The Week in Books 2008, No. 42

Amy K. recommended The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer
as a very helpful resource in quieting fussy babies, so I decided to check it out. We’ve been fortunate that neither of our children was particularly fussy, but now that I’ve read this book I wonder if that is because we were doing most of what the author suggests as a remedy! In any case, I didn’t come up with them myself and I am very grateful to everyone who suggested these things to me – perhaps my other friends and family members had already read the book! The author, Harvey Karp, is a pediatrician who presents the medical reasoning behind his suggested soothing methods, as well as the medical information to debunk common myths about fussiness and colic. I thought it was interesting to find out the real explanations or refutations of some common old wives tales about babies.

Karp advocates using a combination of swaddling, holding the baby on her side or stomach, “shhh”ing, swinging, and sucking to soothe the baby. I learned to tightly swaddle babies from a great nurse in the hospital after Hannah was born, I think Elizabeth Faris told me about holding the baby stomach to stomach or with her stomach on your arm to soothe the baby, and we use shhh noises and nursing/pacifiers to soothe too. I have never tried the swinging thing (it’s kind of a jiggling) because I was afraid of shaken baby syndrome, but the book does a great job of explaining the difference, so I will try that with the new baby too. Dr. Karp also gives ideas for how long your baby will need these soothing helps, and how to help her learn to self-soothe after a few months.

As with any baby book, I’d recommend you take the good and leave the weird. There is almost always something useful to be gained from reading about parenting, even if you don’t decide to adopt the author’s philosophy in its totality.

The No S Diet: The Strikingly Simple Weight-Loss Strategy That Has Dieters Raving–and Dropping Pounds
is sort of a diet plan, but it’s really more about how to get back to a way of eating that is moderate, builds community, and is sustainable for life. The basic premise is built on four guidelines: No Seconds, No Snacking, No Sweets, Except on S Days.

No Seconds means that for each of your three meals of the day, you eat ONE plate of food. No Snacking means you eat three meals a day and nothing else – the book points out that until recently, people rarely had snacks, and healthy cultures tend not to do it until they adopt American habits and marketing. No Sweets means don’t eat sweets on regular days (not don’t have a trace of sugar cooked in something, rather just don’t eat “sweets” like desserts, pop tarts, and so on. Except on S Days is the way the plan builds in a release valve. You can have seconds, snacks, and sweets on days that begin with S (weekends), or special days like holidays, your birthday, and so on. That just makes those things part of celebrations, or special occasions to savor, to look forward to, rather than becoming just a part of everyday life.

I liked how the book was focused more on developing healthy moderate habits, rather than on losing oodles of weight on some plan you’ll never be able to (and wouldn’t WANT to) stick to for life. The four rules are much better explained in the book (I know, they sound too simple, right?).

Out of interest, I looked at my food intake over the past few weeks, since I’m using SparkPeople to track my protein anyway so it’s all there to see. I realized that I tend to snack a LOT and I eat a lot of sugar. Probably not as much as the average American, but a lot nonetheless. Since the plan is not really a “diet” per se because it’s not about restricting calories or food groups or anything, I decided to give it a go. Although I’m still getting all my protein and not limiting my food in any way, it has made me more mindful of my sweet tooth, and has kept me from eating the free candy I got from CVS this week. 🙂 I should mention that I probably won’t keep the “no snacking” part of the program while pregnant because I have a baby pushing on my stomach, which makes it a lot more comfortable to eat several small things spread out over the day rather than three big meals. I do think being more mindful of sweets will be good for me though.

Overall, “The No-S Diet” is an interesting read, and you may find it interesting if you’re stuck in a perpetual diet rut, or if you like to read about health topics. The comparisons between historical rates of consumption and modern ones will stun you (did you know that 100 years ago the average person consumed ONE HUNDRED fewer pounds of sugar per year than the average person does today???) if nothing else.

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