Being a parent is wonderful, crazy, adventurous, and joyful, but it isn’t wrapped up with a nice, tidy bow on top. It can be simultaneously messy, stressful, frustrating, and confusing. I read and researched a lot of information related to babies. Some of it was conflicting. Some of it was helpful. And some of it was take it or leave it.
However, the single best thing that I read was Dr. Harvey Karp’s 5 ‘S’s. His advice has been tremendously helpful in keeping my husband and me sane. In his book and on his blog, he breaks down how parents can gradually work in the 5 ‘S’s to calm a crying baby and get him/her to sleep. I have seen these methods work firsthand with our son, and honestly I am nothing short of amazed.
The 5 ‘S’s of Sleep
S Number One:
Babies typically like the feeling of being snug just like how they were inside of their mother’s uterus. My son might have fought the swaddles and sleep sacks at first, but once he was safely and securely wrapped up like a burrito, he immediately started to calm and make less of a fuss. He slept well at nights with one and continues to be swaddled at 4 months, although his arms are free now that he can roll over.
The product that worked best for us: Halo Sleep Sack
We would do the sleep sack at night. These sleep sacks have the option of zipping up the baby and securing both the arms or just one arm or simply letting both arms be free. We needed at least two of the sleep sacks for warmer and colder weather and a smaller and larger size. It seemed like magic to me!
S Number Two:
Babies typically love this position. It feels good to have some pressure on their stomachs, so that is what we would try when the swaddle alone was just not cutting it, or we wanted to try something different. Please keep in mind that the side/stomach position is only for calming or playing supervised. It is NEVER for sleeping.
The product that worked best for us: Our own arms and legs.
We would swaddle our son and then slightly turn him to his side/stomach in our arms or splayed out on our legs. We would lightly jiggle him or pat his back, and he would calm a lot.
S Number Three:
There is often a misconception that you have to be super quiet around a sleeping baby. This isn’t true, especially in the newborn stage. Babies come from a world where there is a constant sound of blood flowing and a heart beating. Therefore, loud sounds are very much soothing to a baby, hence this sneaky entry into the 5 ‘S’s. The best sounds are blow-dryers, washing machines, a strong white noise, ocean waves, and sounds that mimic the womb. All of these have worked with our son.
The product that worked best for us: Hatch Baby Rest Sound Machine.
This might be my absolute favorite product of everything I have. The Hatch connects to our phone in which you can set different programs. Mine is so aptly named “Sleep Dammit.” I have it set to peaceful trickling water under a soft pink light as we get ready for bed. Around the time I lay him in his bassinet, it switches to very strong wind sounds under a dim orange glow, which lulls him to sleep on its own with little to no intervention from me. After he’s been asleep for a bit, the machine plays a softer white noise under a glowing red light, which keeps him sleeping throughout the night. Finally, the rain setting under a calming blue light triggers that it is time to rise. In addition, I have nap settings set to various sounds and light. And this is all controlled from my phone, so if he gets fussy at any time, I can jack up the volume or turn it on. It has worked wonders!
S Number Four:
Babies are born into a big, bright world in which they miss and crave the secure, rocking motion of their old home inside of you. That’s why swinging, rocking, bouncing, and jiggling (never shaking) is so soothing to a baby. For my son, this has been his strongest S. During the newborn phase, we would put him in his swing during his “witching hour” and jack that thing up to as high as it would go. He usually calmed in no time. Dr. Karp sells a product that is super expensive, but during one desperate night we almost caved and tried the one-month rental. However, the other products we bought ended up working just fine.
The product that worked best for us: Graco Simple Sway Swing.
Even though we only got 3–5 months use out of this swing, I would say it is well worth it, especially if you have an extremely fussy baby. Our baby loved his swing, particularly in the early days. We would swaddle him, place him in the swing at its highest volume, and turn some loud sounds up. Those tears turned to tired eyes in no time, and we were able to peacefully eat our dinner once again. It is not recommended for extended sleeping, but otherwise, it is great.
S Number Five:
This S was my son’s least soothing of the 5 S’s. Let me rephrase: Non-nutritive sucking was my son’s least soothing S. In the beginning, he would take a pacifier, but since then he was not really keen on one—although he did discover how soothing his fingers can be. Now, on the other hand, nutritive sucking was a strong S for him. If your baby does take a pacifier, once he has been firmly swaddled and some loud shushing and swinging have been added, top him off with his favorite soothie. It’s the cherry on top.
The product that worked best for us: Phillips Avent Soothie (or any brand your baby prefers).
Originally, we had pacifiers for different places in the house. One in our room. One in his nursery. One in the living room. Two in the kitchen. One in the diaper bag. One in the diaper caddy. We would joke about the pacifiers being in the wrong place. “What’s the 2nd floor binky doing in the diaper bag? This is a nightmare,” we would shout in a mock angry voice. Too bad my son lost interest in the pacifier really quickly. We still have them in their respective places just in case.
Give the 5 ‘S’s a try
The 5 ‘S’s and the products I mentioned really helped my son and me survive those fussy evenings and those nights when sleep was hard to come by. Sometimes, it only took the first two S’s to soothe my son or put him to sleep. Other days, we needed all five. When done right, the 5 ‘S’s are lifesaving and the number one recommendation I have for anyone expecting a baby. Good luck!
Have you tried Dr Karp’s 5 ‘S’s for sleep? Let us know what worked for you in the comments.