How To Soothe a Baby With the 5 S's

How To Soothe a Baby With the 5 S's

Being a first-time parent is overwhelming. Your baby cries incessantly and you struggle to figure out why and what to do. To help you navigate the world of first-time parenting, we put together a list of five things you can do to soothe your baby.

The Overwhelm of First-time Parents
You have a newborn baby and he or she is your first child. You hold that precious baby and are struck by its fragility. You struggle to figure out what your baby needs and feel inadequate. What you are feeling is what all first-time parents feel. Babies turn your world upside down.

You are navigating a new world where you are the caretaker of a new little life. It is an overwhelming time for you. You may freak out when your baby cries, but this is normal and does not make you a bad parent.

You are sleep-deprived. You struggle to manage to do what you need to do throughout the day, which includes caring for a newborn, with little sleep. Join the club of first-time parents of newborns who are just trying to figure out how to cope as they learn how to care for their babies.

Why Babies Cry
Crying is how babies communicate because they can’t yet talk. It is their only real form of communication. In their first few months of life, babies have no other means of communication. Babies cry to let their parents know that something is wrong and they need that problem fixed.

There are a number of reasons why babies cry. Keep in mind that your baby’s stomach is very small and can only hold a small amount. It will not take long before he or she needs another feed. By crying, your baby lets you know it’s time to be fed. Even if the last feed occurred not that long ago, feed your baby again. They know when they need to eat.

Babies also cry if they are fed too much. Overfeeding can cause their stomachs to become bloated, which causes discomfort. When your baby pulls away during feeding, take that as a cue to stop. They know when they have had enough.

A common reason that babies cry is that they have dirty diapers. Both urine and stools are irritating against a baby’s delicate skin and can cause burning and even pain. They cry to let their parents know that they need to be changed. Another common reason that babies cry is that they are sleepy. They are uncomfortable and need to be put in a comfortable position so they can sleep.

Some babies have colic, which is one of the main causes of recurrent crying in the early months of a baby’s life. When babies have colic, their tummies hurt. They cry to let their parents know they are in distress.

A more serious reason that babies cry is that they are in pain from something such as an earache, diaper rash, or mouth ulcers. If your baby cries incessantly and has a temperature, see a doctor as soon as you can.

How Crying Impacts Parents and the Baby
When your baby cries, it can trigger feelings of anxiety and even dread. That is normal and does not make you a bad parent. The incessant crying of a fussy baby is tough to cope with and it's only natural that it triggers negative emotions. Researchers conducted a literature review of 20 studies on the impact of crying infants on parents. What they found is that parents experience anxiety, depression, helplessness, anger, and frustration. In other words, what you experience when your baby won’t stop crying is what other parents experience.

As we stated above, crying is how babies communicate with their parents. When the parent isn’t able to figure out what the baby needs, as happens to all parents from time to time, it can cause more distress for the baby.

The 5 S’s for Soothing Babies
The 5 S’s method can teach you how to soothe a crying baby. In his book, The Happiest Baby on the Block, Harvey Karp, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California School of Medicine, outlines the “Five S’s” strategy to soothe a baby. Karp calls the first few months after a baby is born the “fourth trimester.” While babies are out of the womb at that point, they are not fully ready for the outside world.

1. Swaddle
Do you want to know how to calm a fussy newborn? Try swaddling them. Wrapping a blanket around your baby will soothe them and the reason is that it mimics the mother’s womb. A 2002 study found that swaddling helps babies sleep better. It is important to always put your baby to sleep on their back, particularly when swaddled, to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Stop swaddling when your baby shows signs of attempting to roll over.

To correctly swaddle your baby, first spread a blanket out and fold one corner down. Place your baby on their back on the blanket and put their head above the corner you folded down. Then you will need to straighten their left arm and wrap the blanket’s left corner over their body. Take the left corner of the blanket and tuck it between the right side of their body and their right arm, then tuck their right arm down. Fold the blanket’s right corner under their left side and over their body. With the bottom of the blanket, you need to loosely tuck fold it and tuck it under one side of them. Make sure they can move their hips and the blanket is not too tight.

2. Side or Stomach Position
Perhaps swaddling didn’t work and you want to know how to settle a crying baby. Try the side or stomach position. While research shows that stomach sleeping soothes babies, it increases the risk for SIDS. The alternative is to hold your baby on their side or stomach. You can lay your baby over your shoulder or lay them across your arm and use your hand to support their head. You can also lay them on your chest. Only use the side or stomach position to soothe your baby and never to put them to sleep.

3. Shush
White noise is still another way to soothe your crying baby. A womb is a noisy place for a fetus. They hear the mother’s blood circulation, breathing, and digestion. For that reason, white noise can be used to calm a fussy baby. There are a number of ways to create white noise. Sing a lullaby or other song to your baby or simply hum. And talk to your baby in short sentences. Not only will talking calm your baby but help with learning language as they grow.

4. Swing
Swinging your baby back and forth can be very soothing. A study of babies under six months old who were carried by a walking mother shows that doing so stopped the babies from crying and decreased their heart rate. The next time your baby won’t stop crying try gently swinging them back and forth and add a bit of bounce. Remember to support their head, and keep them facing you to increase bonding. Never shake your baby as that can cause brain damage and even death.

5. Suck
Giving your baby a pacifier to suck on, if they will take it, can put them into a relaxed state. Researchers found that what they termed non-nutritive sucking had a pain-relieving effect among babies.

The 5 S’s Lead to Sleep for Parents and Baby

The bottom line is that using the 5 S’s can soothe babies, causing them to stop crying and go to sleep. And that also leads to more sleep for exhausted parents. It’s a classic win-win situation.