO EAT!).

all I have to say is that, against all self-inflicted odds and despite any number of adult bad-habits, I'm still doing just fine, so my mother must have done something right. The basic struture seems to be holding up quite well.


David Terry

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I am busy knitting baby sun hats for a few new arrivals here as well. Funny though, I know of some other age groups to whom those S mantras could well apply.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I am busy knitting baby sun hats for a few new arrivals here as well. Funny though, I know of some other age groups to whom those S mantras could well apply.

William said...

I have found that McDonalds Happy Meals are fine as the primary diet for kids through infancy and up until about age 12. I would never allow supersize fries until about age 7, however supersize soda pop is fine starting at around age 3. Before age 3 I would only allow regular size cherry coke.

Rochelle said...

Thank you for the tip about this book. I bet your friends are grateful for you and your conscientiousness. I have several friends due next month and would love to learn some skills to assist them.

I just laughed out loud at your comment. Thanks for adding a bit of lightness to the Comment forum. :)

JudyMac said...

Glad to know William was just putting us on, so to speak. My only quibble is, get the pacifier out of the baby's mouth after the "fourth trimester" is over. The longer it stays in the mouth, the longer it stays around. I can't think of anyone who likes to see a 2 or 3 year old walking around with a passy in their mouth.

William said...

I've found that the best way to deal with pacifier separation anxiety is to just give the kid some freshly made Creepy Crawlers to chew on and as a distraction maybe a Battlestar Galactica Missle Launcher or Lawn Darts to play with.

Ann said...

I love the idea of a fourth trimester. Quiet, soothing... all good, even though I had the most patient babies in the world, so they didn't seem to need one. The phrase Slippage of Sanity? Not so much, haha, as that might be happening with or without a new baby in my life. :) I so enjoy your posts and always click through to the real deal.

William said...

Before we move on from the baby/child rearing discussion, I would like to address one more very important topic.


It's clearly best to not allow infants under 3 years old to smoke in the crib. They just don't know how to handle matches at that age and one can end up with some nasty burn marks on the sheets or on the crib railing. I used to insist that between 3 years old and 12 years old they stick with the lower nicotine cigarettes - but I've extended that age to 16 years. Call me new fashioned, but I just don't think full strength cigarettes are good for kids under 16. At 16 they should be given a car, maybe a Plymouth Duster, 2 packs of Marlboro Reds and be told to not come home until the ashtray is full.

mary said...

I love this post. I never (well, almost never) bought baby food--made my own; and never bought junk food; no artificial sweeteners; preservatives, etc. None of my three ever had a weight problem and now they are feeding their little ones in the same old school manner. It is so affirming that others feels the same way when I was the only one that I knew who was so strict regarding healthy diets. Have a wonderfully blessed time with the new babies.

c said...

I can so relate to the hint hint!

thanks for the warm fuzzies ...

Anne said...

My best friend, who is much younger than me, just had her first child. My husband and I are only children and childless, so this really was my first experience closeup with a baby. I got to be there for his birth, and it was an amazing thrill to see him moments after he entered the world! Since I don't live close, I only get to see him every few weeks, so his developments are always a nice surprise!

Anonymous said...

Your friends are so lucky to have you, helping guide them through sleepy days... you stepping into their world.

Anonymous said...

About toddlers with pacifiers; it's much easier to get rid of a pacifier than a thumb. Once my little ones were walking the pacifier stayed in bed. If they wanted up, I told them to take it out of their mouth and leave it there. If they later were crabby and wanted it, they went into the crib. Often they fell asleep. The quiet, the sucking, and the bed lulled them. When they were somewhere between 2 & 3 the current well loved pacifier would break and I would have them throw it out. After that, it was gone. When they asked - "Remember, you threw it out".

Dominique said...

OK. It is here that I will confess I sucked my thumb right through third grade. Perhaps it would have been better for me if I had taken the pacifier route. But it would not have been better for the orthodontist! thanks for writing.