Harvey Karp

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Harvey Karp
Born1951 (age 72–73)

Harvey Neil Karp, FAAP (born 1951) is an American pediatrician, author, and child development specialist. He is best known for his book "The Happiest Baby on the Block" and its accompanying DVD, that use his "5 S's" approach to infant care.[1] He is also the creator of the Snoo, a smart bassinet.

He is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.[2]


From 1982 to 1984 Karp practiced pediatrics with pediatrician Paul Fleiss in Los Angeles, California.[3] He then opened his own practice in Santa Monica, where he continued to see patients until 2005. He was assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine[4][better source needed] from 1989 to 2009, where he served as pediatric liaison to the Child Abuse Team.[5] He appeared as a regular contributor to the Lifetime cable television show Growing Up Together from 1990 to 1992.[6] In 2009, he became an assistant professor of pediatrics at the USC Keck School of Medicine.

Karp is a founding board member of Healthy Child Healthy World, and has served on the advisory boards of the Green Guide, Babycenter.com, Parents, Ser Padres, and American Baby magazines.[2][better source needed]

Infant calming and sleep technique[edit]

Karp's infant calming technique is supposed to be based on recreating elements of life in the womb. Human babies, according to Karp, are born less developed than other mammals. Karp calls the first three months of life the "fourth trimester."[7] Karp hypothesizes that all babies are born with a "calming reflex" that quickly relaxes most fussy babies when they are stimulated in a way that resemble sensations that babies experience in the womb.[8] Karp calls the ingredients of his method for soothing young babies the "5 S's": tight swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging and sucking.[9]

Regarding sleep, Karp recommends nightly swaddling and sound and motion sleep cues to help babies establish a circadian rhythm and to promote infant sleep.[10]

Snoo Bassinet[edit]

In 2016, Karp's Happiest Baby Inc. launched an internet-connected bassinet called Snoo.[11][12] The Snoo claims to automate the principles of Happiest Baby on the Block.[13] The device uses sensors to listen for a baby’s cries and adjusts the level of white noise volume and motion of the sway accordingly.[13] The product was designed with Swiss designer Yves Behar.[14]

The device retails for $1,595 in the United States.[15] About half of Snoo users opt to rent the device from Happiest Baby at a cost of around $150 a month.[13]


Efficacy of the calming technique[edit]

Ralph Frenken has argued against Karp's recommendation of the use of tight swaddling and the concept of a "calming reflex." The criticism is that the effect of swaddling is not based on reflexes because (1) a releasing stimulus is missing, because swaddling most probably works by the decrease of proprioceptive and tactile stimulation and (2) the reflex response is missing, because any reflex always consists of a movement released by muscles.[16] The child does not move but falls asleep by swaddling. Additionally, no known reflex alters the state of consciousness, but swaddling obviously does. Lactation and breastfeeding expert Nancy Mohrbacher collected several scientific studies which demonstrated negative aspects of swaddling on newborn infants.[17]

In 2010, researchers studied the effects of video instruction concerning swaddling, side positioning, white noise, jiggling, and sucking on parents' ability to calm fussing babies. The results against a control group were statistically insignificant compared to traditional methods.[18]

Use of celebrity endorsements[edit]

CBS news reports that "Critics say Karp is riding to fame on the strength of his patients' VIP parents, who include Michelle Pfeiffer, Pierce Brosnan and Madonna. Endorsements from several stars appear on his book jacket and video cover."[19]

Prohibitive cost of the Snoo[edit]

Part of the appeal of Karp’s methods for calming babies was that it didn't require any fancy or expensive equipment beyond a blanket. A New York Times article documented how his messaging changed with the creation of the Snoo toward spending money on the device: "Now he was suggesting that, actually, the best way to improve your baby’s sleep required splurging on a sensory bed."[20] A Washington Post article declared the device was a touchstone for privilege due to its prohibitive cost for many parents and that the product "has a way of separating even well-to-do parents into the Snoos and the Snoo-nots." Addressing the criticism of the device's cost, Karp downplayed the expense, stating that the device gives parents a “24-hour caregiver for the cost of 16 cents an hour.”[13]

The high cost of the Snoo has also led to scams in the secondhand market where thieves rent the device on a stolen credit card and resell it to unwitting parents before the company remotely disabled the device.[13]


  1. ^ "The 10 Most Influential People in Family Life Today". Scholastic.com. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  2. ^ a b "January Guest Speaker: Dr. Harvey Karp (2013)". Early Childhood and Youth Development. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  3. ^ Gordon, Jay. "Remembering Dr. Paul Fleiss: 5 Decades in Pediatrics". Huffington Post. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  4. ^ "The Baby Whisperer - UCLA Magazine". UCLA Magazine. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  5. ^ "Shhh.... UCLA pediatrician develops the 'Cuddle Cure' to calm colicky infants". Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  6. ^ "Growing Up Together". ProductionBeast.
  7. ^ "Dr. Karp on Parenting and the Science of Sleep". All Things Considered. National Public Radio. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  8. ^ Karp H, The "fourth trimester": A framework and strategy for understanding and resolving colic, Contemporary Peds 2001;21:92-114
  9. ^ Blakeslee, Sandra (8 March 2005). "Colicky Baby? Read This Before Calling an Exorcist". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
  10. ^ "Dr. Karp on Parenting and the Science of Sleep". NPR.org. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  11. ^ "The Snoo is a $1,500 bassinet — and a touchstone for parental judgment, anxiety and privilege". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  12. ^ "How the SNOO responsive bassinet saves infant lives, in and out of the hospital". Fortune. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  13. ^ a b c d e "The Snoo is a $1,500 bassinet — and a touchstone for parental judgment, anxiety and privilege". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  14. ^ "The Best Co-Sleepers and Bassinets". The New York Times. 25 March 2021. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  15. ^ "SNOO Smart Sleeper Bassinet". Happiest Baby. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  16. ^ Frenken, Ralph (2011). Psychology and history of swaddling: Part two – The abolishment of swaddling from the 16th century until today. In: The Journal of Psychohistory, 39 (3), p. 219-245.
  17. ^ "Rethinking Swaddling – Nancy Mohrbacher". Nancymohrbacher.com. 3 December 2010. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  18. ^ Jonna M. McRury, Adam J. Zolotor: A Randomized, Controlled Trial of a Behavioral Intervention to Reduce Crying among Infants. In: J Am Board Fam Med 1 September 2010 23:689-690.
  19. ^ AP (21 October 2002), Can This Man Keep Your Baby Quiet?, CBS News, retrieved 23 October 2008
  20. ^ Margalit, Ruth (18 April 2018). "How Harvey Karp Turned Baby Sleep Into Big Business". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 21 February 2022.