Dr. Harvey Karp’s fourth S in his Five S’s to trigger your baby’s calming reflex is swinging. This is the step I would like to spend the most time explaining because there is a specific way to use this step without it being harmful to your baby or turning it into a bad habit.
First and foremost, you are not shaking your baby in this step. While Dr. Karp recommends jiggling your baby’s head in the palms of your hands (described in more detail below) you are not shaking them. Some parents have a hard time coping with the sound of a screaming baby, especially when it goes on for prolonged periods of time. Shaken Baby Syndrome occurs when a baby is vigorously shaken, causing damage to the spinal cord and brain.
Second, PINK Newborn Services effectively uses this step to calm fussy babies; however, we only use it until baby has been calmed. If you continue swinging your baby until they are in a sound sleep, you will teach your baby to rely on motion to fall asleep. While placing baby in a swing to sleep may seem like a magic answer, it is a bad habit that is extremely difficult to break!
Now that I have addressed those two things, let me explain to you how swinging works to calm your fussy baby. After your baby has been swaddled, placed on their side or stomach, and you have introduced the loud shhhing sound you may need to put them in motion to help calm them. Think back to pregnancy when your baby was calmed by the motion of your walking and moving. How much did you actually move during the day? Now that they are enjoying life outside the womb, they are suddenly being laid on a flat, motionless crib or bassinet to sleep. Not baby’s favorite when they are fussy.
When Dr. Karp says “swing your baby” he really is saying “put your baby in motion”. You can use any of the following techniques to help calm your infant:
Baby slings or carriers
Rhythmic pats on the back or bottom
Vibrating bouncy seats
Bouncing on an exercise ball
Again, PINK Newborn Services loves using many of these techniques to calm baby, but the only place baby should sleep is in their own bed. If baby is fussy but not tired, you can continue with any kind of motion to keep your baby calm.
Dr. Karp’s three rules for successful motion to calm your baby are as follows:
- Start out fast and jiggly. Calming most frantic infants requires small, trembly motions, like someone with the world’s worst case of the shivers. This type of motion switches on the calming reflex and makes your baby think “Wow, this feels good!”
- The head jiggles more than the body. A shimmying or shivering motion triggers your baby’s calming reflex by switching on motion detectors… in his head. That’s why it’s the movement of the head, and not the body, that really turns the reflex on. As you jiggle your baby, don’t cup your hands firmly around his head. It’s critical that you allow your hands to be a little open and relaxed so his head makes tiny wiggles, like Jell-o quivering on a plate. If you hold his head too snuggly, it won’t jiggle and you probably won’t activate the calming reflex.
- Follow your baby’s lead. How forceful should your jiggling be? The vigor of your motion should reflect the level of your baby’s crying. Gentle movements are fine for relaxed, sleepy infants, but the more agitated your baby is, the faster and more jiggly you need to be. Wait for his cries to lessen before you reduce your pace. Then, the calmer he gets, the slower your motion can become.
I found the following videos on www.youtube.com to help show you the difference in pace of the motion according to the fussiness of the baby.
Next Tuesday, I will be sharing the final S with you so you will be fully equipped to calm your fussy baby!