When it comes to calming a fussy baby, you’re likely to get all kinds of suggestions, some helpful, some not, and probably a huge variety of one-off ideas that fall under the category of, “this is what worked for me”.
What we have found to be consistently effective though, are “The 5 S’s for Soothing Babies”, that are the foundational points in Dr. Harvey Karp’s book: “The Happiest Baby on the Block”.
Time and time again, these 5 simple rules for calming a fussy baby are incredibly effective, so much that we needed to share them with you!
The basic premise of Karp’s theory is based on the idea that babies are born with the need for a 4th trimester - an additional three months on the outside (give or take), that mimics what they experienced on the inside for the last 9 months. These 5 S’s will almost always quickly calm a fussy baby within minutes, unless there is another medical or physiological issue that needs to be addressed.
The 5 S’s are:
1st S - Swaddle
Your baby has been tightly packed in the womb for 9 cozy months. Recreating this environment through swaddling helps calm their startle reflex and stay soothed longer. It’s important to keep their arms wrapped tightly, and the hips loose and flexed, and just during fussy times or for sleep.
2nd S - Side or Stomach Position
Baby’s are often fussiest on their backs, and while this is the safest position for putting them down to sleep, your best bet to calm them down is holding them on their side with their tummy to you, or over your shoulder with their tummy against your chest.
3rd S - Shush
The womb is far from being a silent sleep sanctuary. The whooshing of your blood and pumping of your heart has been lulling your baby to sleep her entire life. Karp has specially engineered sounds he recommends for helping infants sleep, and also suggests that simply a loud “ssssh” sound close to their ear while they are swaddled and held will help them relax.
4th S - Swing
Rocking to sleep all your baby knows up until now. Your walking, dancing, stair climbing - every movement you made while baby was in utero, is still comforting and familiar to baby earth-side. Karp recommends small, quick movements no more than 1 inch back and forth while you are holding and ‘sshhing’ your swaddled baby. This is very different from shaking your baby out of frustration; be sure that you are always soothing your baby while being calm yourself.
5th S - Suck
Babies are born with the reflex to suck, not only for nutrition, but for soothing. This isn’t always a necessary component for calming a baby, but nursing or sucking on a soother can definitely be the tipping point to lull your baby to full relaxation and sleep.
It’s important to try and remember that these don’t need to be seen as “crutches”, or “bad habits” that you’ll need to break down the line. Baby’s will naturally become more efficient at self-soothing and self-regulating as they grow and adapt to this new environment; needing help getting there is all a part of the process of adjusting to life on the outside.
Make sure to watch this video for a glimpse into the 5 S method, and check out Harvey Karp’s Book here, for a more complete explanation of his method. These techniques take practice and time; give it a chance and let us know how it worked (or didn’t work) for you!