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The 5S’s - Swaddling, Swaying, Shh-ing, Sucking and Side/Stomach Lying

February 03, 2017 1 Comment

The 5S’s - Swaddling, Swaying, Shh-ing, Sucking and Side/Stomach Lying

Imagine you’ve just spent 9-months at a beach resort where all of your needs were met without you even needing to ask. Delicious meals, daily massages, long hours spent floating in pure relaxation in the ocean with the rhythmic sound of the waves lapping the shore—a pure nirvana of calm and tranquility.

One day you’re ripped out of bed and pushed and shoved through the dark, and suddenly you’re greeted by a piercing scream and bright lights. In your new environment, you are hungry, cold, and accosted by bizarre noises. You’ve got to go in search of your own food, your body makes sharp jerks and twitches that startle you, and you’re now expected to go to sleep without the soothing motion and sound of those ocean waves! It’s enough to bring you to tears!

Well, this is what newborn babies experience when they are born after 9 months of paradise in the womb—no wonder babies cry! It’s why during the first few months of a baby’s life, they need a “4th trimester” to acclimate to life outside the womb.

The theory of using the “5 S’s” to keep newborns calm and happy during this “4th Trimester” was developed by Dr. Harvey Karp, pediatrician and author of the book, The Happiest Baby on the Block. But since most parents don’t have time to read a 250+ page book, I’m here to share my experiences using these techniques (and some of my own tips and tricks) to calm thousands of babies during my career as a Maternity Nurse.

1. Swaddling

During the last few months in the womb, babies have very limited space. Every time they try to move their hands or feet they don’t get very far before they meet the resistance of mom’s bladder or other internal organ. So when they are born, the sudden ability to move their limbs so freely can be scary and disorienting. This is why babies love being swaddled; it’s like that nice big hug they experienced in the womb. The trick, however, is to do it so it gives your baby that comfort they need.

Swaddle your baby VERY snugly. A tight swaddle is imperative to ensure your baby feels secure. Ideally, you want it to be so secure that you can only squeeze two fingers in between the swaddle blanket and your baby’s torso, ensuring he/she can breathe easily. Swaddle younger babies with their arms down by their sides. As your baby grows older and needs the swaddle less (around the 3-4 month mark), you can start swaddling with one arm bent up by his/her face. The legs can be loosely swaddled or excluded from the swaddle entirely, based on your baby's needs or preferences.

Remember all fabrics have a certain amount of "give", so it is difficult to swaddle your baby too tightly. Besides, a loose swaddle could cause a SIDS related hazard. So keep your swaddle snug!

If you’re thinking, “But my baby doesn’t like to be swaddled”—9 times out of 10 I’ve found this is not true. Most babies love a nice, tight swaddle, either using a swaddle blanket or one of the numerous alternative swaddle products. Unfortunately, parents don’t swaddle baby tightly enough to give them the comfort they crave. Instead, they mistakenly think that the baby breaking free from the swaddle in a few minutes or within the hour means baby doesn’t like to be swaddled. Or parents think that when baby cries even after being swaddled it means they don’t like it. Neither are true! Instead it’s often because baby just wants a tighter swaddle! Or maybe baby needs some additional soothing using the other S’s!

2. Swaying

Tranquilo Mat 5S's - swaying

In the womb, babies are in constant motion. Suspended in amniotic fluid, every time mom moves—even the slightest shift—causes the baby to be gently swayed. To recreate this motion, make sure your infant’s head is fully supported and in line with their body, then start to sway, rock, bounce, and move your baby as actively as their crying warrants. If baby’s crying is mild, try some gentle rocks or sways; if they are screaming, try some vigorous bounces that recreate running to catch a bus! And of course, you can use the vibrations from your Tranquilo Mat® (as directed) to recreate the constant motion your baby loves.

Remember: NEVER "shake" a baby. This occurs when the baby's head is not supported and he/she therefore experiences a whiplash-type effect on the head and neck. This is very different than vigorous swaying as described above where the baby’s head is fully supported and inline with their body at all times.

3. Shh-ing

The sound of blood rushing through mom's body to the uterus envelops the baby in a rhythmic, calming sea of noise—WHOOSH, WHOOSH, WHOOSH! Research has shown the volume in utero to be 75-88 decibels, or about as loud as a vacuum cleaner (75 decibels) or hair dryer (85 decibels). Fortunately, the vibrations from the Tranquilo Mat® produce a similar rhythmic noise that helps to calm babies.

In some cases, however, your little one may need more sounds to keep calm. You can use a white noise machine or get a white noise app for your smartphone to fill your baby's ears with more of the sounds they crave.

4. Sucking

Babies love to suckle; it reminds them of the comforts of mom and receiving nourishment. Research has shown that babies actually start sucking in utero, although after birth very few babies can manage to find their hands, let alone bring them up to their mouths and start sucking. So, you can help soothe your baby by giving him/her something else to suck on— mom's nipple, a pacifier (if you are using one), or even a clean finger.

Unfortunately, some breastfeeding infants find it difficult to switch between the firmer, rubber consistency of a pacifier versus the softer, more natural feel of mother's nipple. For most babies, however, there is little or no issue with switching back and forth, even from birth. If, after introducing the pacifier, getting your baby to latch and stay latched while breastfeeding is a challenge, then the pacifier may be the culprit, so change your soothing strategy accordingly.

If you haven’t tried a pacifier, or are worried about trying one, you can always wait until breastfeeding is firmly established before introducing it. Or, if need be, a clean finger can be a good substitute. Just be sure that the finger is clean by washing your hands thoroughly and that the finger is approximately the size of a pacifier or nipple, which will vary based on each adult's hand size. Also, don't forget to put your finger inside the baby's mouth so that the pad of the finger is against the top of the mouth and the natural, polish-free fingernail is resting softly against the tongue.

5. Side or Stomach Lying

Tranquilo Mat - 5S's - side lying

All babies are born with the Moro Reflex, thought to be an old reflex from our days as primates. The Moro Reflex, or startle reflex, causes a baby to reach their limbs (especially their arms) up and out as if they are falling from the treetops and reaching for mom or dad. This reflex has very little use today, except that when it happens, it often scares babies and makes them cry!

To turn off this reflex, simply place your baby on his/her side or stomach. For safety, only use this technique when you are holding your baby or have all eyes on him/her. As per the American Academy of Pediatrics’ warnings, DO NOT leave your baby unattended on their side or stomach, even for a moment, for SIDS related reasons. Remember babies should sleep on their backs—"BACK TO SLEEP"!

The 5 S’s - when performed correctly and combined with the Tranquilo Mat® - can be a godsend for babies and parents alike... but don't just take my word for it!

So in summary –

    1. Swaddle baby tightly
    2. Provide swaying and constant motion
    3. Provide a loud white sound
    4. Give baby something to suck on.
    5. Turn baby on their side or stomach (with nose and mouth un-obscured) while baby is in your arms!

I hope this guide has given you all the tips and tricks you need to calm your little one. We’d love to hear from you in the comments below what other tips and tricks you’ve tried and your baby loves! And of course, if you have any further questions or concerns about this material, please feel free to reach out to us—we love helping everyone get a good night’s sleep! (Yes, even with a new baby!)

Check out Melissa's Facebook Live video about the 5 S's!

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1 Response

Teen Temple
Teen Temple

February 10, 2017

I just saw this on Shark Tank, and it was a clean sale to them. I’m sold on the Tranquilo, and with a new great grandson on the way, it’s a must have!! Terrific presentation.

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