Yesterday, the New York Times did a story on Dr. Harvey Karp, author of the best-selling book "The Happiest Baby on the Block." Dr. Karp has developed a method for getting crying babies to stop crying, and has a new book out for calming toddlers as well.
"Dr. Karp’s method … shows fussy babies who are quickly, almost eerily soothed by a combination of tight swaddling, loud shushing and swinging, which he says mimics the sensations of the womb … [His] baby program has been endorsed by several government health agencies, leaders of Prevent Child Abuse America and others."
I have been in contact with Dr. Karp via e-mail, as he has shared with me his belief that his program can work to help new moms with PPD. Dr. Karp believes that his method helps mothers feel more competent, encourages fathers to be more participatory, and allows everyone to get more rest. "It goes a long, long way to helping give balance back in a mother's life and helps anxious moms who feel so deficient to have hope … to feel like they can meet their baby's needs and survive," he said.
Now, I don't have a baby anymore to test out his program, so I can't personally endorse it. But I do believe in the SUPREME IMPORTANCE of sleep, and I believe in the importance of parents feeling like they have an array of tools to help their babies stop crying. Especially for those of us who have or are at risk for having PPD. Therapy and often times medication are very important, but neither will work very well if the patient isn't getting any sleep or any peace. A lot of times moms neglect their own well-being when caring for a newborn. They're worried about not being able to breastfeed if they sleep. Or they're worried about asking someone for help during the nighttime hours, whether it be a working husband, family member or friend. Or they're worried about what will happen to the baby's emotional health depending on which method they choose to get their baby to stop crying. I think we have to work to allay those fears and help moms understand that without rest, recovery from PPD is only going to take longer.
My doctor at Emory believes sleep management is extremely important. My husband and I had a "2-nights-on, 2-nights-off" plan. I knew that soon I would get two full nights of rest, and that went a long, long way in helping me to try and keep it together and to recover from PPD. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture, after all.
Karp told me his program has been used for the past 2 years by the Virtua Health PPD prevention and treatment program with very good results. He told me that Duke University will begin using his "The Happiest Baby" program as part of their intervention with moms who have PPD. He also said there is an NIH-funded study of his program taking place at Penn State that will be releasing data in early 2008, including depression scales.
I did check the reviews of his book on Amazon.com, and it would seem there are lots of people who felt it was helpful. Most seemed to find it was effective for a baby that is 3 months old or younger. Others have found the book "The No-Cry Sleep Solution" by Elizabeth Pantley helpful, while others believe very strongly in "On Becoming Babywise" by Gary Ezzo. While there are a variety of methods, the important thing is to realize there are things you can do to help everyone in the family get more sleep and to help soothe your baby. Do what feels comfortable for you and what seems to work for your baby. It really can assist you in your recovery.