One of the first books on childcare my husband and I read was Harvey Karp’s The Happiest Baby on the Block. I don’t know that I’d call it a “cure for colic,” since nobody really knows what colic is or what causes it (although there are a lot of theories). But I do like the idea of thinking of your newborn in terms of being in his “4th trimester.” Your baby has just spent the last 9 months tucked securely in your womb, always close to you, always able to hear your voice and your heartbeat, always feeling comforted by a constant swaying motion. It stands to reason then, that the need for comfort in the manner he is so used to doesn’t just disappear at birth.
Karp emphasizes that you cannot spoil an infant—something that many well-meaning people in your life (especially those of the older generation) will tell you you’re certainly going to do if you keep picking up your crying baby. This just isn’t true. You will not, cannot, spoil your infant. So when your father or mother-in-law or grandmother or whoever tells you that you are going to spoil your baby, please look at this well-intending person and explain to them that spoiling implies that your baby has learned to use negative behaviors to get their way and, since your newborn hasn’t yet had the opportunity to learn how to manipulate in this manner, and is unable to cognitively learn this at such a young age, it’s impossible for him to be spoiled just yet. Babies cry to communicate a need, whether that is hunger, a diaper change, or to be close to you. And yes, cuddles are just as much of a need as hunger and hygiene.
We used the 5 S’s successfully for the first 4 months of our son’s life (maybe longer? I don’t know—it’s a blur): swaddling, side-position, shushing, swinging and sucking. All of these methods worked for us, but the swaddling and the shushing worked the best. I won’t go into a whole lot of detail about how to use these methods, but I will say they are exactly what they sound like. Karp’s book goes into vast detail about each one, and it is definitely worth your time to give it a read.
It wasn’t until J was over a year old that I picked up Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bebe. Had I known what a wonderful read this book would be, I would have read it long ago! First, I kinda love all things European and I adore learning about different cultures. So reading a book written by an American mom who is living in France was fascinating to me.
The short of it is, the French parenting theory is based on firm boundaries, with plenty of wiggle room within the boundaries for a little mischief (which is mostly ignored, as long as the main boundaries are adhered to). They teach their children from a very young age (they believe newborn babies can understand language) to “wait.” This begins with sleeping through the night (most French babies “do their nights” from the time they are about 2-4 months) and with feedings [they’re put on strict feeding schedules (4 meals a day, the same meal times as the adults) at only a couple of months old. Breastfeeding is pretty much a novelty there, which surprised me.] The waiting helps build patience, self-reliance, and confidence.
Further, they don’t start with bland cereals when they introduce solids. Babies eat the same things adults eat (just puréed) pretty much from the beginning. The belief behind this is that it develops a better palate. Food is served in courses, with vegetables being served first, followed by the rest of the meal. Children must at least try every food put in front of them, even if that only means smelling or feeling the food. Also, prepackaged baby foods are pretty much unheard of, as they don’t offer true flavor, smell and texture.
In her book, Druckerman interviews Dr. Michael Cohen, whose book, The New Basics: A-to-Z Childcare for the Modern Parent, I had previously purchased without realizing the correlation. He’s a French pediatrician, practicing in the U.S. His book is full of a lot of common sense information and comes in a handy A-to-Z format, as the title implies, making it an easy-to-access manual for childcare.
Those are my favorite childcare books so far. The Happiest Baby on the Block and Bringing up Bebe are pretty different from one another, so it allows me to pick and choose what works best with my personal philosophy, as well as what works best for our family. And that, I think, is the most important thing to remember when you’re studying up on how to be an awesome mom: every child, family and parent is different. You cannot have a cookie-cutter theory. You need to have a foundation, but be willing and flexible to change your ideas, tools and approach as you go.