Expert advice on calming crying babies

Expert offers new parents advice on calming babies

Author and parenting expert Dr. Harvey Karp knows the skill that new parents crave: the ability to calm their baby. And they're right to want that, said the renowned pediatrician and author.

Crying and sleeplessness in the first few months lead to all manner of bad effects on the family, from marital discord to child abuse to depression.

For too long, Karp said, parents have been told that babies cry because they have gas, and there's little parents can do to calm them. He has a different message.

On "the fourth trimester": That's what Karp calls a newborn's first few months. "Our babies are born about three months before they're ready for the world." Once parents realize that their babies are more like fetuses, everything else makes sense, he said.

On what a baby's cry means: A baby crying is like a telephone ringing, Karp said. You can't get a message from a ring. It could be that somebody in the room laughed loudly. As long as the baby has been fed, "in the first three months, all bets are off," Karp said. "You can't really know why the baby is crying."

On the "calming reflex": "It's a virtual off switch for crying and on switch for sleep that can calm even colicky babies in minutes or less," Karp said. The key is to imitate the womb environment with the five S's: swaddling, side or stomach position, the "shhhhh" sound, swinging and sucking.