When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I envisioned sweet baby snuggles and walks around the neighborhood.
Reality however, was a bit different: in short, I had no idea how much crying would be involved in the first three months. My daughter was unhappy, which made me stressed, which made everyone who loved us frankly a bit worried. They all started sending me research about how to soothe a baby, and finally one technique broke through: the 5 s’s for baby.
What’s the fuss about the 5 s baby technique? Simply put: it works. By the time my second baby rolled around, I had mastered the 5s technique and everyone had an easier postpartum period.
Want to learn the 5s baby soothing technique for yourself? Here are the steps, and the products that can help you with each one.
In this article:
What is the 5 S’s Baby Technique?
The 5 S’s are a set of techniques for soothing a fussy or crying baby. The 5 S’s were first identified by Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician and the author of The Happiest Baby on the Block. Karp argues that five actions can help sooth babies by mimicking the environment of the womb.
To calm your baby, Karp says you should take those 5 actions, which are:
- swaddle them tightly
- use a side position (just to soothe, never to sleep)
- shush them
- swing them using small, fast motions
- allow them to suck, at the breast or with a pacifier
It seems simple enough, right? The 5 S’s build on techniques that many parents already use because they’re instinctual or have been taught culturally. Still, the science says the 5 s’s make a big difference. Here’s why.
In the womb, babies don’t have much space to move. That association they have with being tightly confined—then combined with reflexes like the startle reflex—can make it overwhelming once they’re out in the world.
That’s why swaddling is so comforting for infants. To swaddle correctly, you should wrap your baby’s arms tightly, while making sure that their hips and legs can move.
And if you haven’t mastered the art of wrapping a tiny human burrito, these products can help you and your baby get much-needed sleep.
A 5s Baby Swaddle
Aden + Anais Essentials Easy Swaddle
When it comes to comforting a baby, swaddles are a game changer. Rather than wrestling baby blankets, you can simply pull the swaddler closed. These Aden and Anais swaddlers are stand-outs because they make is easy to swaddle a baby quietly. The swaddler comes with silent hook-and-loop closures that won’t wake you baby up. Even the bottom zipper – convenient for diaper changes – is super discreet, ensuring that all your hard work soothing your little one won’t go to waste. Best of all, these swaddlers come in a three-pack, so you’ll never run out after a middle-of-the-night spit up.
5s Muslin Swaddle
Aden + Anais Safari Babes Muslin Swaddles
Are you a traditionalist? If so, these Aden + Anais Safari Babes Muslin Swaddles are the perfect way to wrap your baby and show off your super-nanny skills. These square blankets are 100% cotton, and at 44-inches by 44-inches, they provide plenty of material to make sure that you get a snug swaddle. Best of all, the blankets are versatile. You can toss them in your bag to provide a clean place to change a diaper, spread them over the car seat to protect your little one from the sun, or sling them over your shoulder for a no-fuss nursing cover. With four blankets in the pack, you’ll have plenty to swaddle your baby and take on the go.
When it comes to sleeping babies, we all know that back is best. Well, back is safest, and it’s undoubtable the way that all babies should sleep when they’re not attended. Unfortunately, it’s not the most comfortable position for babies, who often prefer laying on their stomach or side.
To utilize the second S, hold your baby on his side or stomach. You can also hold your baby in the football hold or by placing baby on your shoulder in a classic burping position.
A nursing pillow is also a great help for positioning your baby on their side or tummy (always when you’re in reach and never unsupervised, of course). Or, you can use a specific pillow, like our beloved Boppy pillow (and don’t worry, the original Boppy pillow wasn’t part of the recall—that only applied to the lounger version!).
Side by Side with Boppy
If you have a baby, you need a Boppy pillow. This all-so-functional pillow can be used for breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, tummy time, or just hanging-around time. It's the perfect supportive pillow, especially for the early newborn days and can be used for long to come. Plus, it comes in a variety of machine-washable covers, so you can customize style--and throw in the washer when it's dirty.Read Review
As soon as they developed a sense of hearing, your baby was exposed to the soothing rhythm of your blood flow and heartbeat. Because of that, many babies are comforted by a low, swooshing or shushing sound.
Rhythmic shushing is the perfect way to simulate the condition of the womb, while also blocking out more startling noises (looking at you, older siblings). While fans or noise machines provide some comfort, Karp emphasizes the need for a deep, rumbling sound to get the most out of this soothing step.
5s Baby Shusher
The Baby Shusher: The Sleep Miracle
Noise machines are not all created equal. Luckily, The Baby Shusher has cracked the code, creating a low, rhythmic shushing noise designed to lull your little one off the sleep. With the Baby Shusher, less is more: there’s one noise setting and two timing option, of 15 or 30 minutes. The Baby Shusher runs on two AA batteries and it’s lightweight enough to toss in your diaper bag or overnight suitcase. While mama’s shushing will always be best, this machine will allow you to step away for a moment to yourself, and help teach your baby to go to sleep independently.
Babies love to move. Long, slow swinging movements can help keep your baby happy, but when they’re distressed short, fast swinging motions are best.
Karp recommends firmly supporting your baby’s head and neck, then using short, sharp movements to swing them back and forth when they’re fussy. Remember to never, ever shake a baby: movements of just one inch should do the trick for calming your infant. And when in doubt, a baby bouncer or baby swing can do the trick when your arms can’t.
Swing + Soothe
4Moms mamaRoo Baby Swing
A higher-priced luxury swing, the mamaRoo is built for the tech-savvy parent, but its larger size and lack of a battery unit means it’s best-suited for parents who don’t plan on traveling with the swing. The primary appeal of this swing is the multi-directional feature that let parents choose which way the swing moves–right from their phone. Plus, it boasts Bluetooth technology and comes with soothing capabilities, like built-in white noise or music you can play through your phone. If you've got a fussy babe on your hands who needs to move throughout the day to settle down, this 5-way-movement baby seat and swing may just be a lifesaver.Read Review
Babies have been practicing their suck reflex since they were in-utero, so it’s no surprise that they find it intensely soothing. When babies suck, either on a breast, bottle or pacifier, they’re almost instantly calmed.
Sucking has tons of health benefits for babies, including improved digestion, more stable blood sugars and a calmer heart rate. Researchers have also found that using a pacifier isn’t likely to interfere with breastfeeding. There are tons of pacifiers and accessories available. Here are a few of Truly Mama’s favorite pacifiers for the 5s rule:
A Suck You Can See
MAM Night Age 0-6 Months Glow-in-the-Dark Pacifier
There’s nothing more frustrating than desperately searching for your baby’s pacifier at night. MAM takes away some of the guesswork with these glow-in-the-dark pacifiers, designed to fit your baby for the first six months of her life. These pacifiers are well-engineered, with an orthodontically-correct nipple and a curved shield that’s designed to optimize air flow to your infant. The textured nipple is designed to help your infant keep the pacifier in their mouth, reducing frustration for mom and baby. The two-pack comes with a case that is microwave safe, making it easy to sterilize these pacifiers on the go.
Not Your Average Girafe
Sophie la Girafe So’Pure Natural Rubber Pacifier
You’ve probably heard of Sophie the Giraffe, the teething toy that has kept mamas and babies happy for decades. Now, the same company has branched out into pacifiers, offering an all-natural 100% rubber pacifier. What the fuss about all rubber? For starters, you won’t have to worry about harmful chemicals. This pacified is also easy to clean because it’s all one piece, with no sneaky corners for mold or dirt to hide. The shape of the pacifier fits perfectly into baby’s palate, while the loop on the back makes it easy to connect to a pacifier clip so that your baby’s binky will never hit the floor.
Pass the Mustard
Bella Tunno Mustard Pacifier Clip
A pacifier is great for soothing your little one – until it goes missing. A pacifier clip makes sure that your baby’s pacifier is always within reach and keeps it from getting too dirty. The Bella Tunno pacifier clip has a playful and modern look. It comes in solid colors, with 100% silicon beads that do double duty as a teething necklace. One of the best features about this pacifier clip is that it’s all dishwasher safe, so at the end of a busy day you can toss it in the wash and know that in the morning it will be squeaky clean for your little one.
Fit for a Queen
January Moon Pacifier Clip
You’ve probably never thought of a pacifier clip as a fashion accessory, but January Moon aims to change that. The company was founded by a jewelry designer-turned-mom. She wanted to create art-driven, non-toxic, functional accessories for mom and baby. That’s exactly what you’ll find with this pacifier clip. You can choose from 100% silicon beads in different colors and shapes, all of which are interesting to look at – although your baby will probably prefer chewing on them. The clip itself is made from 24 karat gold, which is beautiful and hypoallergenic. One small downside is that this clip isn’t dishwater safe, but it’s simple to clean with soap and water.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the 5 S’s for a baby?
The 5 S’s for soothing a baby are swaddle, side position, shush, swing and suck. All of these, taken together, mimic the experience that babies have in the womb. Because of that, they’re effective for calming many babies.
How do you do the 5 S’s?
To use the 5 S’s, start by swaddling your baby and offering a pacifier for her to suck. Hold her in a football hold or on your shoulder and use short, jerking motions to swing or bounce her, while firmly supporting the head and neck. While you’re doing that, make a “shush” sound.
What is the happiest baby on the block method?
The happiest baby on the block method teaches you to use the 5 S’s to calm your baby. The 5 S’s were developed by pediatrician Harvey Karp, who detailed them in his book, The Happiest Baby on the Block.
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