“The Happiest Baby” program helps sooth crying newborns in Pennsylvania
Albrie Marie Metts is a happy baby.
The sweet baby girl and her parents, Henry L. Metts Jr. and Angela Oglevee of Fairbank are part of a new statewide initiative to promote a program that sooths and calms newborns called “The Happiest Baby.’’ Created by pediatrician and child development expert Dr. Harvey Karp, “The Happiest Baby’’ teaches parents about a calming reflex that becomes an off-switch for crying babies.
“It works. There is no doubt about it,’’ said Metts. “…It’s an amazing thing. I think everyone should know about it.’’
Oglevee agreed, saying, “She is a very happy baby.’’
Officials are hoping to encourage other parents to try “The Happiest Baby.’’
Janet Debolt, supervisor of the Nurse/Family Partnership program operated by Fayette County Community Action Inc., said, “It’s an initiative through the Department of Health encompassing WIC (Women, Infants and Children) for the entire state of Pennsylvania and our Fayette County Nurse/Family Partnership.’’
The Nurse/Family Partnership was able to get the digital video discs and books, as did WIC. They are presenting the program to the community through groups and to individuals who call the office for more information. All the nurses are certified in “The Happiest Baby.”
Keeping tabs on its impact, the Nurse/Family Partnership also is in partnership with the Division of Applied Research and Evaluation at the Office of Child Division at the University of Pittsburgh to determine outcomes of families using “The Happiest Baby’’ program.
In “The Happiest Baby,’’ Karp promotes the idea of a fourth trimester that takes place after birth. Babies can be calmed during this time by activating a calming switch if they use techniques to replicate the environment of the womb.
Karp has developed a series of techniques he calls The 5 S’s: swaddle, side/stomach, shush, swinging and suck, with methods for each that can calm a baby. They begin with swaddling a baby snugly in a blanket when the baby is fussy or to help the baby fall asleep. The baby is wrapped in a specific way in a blanket with his or her arms at their sides. Karp then advocates the side/stomach position as best for calming a baby but noted never leave a baby alone in this position.
If this doesn’t work, Karp suggests a strong shushing sound can calm many babies with the parent shushing as loudly as the baby cries. If the baby is still crying, add some swinging either in a parent’s arms or in a swing. Karp calls the quick, tiny movements in a parent’s arms “jiggling’’ but noted parents must support a baby’s neck and use very small shiver-like movements. The fifth S is sucking, but Karp noted it usually works best after the baby begins to calm.
“It’s fantastic,’’ said Debolt. “Some people are timid about trying it. ‘How can this be?’ But it works. We’re having people from very young to older mothers using it.’’
Members of the Nurse/Family Partnership went to a training last fall and met Karp, who had traveled around the world to study calming techniques in different cultures.
Nurse/Family Partnership started promoting “The Happiest Baby’’ in Fayette County in November, going into homes and providing information that includes a DVD and a compact disc with calming sounds as well as handouts that illustrate the techniques. They provide the information to parents about six weeks before the baby is due to be born.
The program is a help to parents, but also aims to protect babies.
“We’re hoping to reduce the incidence of shaken baby syndrome because parents are not so stressed,’’ said Debolt. “Hopefully, the more we teach, the more it will spread. It’s going around America quickly.’’
In fact, Debolt noted her agency recently received information from the American Academy of Pediatrics endorsing the program. “The Happiest Baby’’ also receives endorsements from Debolt and nurses in the Nurse/Family Partnership program.
Debolt said, “I think people will love it once they learn it.’’
She also recommended giving Karp’s DVD as a gift at a baby shower to help expectant parents.
Nurse Wendy Travalena has been teaching the techniques to expectant mothers and noted, “They are so eager to try it.’’
Remembering her early days as a mother, Travalena said, “I wish I had had something like this.’’
She talked about attending the fall training and watching Karp at work with babies: “He didn’t go through all the steps and they were out.’’
Mary Kay Swanson, nurse home visitor who helps Oglevee and Metts, said, “I like it because it makes you feel more confident. If you have a fussy baby, you’re not as confident.’’
While she noted the program is especially helpful to first-time parents, she said it could help parents who already have other children.
And perhaps the best endorsement comes from parents who are using the program.
Metts, who is employed by Victory Security of Carnegie as a security guard in Searights, said the couple began using “The Happiest Baby’’ techniques in the hospital when their daughter was born on Dec. 23.
“There are times when she’s cranky and you have to go the extra mile, but it works,’’ he said. “A lot of times you have to position her different ways to quiet her. Last night, I tried different ways and she finally became quiet laying her on my knees.’’
Metts, who is a history enthusiast and has Cherokee ancestry, noted that Indians traditionally used swaddling techniques with their babies.
“I love it,’’ said Oglevee, who plans to enroll in a Community Action program to become a certified nursing assistant. She noticed their daughter is quieter than other babies whose parents haven’t used “The Happiest Baby’’ techniques.
“We get a lot of compliments on how quiet she is,’’ said Metts. “She was baptized last week and the priest said she was the first baby who hadn’t cried.’’
Oglevee said, “We recommend it to every parent.’’
Written by Frances Borsodi Zajac, Uniontown Herald-Standard, originally posted on: www.heraldstandard.com
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