I still remember the day I brought my baby girl home from the hospital and I felt all those emotions – fear, joy, fear, exhaustion, fear, gratefulness, fear… but in the midst of it all, I really wasn’t aware of what a newborn baby did. I knew they would eat, sleep, and poop, but wasn’t quite sure what was considered “normal”. My daughter was a horrible nighttime sleeper. Her naps were worse. I figured she would sleep hours and hours but never did. Maybe 20 -30 minutes and up she was again – crying and fussing in-between. People would always tell me to let your baby sleep – never wake a baby up – but I was dying to find out how in the world can I get my infant to sleep longer! I was totally guilty of googling EVERYTHING!!! But as I looked into caring for the needs of my brand new child and how to help soothe my fussy infant, I stumbled upon the book that absolutely saved me…The Happiest Baby on the Block.
Dr. Karp described the newborn stage as a 4th trimester, a time for your baby to slowly develop into this new world they have been placed in. Sleeping in long stretches throughout the day is considered normal for a newborn. However, if your child was like mine, and only cat napped throughout the day, Dr. Karp’s method of soothing a crying or fussy infant helped drastically change my baby into a great napper without the necessity of any type of sleep training. Dr. Karp says the best way to calm your newborn and get them to sleep is by re-creating the noises, movement, and snug environment of the womb. And the “Five S’s” baby sleep strategy is designed to do just that.
The 5 S’s System
Swaddling: Tight swaddling provides the continuous touching and support your baby is used to experiencing within the womb. We recommend using aden + anais Classic Muslin Swaddle Blanket.
Side/stomach position: The infant is placed on their left side to assist in digestion, or on their stomach to provide reassuring support. “But never use the stomach position for putting your baby to sleep,” cautions Karp. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is linked to stomach-down sleep positions. When a baby is in a stomach down position do not leave them even for a moment.
Shushing sounds: These imitate the continual whooshing sound made by the blood flowing through arteries near the womb. When baby cries, the shushing should be loud enough to catch baby’s attention. Volumes in utero can reach 95 dBs, which is similar to a loud vacuum cleaner so the shushing needs to be quite loud. The Shushing catches baby’s attention and as baby can only do one thing at a time, the crying stops and baby engages with the loud rhythmic shushing. The rhythmic shushing triggers baby’s calming reflex, which is something every baby is born with, and you will start to see the signs of sleepiness.
Swinging: Newborns are used to the swinging motions within their mother’s womb, so entering the gravity driven world of the outside is like a sailor adapting to land after nine months at sea. “It’s disorienting and unnatural,” says Karp. Rocking, car rides, and other swinging movements all can help.
Sucking: “Sucking has its effects deep within the nervous system,” notes Karp, “and triggers the calming reflex and releases natural chemicals within the brain.” For a newborn, we recommend using a pacifier once you have established breastfeeding. Once that has been consistent, we love using the Philips AventBPA Free Soothie Pacifier.
Remember it might not work every time, but remain positive, calm, and patient when you are calming your baby so they can feed off of your good energy. Some babies may need 1 or 2 of these techniques to settle and others may need all 5! Babies up until the age of 6 months can only do one thing at a time.