Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Happiest Baby on the Block - the 5 S's

The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp refers to the first three months of life as the fourth trimester and says to help our babies happily make the transition from life inside the womb to outside the womb we should recreate the womb environment. While these things can be especially helpful for colicky babies, they can help quickly calm any baby.


The five S's are the five things we can do to help recreate womb conditions for the baby and provide comfort. They are sucking, swinging, shushing, side/stomach, and swaddling. Each one provides comfort to the baby and when used in combination these techniques can quickly calm a screaming baby.

  • Sucking can be accomplished with a pacifier, nursing, a finger or a bottle. The urge to suck is strong for babies. "Sucking has its effects deep within the nervous system and triggers the calming reflex and releases natural chemicals within the brain."says Karp. 
  • Swinging is comforting to a baby and reminds them of being inside mom where there was motion whenever mom moved. Side to side swinging, riding in a car, rocking, walking the room with a parent are all examples of motion that reminds baby of the womb environment. 
  • Shushing refers to white noise. Inside the womb was actually quite loud most of the time. Babies are used to hearing their mom's heartbeat all the time. White noise machines or white noise CD's can help with this instead of running the vacuum cleaner or saying "ssshhh sssshhh" loudly for long periods of time.
  • Side/stomach refers to holding the baby on the left side to aid in digestion or holding the baby on her stomach to provide support. Being held on their back often causes babies to startle. Once a baby is calmed down and sleeping, they can then safely be put on their back for sleeping.
  • Swaddling helps provide the continuous touching and support baby experienced in the womb. It also prevents baby from hitting themselves in the face with their hands. Learning how to tightly swaddle a baby is a great skill, or there are products that help with it.

When a baby is screaming and nothing will calm them down, start adding in S's. The more upset a baby is, the more S's they may need. To do all five S's, you can stand up, holding a swaddled baby on their left side, with a pacifier, gently swing them side to side and make a shushing noise or play a white noise CD. Then after baby calms down and falls asleep, you can slowly stop shushing and then swinging and then work towards lying them down on their back. If you would like to watch Dr. Karp in action, look up thehappiestbaby on youtube.

My husband and I have found the five S's to be extremely helpful in calming down angry babies, even past the first three months. The book is a quick and easy read filled with happy anecdotes from Dr. Karp's experience as a pediatrician. I recommend it as helpful to anyone, no matter their overall parenting style.


Have you read The Happiest Baby on the Block? Or tried the five S's? What has been your experience?



By Malina. You can learn more Malina and her family at her personal blog.





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