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The Happiest Baby Author Dr. Karp’s New Book Helps Sleepless Parents

06/15/2012 at 02:00 PM ET
Courtesy Dr. Karp

For his follow up to The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Happiest Toddler on the Block, pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp (who has worked with celeb moms like Jewel and Ali Landry) decided to tackle one of the biggest issues facing new parents: lack of sleep.

His third and newest book, The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep, provides tips and techniques for parents looking to help their babies establish better sleep patterns, while his previous works (Happiest Baby On The Block and Happiest Toddler On The Block) have been re-released on DVD to better demonstrate the tools that parents need to handle issues ranging from colic to temper tantrums.

On June 21, Dr. Karp will also host Parents Night Out, where he will demonstrate his methods via a lecture that will be broadcast in 575 theaters across the country. But for those who can’t attend, he shares with PEOPLE three key elements to improving baby’s sleep:

Better sleep habits start early.
“You can teach a baby to sleep better from the very first week or two of life,” Dr. Karp tells PEOPLE, noting that a good, snug swaddling and playing an appropriate type of white noise (like the rumble of a train or plane, or the sound of the ocean or wind) as the baby slumbers are positive habits for babies to develop.

Silence is not golden.
Contrary to what most parents believe, total quiet is not the best environment for a baby to fall asleep. “It turns on their calming reflex to help them sleep through the night better,” Dr. Karp says of white noise, which he advises be turned on during nights and naps during the baby’s first year. “In the womb, it’s louder than a vacuum cleaner, 24/7, from the sound of the blood flow,” he says. “Vacuum cleaners and bumpy car rides calm babies down because it’s imitating the baby’s experience in the womb.”

‘Do not disturb’ does not apply.
While most sleep theories tell parents to avoid letting children fall asleep in their arms or at the breast, Dr. Karp says there’s no way to avoid that, but rather babies should be woken up after being placed in their beds to take in their new surroundings.

“If you’re rocking your baby to sleep and then ease them into bed, when they wake up in the middle of the night and you’re not there, it’s like, ‘Whoa, what happened?’” he says. “Let them fall asleep at the breast or in your arms, slide them into bed after being swaddled and with the white noise playing, and then just wake them up a little bit. They look around for five or 10 seconds, and then their eyes close and they fall asleep. In that 10 seconds, they start to learn how to put themselves to sleep in the middle of the night.”

– Kiran Hefa

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