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
5s Muslin Swaddle
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
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
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
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
Not Your Average Girafe
Pass the Mustard
Fit for a Queen
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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