First off, HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY to you from our PINK family!
Today we are going to discuss the next two S’s in from Dr. Harvey Karp’s Five S’s. As you will remember, last week we discussed the first S, swaddling. In addition you will remember that in order for the Five S’s to effectively trigger your baby’s calming reflex they must be done in the order provided below.
Though some babies calm after just swaddling or being placed on their side, other babies need to be taken all the way to the fifth S, sucking. Today we will be discussing the importance of the side and stomach positions and the shushing sound. PINK Newborn Services has found that, very often, a baby will stop crying and fussing after this third S.
Alright let’s dive right into it! The side or stomach position is very important for several reasons. One of the most important reasons for placing your baby in either of these positions is that it keeps your baby from accidentally setting off his moro (falling) reflex.
Moro reflex (also called startle reflex)
- Trigger: Loud noise (even baby’s own cry!), sudden movement, or sensation of falling
- Response: Baby cries and extends legs, arms, and fingers, arches back, then retracts arms and legs
- Duration: Until baby is four to six months old
- Reason: Baby’s first attempts to protect himself from harm
- Tip: Swaddle him at night to make him feel more secure and prevent him from startling himself awake.
Another reason placing baby on their side or stomach helps calm them is because it is likely a position they were in while they were in the womb. Think about it, your baby never laid flat on their back while they were in the womb. By placing them on their side or stomach, you are helping re-create the womb environment, which is extremely comforting to your baby.
One of the most common and easiest ways to place a baby on their side or stomach is to use the “football hold”. In this position, the baby is placed over your forearm with their head in the palm of your hand and their arms and legs dangling (see photo below).
*Important Note: While placing a child on their side or stomach helps to calm them, NEVER lay your baby to sleep on their stomach or side. To reduce the risk of SIDS it is encouraged that you always place your baby to sleep on their back. Be sure to swaddle your baby when you lay them to sleep on their back to prevent them from startling themselves awake.
Now on to the next S, shushing. This is one of PINK Newborn Services favorite techniques for calming fussy babies. While it may sound contradictory, Dr. Karp says that white noise is the sound of silence for babies. This is because the entire time they were in the womb they experienced the constant, loud whooshing of blood through arteries in the womb. When a baby is born, many times parents encourage guests and family members to be quiet around the baby so they can sleep. In reality, complete silence can be upsetting to a baby because they have never experienced it before.
When baby is crying, after they have been swaddled and placed either on their side or stomach, the next step to calm them is to make a loud shushing noise close to their ear. Dr. Karp explains how to do this in The Happiest Baby on the Block using the following steps:
- Place your mouth two to four inches away from your baby’s ear.
- With your lips pursed, start releasing a shhhh sound.
- Quickly raise the volume of your shhhh until it matches the noise level of your crying baby. Try to sound like the world’s most annoyed librarian! This is not a gentle or polite shush, but a rough, harsh, insistent shhhh. But remember, your shushing will sound much louder to you than it will to your baby because her hearing is quite muffled. And besides, her own screaming gets broadcast at a jolting seventy to eighty decibels (louder than a vacuum cleaner)- and that’s blasting right next to her ears! Some parents feel it’s callous and vulgar to shhhh their colicky baby or that it has an angry sound to their ears. However, to a baby’s ears, shhhh is a welcome sound of love.
- As mentioned earlier, calming your baby is like a dance – but she is leading. You aren’t guiding her into quiet, you are following her there. So, don’t soften your shhhh until her decreasing cries show you she is ready for it.
Continuously shushing your baby to keep her calm can cause you to become lightheaded so PINK Newborn Services suggests investing in a white noise sound machine. Once you have effectively calmed your baby, keeping the white noise on will help her stay calm.