a mother soothing her baby, holding a baby boy against her chest

Soothing Babies using the 5 S's

 The 5 S's for Soothing Babies: A Comprehensive Guide

As a parent or caregiver, it can be stressful and overwhelming when your baby is crying and nothing seems to be calming them down. Fortunately, there are a number of techniques known as the "5 S's" that can help soothe and calm babies when they are upset.

Background on the 5 S's

The 5 S's were first introduced by pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp in his book "The Happiest Baby on the Block," and they stand for swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging, and sucking. These techniques are based on the idea that newborns are accustomed to the constant motion and noise they experienced in the womb, and they can be calmed by replicating those conditions. These 5 actions are easy to remember when your baby is fed, diaper changed and burped but they are still fussy and crying. 

Description of the 5 S's

Swaddling

Swaddling is the first of the 5 S's, and it involves wrapping the baby in a blanket so that they feel secure and cozy, similar to the feeling of being in the womb. You can use a simple swaddling blanket or you can use a swaddling sack. You can see a step-by-step guide on our favorite way to swaddle a baby on our blog.

Side/stomach position

The second of the 5 S's is side or stomach position. This involves holding the baby on their side or stomach, which can help with digestion and gas. To hold a baby in the side position, place your baby on their side, facing away from you. There head should be resting on your forearm and your hand should be pressed firmly on their lower belly, supporting their body weight. Gently tilt the baby's head back slightly to ensure that their airway is open. For the stomach position, simply rotate the baby so they are facing down instead of to the side. Pressure on their belly is key. Imagine when you are having a tummy ache and you wrap your arms around your midsection or curl up to put pressure on your belly to help relieve the pain. It is important to note that the stomach position should only be used for short periods of time, as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends placing infants on their back to sleep to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Shushing

Shushing, the third of the 5 S's, mimics the familiar sounds heard in the womb by making a loud "shushing" noise near the baby's ear. To shush a baby, hold the baby close to your chest and make a loud, continuous "shush" noise close to their ear. You can also try using a white noise machine or app to provide a similar sound. The idea behind shushing is to create a calming and familiar environment for the baby plus distract them from any pain that they might be sensing by engaging the hearing sense.

Swinging

Swinging is the fourth of the 5 S's, and it involves gentle rocking or swinging motions that can help relax the baby. To swing a baby, hold the baby close to your chest and gently sway back and forth or side to side. Using a baby swing or rocking chair will provide a similar motion and give your arms a rest. It is important to make sure that the swinging motion is not too vigorous, as this can be overwhelming for the baby.

Sucking

The final of the 5 S's is sucking, which involves allowing the baby to suck on a pacifier or their own fingers to provide a sense of comfort. Sucking can help stimulate the baby's mouth and jaw muscles, as well as release endorphins that can help them relax. If you choose to use a pacifier, make sure that it is the appropriate size and shape for the baby's mouth, and always supervise the baby while they are using it. Some babies may not take to a pacifier, in which case you can try offering them their own fingers or a clean, soft cloth to suck on. Breastfeeding is also a great option here.

Tips for using the 5 S's

It is important to try different combinations of the 5 S's to see what works best for your baby. Every baby is different so not every method will work the same for everybody. Pay attention to your baby's body language and cues to understand what they are trying to communicate. If the baby is still upset after trying the 5 S's, it may be helpful to check for other needs, such as a dirty diaper, hunger, the need to burp, or other discomfort.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the 5 S's – swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging, and sucking – can be effective techniques for soothing and calming babies when they are upset. It is important to try different combinations of the 5 S's and pay attention to the baby's cues to find what works best for them. The 5 S's should be used in conjunction with other caregiving techniques and safe sleep practices to provide the best care for your baby. If your baby won’t settle down and soothe using these techniques, it is ok to leave the baby with your partner or in a safe place as you take a break from a crying baby. 

FAQ’s about the 5 S’s for soothing a baby. 

How do I know which of the 5 S's to use for my baby?

  • Try different combinations of the 5 S's to see what works best for your baby. Every baby is different, sometimes what works for one baby may not work for another. It is also helpful to pay attention to your baby's body language and cues to understand what they are trying to communicate. We recommend starting with sucking, moving on to side/stomach position, then swinging, swaddling and finally shushing.

Can the 5 S's be used for all babies?

  • The 5 S's are generally considered to be effective techniques for soothing and calming babies, but it is important to note that every baby is different. Some babies may respond better to certain techniques than others, and it may take some trial and error to find what works best for your baby.

Is it safe to use the stomach position for my baby?

  • The stomach position should only be used for short periods of time, as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends placing infants on their back to sleep to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It is important to make sure that the baby is supported and never left unattended in the stomach position.

Is it okay to let my baby use a pacifier?

  • It is generally considered safe to let a baby use a pacifier, as long as it is the appropriate size and shape for the baby's mouth and the baby is supervised while using it. Some studies have suggested that pacifier use may be associated with a reduced risk of SIDS.

Can the 5 S's be used to calm a fussy baby during the day?

  • The 5 S's can be used to calm a fussy baby at any time of day, not just during nighttime. However, it is important to pay attention to the baby's needs and make sure that they are being properly cared for, including being fed, changed, and kept in a safe and comfortable environment before swaddling them and trying to get them to sleep. If the baby's fussiness persists, it may be helpful to consult a healthcare provider to rule out any underlying medical issues.

 

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