Updated: Jun 15
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Having a baby can be either a joyous or stressful time–usually both—of your life. Suffering from postpartum mood disorders like depression or anxiety can make your baby’s crying and fussiness be aggravating or annoying to you, thus making your mood worse. Not great for sleep deprived working parents to have to run on empty just because you don't know what to do. Don’t let a fussy baby affect the joys of your parenting journey.
Remember, babies' only form of communication until they can talk is crying and body language. We have to allow them to cry to express themselves and tell us they need something. It’s up to us to figure out what that something is and in the meantime, getting them calm is the first step. You simply cannot think, respond or help your baby if they are distraught as you likely will be too if you don’t have some coping skills and tools in your kit.
I learned this technique called the 5 S’s at several trainings for my work as a perinatal health professional. I have adapted this technique along the way to do it in a way that works for me and my clients. I enjoy teaching others how to implement this as a skill set in your baby soothing remedies. To learn more visit the Happiest Baby on the Block, Dr. Harvey Karp, pediatrician and baby whisperer, has an amazing and extensive blog.
Fun fact, these are the same folks that invented the Snoo that so many parents seem to love. It’s a bit overpriced in my opinion to be accessible to folks but I like the idea of the product itself for parents who might be struggling with postpartum mood changes and need some extra help with sleep and soothing.
Here’s how to calm your baby when all else fails or you need a foolproof quick go to routine for calming your baby and to have an easy way of teaching others how to care for and handle your crying baby:
Click here download a free handout for your phone!
THE 5 S’s for a Happy Baby
S #1 - Shush
Take it from a trusted source, babies actually don’t need total silence to sleep. White noise and other common household noises are all ok to have going while baby is sleeping, and in fact it can help. In the womb, the sound of the blood flow is a shush louder than a vacuum cleaner. But, not all white noise is created equal. Hissy fans and ocean sounds often fail because they lack the womb’s rumbly quality. The best way to imitate these magic sounds is white noise. You can use your mouth, making the “shushing” noise very audibly into your baby’s ear. Tired of that, there are devices that can mimic this as well:
S #2 - Side or Stomach Position
The back is the only safe position for sleeping, but it’s the worst position for calming fussiness. This S can be activated by holding a baby on her side, on her stomach or over your shoulder. You’ll see your baby chill almost instantly!
S #3 - Swing
Life in the womb is very bouncy, if you remember what it felt like as your baby and belly gently bounced with your stride, partners think about how the baby might have felt being “carried” by the belly. We want to imitate that movement and while slow rocking is ok for keeping the baby calm, fast tiny motions will soothe a baby more quickly. Never shake a baby, and always support their head and neck in everything you do. This jello jiggle should be movement of no more than 1 inch back and forth in motion. Not sure how to do this, need a visual? Follow my instagram or subscribe to my YouTube channel for this video and more! Sometimes wearing your baby can be a simple way to do this move, get some exercise or movement in for yourself, and keep your hands free for other things like I don’t know feeding yourself! Baby carriers for newborns are helpful to promote bonding, skin to skin, to keep baby snug, comfortable and happy for a nice gentle swing or sway session.
Try these for 7lbs and up:
S #4 - Suck
Sucking is “the icing on the cake” of calming. Many fussy babies relax into a deep tranquility when they suck, I’m looking at you milk drunk breastfeeding babes. Many babies calm easier with a pacifier or a boob. It is best practice to try to avoid or limit pacifier use within the first 4 weeks of a baby's life. However, your sanity is far more important and your baby will be fine if they take one before this time. If you are aware of not overusing it and use it only to calm the baby for a short period of time and remove it when done, you shouldn’t have too much cause for concern. Enjoy your little moment of peace and quiet as you hold your baby and let them happily suck on something other than you.
S #5 - Swaddle
Swaddling has become somewhat controversial lately on whether you should swaddle a baby or not. Do what works best for you and your baby, if this doesn’t seem to fit well don’t do it. Swaddling recreates a snug feeling like being packed in the womb snuggled nicely in mommy’s belly and that warm amniotic sac. It can decrease that moro reflex or startling reflex that they do with their flailing arms, swaddling prevents that feeling of insecurity for a baby. Security equals more sleep for the baby and for parents a double win! Babies who are wrapped respond more quickly to the other 4 S’s and stay soothed a bit longer because they can’t startle themselves. According to Dr. Karp, to swaddle correctly, wrap arms snug—straight at the side—but let the hips be loose and flexed. Use a large square blanket making sure not to cover your baby’s head or swaddle so loose that the blanket unravels. (Note: Babies shouldn’t be swaddled all day, just during fussing and newborn naps or sleeping.) My favorite swaddles are made of muslin fabric which is breathable and sheer but warm and cozy.
Try: Aden + Anais
The 5 S’s are a method for soothing crying or fussy infants and to put them to sleep. These were shared by pediatrician Harvey Karp in his book and video, “The Happiest Baby of the Block”. The information above is from Dr. Harvey Karp.
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Resources & Citations :
https://www.happiestbaby.com/blogs/baby/tagged/soothing - Happiest Baby on the Block
https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article-abstract/120/4/e1097/71284/Swaddling-A-Systematic-Review?redirectedFrom=fulltext - AAP american academy of pediatrics on swaddling
www.sugarnightnight.com - Sugar Night Night - Trusted Gentle Sleep Coach in San Diego
https://www.happiestbaby.com/blogs/baby/sids-prevention-guidelines-aap - Happiest Baby SIDS prevention
https://blackchildlegacy.org/resources/infant-sleep/ - Black Child Legacy Safe Sleep Campaign
https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html - milestone tracker
All content and information in this video is for informational and educational purposes only, does not constitute medical, psychological or health advice of any kind and I do not warrant that the information presented herein is free of any errors or omissions. I am not providing medical, health care, nutrition therapy or coaching services to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any kind of physical ailment, mental or medical condition.
Although I strive to provide accurate general information, the information presented here is not a substitute for any kind of professional advice, and you should not rely solely on this information. Always consult a professional in the medical and health area for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any medical or health related decisions. For your health related questions, please seek the advice of a licensed physician or any other qualified health care provider immediately.
I’m Charda, a mom, bonus mom, birthing advocate, full spectrum doula and lactation consultant in San Diego, California. I love teaching families how to have a more healthy and positive pregnancy, birth, parenting & breastfeeding experience! My focus is on empowering Black moms, babies and families to be resilient, informed and protected on their life journey!