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The Five S's

Have you heard of Dr. Harvey Karp's Five S's? This is a method for calming an upset baby. The method includes swaddling, side position, shushing, swinging, and sucking. Not all babies need all five of these S's to become and remain calm. Some may only need one or two, while others will need them all. Let's get comfortable with these calming techniques!


  1. Swaddling - typically swaddling in and of itself does not calm a baby right away, and sometimes they may even appear to be getting more upset while they are being swaddled! Even though in that moment swaddling may seem like one great big failure, give the swaddle time to work. Many times the swaddle is done first to help the other S's work quickly and efficiently. (If you need help swaddling, please reach out! I can show you how.) A baby can also find comfort from the concept of swaddling, without actually being swaddled, if held securely in a baby wrap against your body.

  2. Side position - think "football hold," or the opposite of how you would hold him or her to breastfeed. This position helps to calm a baby down by imitating their position in the womb.

  3. Shushing - make a shushing noise close to your baby's ear. Remember, your baby HAS to be able to hear this noise. The soft shushing noise that many people instinctively do when a baby is upset will not do the trick here. You need to shush them louder than they are crying so they can hear the sound of the shush. You can also use a loud sound machine or the sound of a vacuum cleaner to imitate this noise, as well. Remember, the womb was a place with consistent sound. Deafening silence is hard on a baby, so any constant white noise you can offer them when they are upset or trying to fall asleep will only help.

  4. Swinging - the repetitive motion of swaying or bouncing your baby is a great comfort to them. Using a baby swing is a great tool, as well. *swaying and bouncing your baby is NOT the shame as shaking*

  5. Sucking - babies LOVE to suck, so try nursing or bottle feeding your baby. If that does not work - or they are not hungry - you can allow them to suck on a clean finger or a pacifier, if they take one.

Again, some babies will calm easily with shushing and swinging, side position and sucking, swaddling and swinging, or they may very well need all five S's to calm. Give these a try in your fourth trimester to see what works for you and your baby!

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