What are the 5 S’s

What are the 5 S’s?

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When you’re having a baby, there’s a lot to learn. Some of the most important things to learn are how to soothe a fussy baby. Babies are easily overstimulated by our bright, loud world, and their only way to communicate that is through crying. However, crying babies quickly lead to overwhelmed parents, and it’s incredibly hard to stay calm when you feel like you have no idea how to help your crying newborn. Thankfully, longtime pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp came up with an acronym to help parents remember 5 essential skills for soothing a newborn by recreating womb-like sensations: the 5 S’s. If you’re wondering, “what are the 5 s’s?”, you’ve come to the right place. 

1. Swaddle

Newborns are accustomed to the tight confinement of the womb. Swaddling helps mimic that physical comfort to reset their sensitive nervous systems. Ask your postpartum doula or Newborn Care Specialist for her best swaddling tips – watching a pro swaddle makes all the difference. Youtube is a good alternative to learn different ways to safely and effectively swaddle. The key is to make it tight enough for comfort, but not too tight that is restricts breathing or hip movement. Many newborns act like they hate swaddling at first, and so parents avoid it. However, they often simply do not love the process of being swaddled, but once that blanket is set they’re in heaven. 

2. Side or Stomach Position

When soothing a fussy baby, try holding her on her side or stomach to gently help expel stuck gas. After your baby is snug and swaddled, hold her against your forearm with her tummy down or facing out. From this position you can gently sway or pat her back or bum while she zones out and settles down. Just always remember that when you’re ready to put her down to sleep, always put her down on her back. 

3. Shush

In the womb, fetuses listen to the sounds of their mother’s body 24/7. There is a constant loud “swoosh” sound every time the mother’s heart pushes blood through the uterine arteries. Newborn babies miss this background noise, and “shushing” helps comfort them. If your baby loves this (and most do!), we highly recommend investing in a “shusher” noise machine like this one

4. Swing

Many pregnant women notice that their baby likes to like and roll just as they settle down to sleep themselves. But when mom is up and moving, baby is calm and settled. This is true on the outside, too: many newborns crave motion, which helps them relax. Try different movements to see what your baby prefers like slow swaying, soft “jiggling,” or gentle bouncing on a yoga ball. Make sure to always support their head and neck.

5. Suck

Babies have a biological need to suck. When babies suck on the breast, a clean finger, or pacifier, they are satisfying a primal need. Once your (previously) inconsolable baby is a bit more settled from swaddling, side-lying, shushing, and swinging, offer her a clean finger or pacifier to suck on. This is the final magic step to help soothe fussy babies.

The 5 S’s In Action

The 5 S’s recreate the comfort of the womb by providing similar physical sensations and sounds. Newborns are easily overwhelmed by the stark contrast of our big, bright world to their familiar small, dark womb environment. When practicing the 5 S’s, also remember to set up a comfortable environment: keep the room about 68°F – 72°F and not too bright, or alternatively in good weather try mixing up the environment by bringing your baby outside in fresh air. Some babies settle much more quickly in a totally or near-totally dark room. Try playing white noise or gentle soothing sleep music. 

And always remember, put on your own oxygen mask first. Babies pick up on how the adults caring for them are feeling. Take deep breaths and remember that it’s normal for babies to cry, and that you’re doing a good job. Ask for help or hire professional support. The newborn phase can feel like forever, but it does pass quickly in retrospect! Before you know it, your inconsolable newborn will turn into an opinionated toddler. The 5 S’s will help you keep your baby comfortable as their brains and bodies grow.