the happiest baby guide to great sleep {book review}

Author Dr. Harvy Karp is the author of The Happiest Baby on the Block. In this installment, The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep, Dr. Karp gives great sleep advice and scientific reasoning behind sleep for all stages of your child’s life.

The book is broken up into three main sections:

  • Birth to Three Months
  • Three to Twelve Months
  • One to Five Years

Since Liam is currently 10 months old, so I went ahead and read through two thirds of the book. I plan on reading the final section in a few months when I’m more in the one years old mindset.

Baby Liam

The good thing about this book is that it’s easily skim-able and easy to find the information that is applicable to your child’s age. He begins the book with the science behind how we sleep and how sleep cycles are different from babies to adults. He goes into things like NREM and REM cycles, how to tell which one your baby is in and why each cycle is important.

Next, Dr. Karp talks about the calming reflexes, the automatic transition cues for babies to go to sleep.

Calming Reflexes or 5 S’s are:

  1. Swaddling
  2. Side/Stomach
  3. Shushing
  4. Swinging
  5. Sucking

The goal of the 5 S’s is to mimic what goes on in the womb and find which combination of the S’s your baby likes best. For Liam, he loved being on his stomach (yes, we were bad parents and as soon as he learned to unraveled himself from the swaddle, even from the velcro ones, we transfered him to his stomach for sleep). He’s always liked white noise, so the shushing worked well. We used a sleep sheep in his room for a while (until it stopped working…and no it wasn’t the batteries…ugh) and now he sleeps with a small fan running for constant noise. For a few weeks he loved this one swing we got him. Then, no more swinging. He screamed as soon as we put him in it. On the other hand, Liam has loved to bounce ever since he was born. In those first few months Logan and I got some killer thighs, bouncing up and down what seemed like all day long! It wasn’t until the 3rd month that we realized that we should have just gotten out the exercise ball that I used quite often during pregnancy to encourage proper turning downward in the womb, to bounce him. I guess Liam found bouncing comforting because it was mimicking the womb during my pregnancy!


As far as some points that I don’t necessary agree with…however, I’m not a doctor, so I can’t say that I’m right…I just know what worked for us. Dr. Karp says that you should sleep in the same room until the baby is 6 months to prevent SIDS. Within the first two weeks, we had already moved Liam to his crib. I would pop right out of a deep sleep at every movement that he made. Also, one of the things I was always afraid of before we had Liam was that he wouldn’t like his crib and would just sleep in our bed forever. Ahh!

Furthermore, Dr. Karp says to never let baby sleep on sofa. Well, when Liam was just a few days old. I would lay on the couch with my back leaning into the couch, our ottoman behind Liam for extra space for him to nurse while I napped. Luckily, I’m a very light sleeper so any movement he made, I awoke. But it was great to be able to sleep for 20 minutes at a time while Liam nursed in those wee hours of the night when he just wouldn’t sleep. I know it’s frowned upon, but you do what you have to do to function. But, of course, do it safely.


Another topic that really rung home for me was PostPartum Depression. As you know, I suffered with a few weeks of PPD myself. He gives great advice on how to cope and recover from PPD, something that I hope I’ll never have to deal with again. But if I do, I’ll try to be more prepared for it. Luckily, my husband is now aware of it and it’s signs of it in me so that we can overcome it quicker next time.

At one point in the book, Dr. Karp suggests that once you rock your baby to sleep, you can’t do it every time because you’ll create a bad sleeping habit. I completely agree. But what was he suggests is that if your baby falls asleep in your arms, when you transfer him to the crib, wake him again by lighting jiggling him or lightly scratch the bottoms of his feet to rouse him. That way, he’ll wake up enough to fall back to sleep on his own in the crib. I never tried this with Liam because once we got him asleep and made the transfer to the crib without a wake up, we ran like hell out of the nursery!!! I got a chuckle when I read this tip. I can’t imagine my severely sleep deprived self at 3am when Liam would finally go to sleep for the night, waking him up again. Oye! I guess it wouldn’t hurt to try it on our next child? Have you/did you try this with your children?

In the 3-12 month sleep section, Dr. Karp talks about the Pick Up/Put Down method of getting your child to go to sleep at night. We actually did this with Liam and it seems to be working okay. But, I agree with him when he says that it takes a long time and a lot of patience. But, I was prepared for that so that Liam didn’t have a traumatic ‘cry it out’ bedtime experience.

Overall, I think Dr. Karp has some good advice, advice that I probably should have read before Liam came into this world. I guess it was hard for me to imagine what it’d be like or for the information to stick having not ever raised a child before. If we’re ever blessed with another child, I’ll definitely be spending the last months of my pregnancy reading books like this to have all of the sleeping techniques fresh in my brain.

Have you read The Happiest Baby On the Block or The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep books?

What sleep methods have worked for you and your children?

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