Harvey Karp

Harvey Neil Karp, FAAP (born 1951) is an American pediatrician. 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. Karp lives in Los Angeles with his wife Nina Montée Karp.[1]

Harvey Karp
Dr karp.jpg
Born1951 (age 69–70)

Karp is the author of the book series Happiest Baby on the Block and DVDs on parenting.[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] 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.[1]

Infant calming and sleep techniqueEdit

Karp's infant calming technique is supposed to be based on recreating the essential elements of the experience of living 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]

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.[11] 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.[12]

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.[13]


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."[14]

Some doctors have also expressed concern that babies may accidentally be left to sleep face down, a position which increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Karp explicitly warns parents not to leave babies in this position.[15]


  1. ^ a b "January Guest Speaker: Dr. Harvey Karp (2013)". Early Childhood and Youth Development. Retrieved 22 October 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "The 10 Most Influential People in Family Life Today". Scholastic.com. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  3. ^ Gordon, Jay. "Remembering Dr. Paul Fleiss: 5 Decades in Pediatrics". Huffington Post. Retrieved 30 January 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ "The Baby Whisperer - UCLA Magazine". UCLA Magazine. Retrieved 22 October 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  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. ^ 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.
  12. ^ "Rethinking Swaddling – Nancy Mohrbacher". Nancymohrbacher.com. 3 December 2010. Retrieved 13 July 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ AP (21 October 2002), Can This Man Keep Your Baby Quiet?, CBS News, retrieved 23 October 2008 CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  15. ^ Falcon, Mike; Shoop, Stephen A. (9 September 2002). ""Happy baby doctor" calms colic crying". USA Today. Retrieved 23 October 2008. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)