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In the Fight Against Colic: Well Worth It
on 27 January 2003
Colic. If you've been there, chances are you've still got the scars. Nothing can erase the memory of the endless crying, the feeling of desperation and isolation and your shattered confidence. In case you hadn't guessed, I've got the T shirt on this one. Our first baby was colicky even by the cranial osteopath's standards. And we were terrified of a repeat performance if we dared to have another.
And so you'll understand why, five months into my second pregnancy, I took a real interest in a newspaper review of this book. Karp claimed his methods could 'cure' colic. His basic idea - though he takes the sixty pages to say it - is that babies are simply born too early. They need another three months cooking time. And it's 'only' because us women can't actually push out babies with bigger heads that they arrive after 'just' nine months (his words, not mine)
Karp says that, depending on temperament, some babies deal with their early arrival better than others. And it's upon this premise that 'cure' is based. He explains that by recreating the conditions of the womb, we can do much to sooth our jumpy babies in their struggle to adapt to the outside world. Being American, this cure has to have a snappy name. In this case it's 'the 5 S's' - swaddling, side (or stomach) position, shhhhh, swinging and sucking.
A whole chapter is devoted to how to perform each 'S' most effectively and he's fairly convincing in arguing that unless each S is done properly, it won't work. There's a useful summary at the end of each section and then a rounding-up section on 'the cuddle cure' - how to combine all the Ss for a blissfully happy, sleeping baby.
So does it work? In a word: probably. I'm glad to say that we didn't have a full-blown colic case to try it out on, but number two was very cranky in the evenings and only 'karping' him, as we called it, would settle him.
The book was full of really useful snippets of information, e.g. that very upset babies do not like being put down on their backs. Ever. And there's a very detailed diagram on how to swaddle that really did - as promised - double the time our baby slept for at night, from 3 to 6 hours. And there's a substantial section about possible medical problems that could also be causing the ceaseless crying. I really needed this during the first five tortured months of parenting. It would have put my mind at rest far more than the pediatrician's "oh, she'll just grow out of it" ever did.
But it's far from a perfect book. It's only likely to work for newborns. It's over-long - especially for exhausted, demoralised parents - and the constant references to 'cavewoman' and 'cavebaby' are somewhere between irritating and patronising. And the technique is physically hard work. Our monster baby outgrew our strength before he outgrew the colicky evenings.
But most importantly, this book will help desperate parents to empathise with their screaming bundle of 'joy'. By feeling less frustrated by the situation, you can feel more control and so start repairing your shredded self-confidence. That's worth the price alone.