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The 5 S’s – Helpful Calming Tools for an Over Tired Baby

A sleeping baby is so sweet and relaxing to see but getting them there sometimes can be difficult.   The 5 S’s were Developed by Paediatrician Dr Harvey Karp to help in soothing a baby to sleep.

The purpose is to help turn on a newborns calming reflex, which can be under developed in some newborns.  They also create an environment which is similar to the womb helping to soothe your baby where they would be rocked and swayed in your uterus and experiencing the gargling and whooshing noises in your womb.   Many parents first believe that calm and quiet is needed to soothe a baby to sleep but the womb that they recently emerged from would have been active and noisy which is why these 5 S’s that aim to recreate a similar environment have proven so effective.   If you find your baby is extremely fussy, develops colic, or seems hard to settle in the early evening hours, these tools can be particularly helpful.

The 5 S’s that need to be done properly and initially following in this order are:

Try NOT to use for the first Nap and Bedtime

  1. Swaddling
  2. Side / Stomach Position – IN Your Arms!
  3. Shushing
  4. Swinging (more of jiggle in your arms)
  5. Sucking

1) Swaddling

Swaddling is recommended until 8 weeks old or until they start to roll (whichever happens first).  It helps by stopping them flail their arms and legs around and the startle reflex.  When they are awake and happy swaddling is not needed but if they are crying or need a nap it can work wonders.  See our swaddling section to find different types.  Your own swaddle can be created from using a square of thin blanket, sheet or muslin or alternatively Swaddle Sacks or Bags can be used which zip up.

2) Hold in Side/Stomach Position

Hold them in their swaddle in the side or stomach position in your arms or on your lap or over your shoulder.  These positions are usually more effective to soothe than on their back.  But remember this is only for the soothing then once ready to sleep they need to be placed on their back in their crib or bassinet as per Safe Sleep Guidelines.

3) Shushing

This is to recreate the loud whooshing and gargling noises they are used to in the womb.  Lean your head down to be close to your baby’s ear and say ‘Shhhh’ loudly – as loud as vacuum cleaner and then as they start settling you can reduce the volume of the shushing.

You can also try playing White noise loudly – Dr Karp recommends noises that are loud and rumbly imitating similar noises in the womb.  Some work better than others – you can try our White Noise for Baby Sleep Tracks and experiment with different ones.   This white noise can also continue to be played at a lower level once the baby is asleep.

4) Swinging or Swaying

It is more of a jiggle rather than a swing imitating the movements your newborn would have felt when in the womb.  Be sure to support their head and move up and down and side to side.

5) Sucking

This means giving your thumb for them to suck or from about 2 weeks once breastfeeding is fully establised they can be given a Pacifier to suck which have been confirmed by the AAP (American Academy of Paediatrics) to reduce the risk of SIDS.   Make sure it is just a pacifier and nothing is attached to the pacifier to ensure no risk of suffocation or tangling on cords.   The reason it is suggested only after breastfeeding is established is that sucking on a pacifier is different to sucking on a nipple and can interfere with early breastfeeding.

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