Reviewed by Renee Alli on September 19, 2014


Harvey Karp, MD, FAAP, author, The Happiest Baby on the Block

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Video Transcript

Harvey Karp, MD FAAP: When your baby cries…what should you do first? What if that doesn't work? I'll share soothing techniques to help you keep your baby happy…and sleeping better step by step.

Harvey Karp, MD (cont.): The first things most parents do when their baby is crying are to check the diaper or offer a bit more to eat. Many fussy babies are ready to relax after an extra ounce of milk. If those don't work – you may want to try a stroll outside; some skin-to-skin cuddling; or even a bit of infant massage. But, what if you do all that – and your baby is still wailing? Then, it's time to imitate your womb – to switch on your little one's calming reflex.

Harvey Karp, MD (cont.): Even though parents long use calming technics to imitate the womb, its only recently that doctors have recognized that car rides and vacuum cleaners, probably calm fussing by turning on a calming reflex. The baby's held 24/7 in the womb, the baby's constantly rocked, constantly sssh'd, constantly feed. Five tried and true ways to mimic the womb and flip on the calming reflex are what I call the five S's.

Harvey Karp, MD (cont.): Lets do the swaddling – this is down up, down up … Swaddling is the first S and it's the cornerstone of calming, but you must avoid overheating your baby and loose blankets. Although the arms will be snug and straight, the hips should have a little bend in them. Don't worry if your baby initially struggles against wrap – babies usually calm quickly as soon as you add some of the other S 's. And once calm, swaddling is a huge help to keep them happy and sleeping better.

Harvey Karp, MD (cont.): The 2nd S is the Side/Stomach position. That means holding a baby rolled toward the side or stomach. The back is the only safe position for sleeping, but it's the worst position for soothing a fussy baby.

Harvey Karp, MD (cont.): The 3rd S is Shushing or a strong, white noise. Remember the sound inside the womb is as loud as a vacuum. Babies only need swaddling and womb noise when they are fussy or when you are trying to help them sleep longer. In fact, use swaddling plus a womb sounding CD all night long can add an extra hour to your baby's sleep.

Harvey Karp, MD (cont.): The 4th S is Swinging is rhythmic motion. Your infant may prefer bouncy moves or sweet, slow rocking but always support the head and neck – never, never shake your baby. If you're frustrated or getting angry – put your little one down and take a break to regain your calm. Finally, the 5th S: Sucking - is "the icing on the cake." Sucking on a nipple, pacifier or even your clean finger can help your baby settle into deep relaxation.

Harvey Karp, MD (cont.): The key to success with the 5 S's is to do them correctly. Swaddle too loosely – and your baby may cry more! Shush too softly – and nothing happens. This may sound odd – but remember, the 5 S's work by triggering a reflex…and reflexes ONLY work when you trigger them correctly. If you're doing the 5 S's right and your baby still doesn't calm – or whenever your baby's crying makes you worried – it's always wise to call the doctor to make sure there is no medical problem.

Harvey Karp, MD (cont.): With an understanding of basic principles that are simple and natural - along with a little practice – you'll quickly help your little one be the happiest baby on YOUR block. For WebMD, I'm Dr. Harvey Karp.

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