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Happy 12 Weeks (or, moving out of the 4th trimester)

Cedar is 12 weeks old today!  She is spending more time chilling and observing.  She is trying desperately to find her thumb.  And while she isn’t adept at grabbing with her hands, she can easily grab a toy with her long toes!  12 weeks marks the end of the 4th trimester.   

Dr. Harvey Karp popularized the notion that human babies need a 4th trimester.  Unlike other mammals, because of human brain size, our babies are born decidedly immature.  Human babies are completely helpless–even needing assistance to burp.  After studying other cultures in which babies are calmed in less than a minute (16 seconds is the average time it takes an !Kung parent to stop a baby from crying), Karp decided there must exist a baby calming reflex. 

It makes sense.  A baby’s cry is LOUD.  It would seem logical that parents should have a mechanism to quiet them in necessary situations.  Karp developed the 5 S’s:  swaddling, shushing, side-lying (or stomach), swinging, and sucking.  I do know these “S’s.”  As a doula, I’ve taught several new parents these techniques.  They mimic the way babies were calmed in utero. 

In desperation, I re-read Karp’s book The Happiest Baby on the Block.  Front to back.  And my conclusion:

Karp says that !Kung people wear their babies all day and that is part of the reason they are so calm.  And he also says that if these techniques don’t work, parents are either not doing them correctly or not giving them enough time to work. 

I challenge Harvey Karp or any !Kung mama to come try to calm my baby.  I’d very much like to see it.  Because the 5 S’s didn’t do it this time.  Only a vertical chest-to-chest wrap hold with vigorous bouncing seems to trigger Cedar’s calming reflex. 

Meanwhile, I’m quite excited to see what awaits us in the weeks to come!

Note:  I LOVE Harvey.  Really, I do.  His Happiest Toddler on the Block DVD taught me some incredible techniques that really worked for Norah when she was in the 12month-20 month range.  And I’ve used the 5 S’s with other babies quite successfully.  I don’t mean to pick on his work.  He has done much to help parents understand their little ones and treat them with love and respect. 



4 responses »

  1. I hope the chilling/observing trend continues!

  2. Yeah, none of those techniques really worked with Preston either 🙂 If he was not happy, none of that would make a difference, but he loved water, so that is where we stayed a lot of the day 🙂

  3. I have puckered fingers here too. And it makes sense, yes? The warm water would replicate the womb. 4th trimester. If Cedar could float in warm water all day, she’d be a happy camper.

  4. I think Wyatt was/is on the high-need side. Our two saving graces were him finding his thumb and being able to play with toys. Unfortunately, there was nothing we could do to speed up those two things. I think it took him probably until his 5th month before he was more adjusted. So don’t be discouraged Julie, the light is coming, I promise! Wyatt’s not quite 6 months and we have just started to enjoy tear-free errands! I’m still amazed at the change. 🙂


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