Ever feel like you got more sleep before your baby was born? I know pregnancy wasn’t easy, but there was still a little more relaxation with it than with what a newborn brings.
Are you afraid your baby has colic or might develop colic? Well then I have some tips to help soothe your crying newborn! Now, listen to me on this: IT WORKS! What works, you may ask?
Dr. Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s work.
His book Happiest Baby on the Block is the reason I’m still alive after two kids (only partially kidding). In his book he describes what he believes to be the true cause of colic and he has termed it “the missing fourth trimester.” He suggests that babies really shouldn’t be born for another three months (but we are all glad THAT’S not the case) and because of this, they need special circumstances to help them sleep and be calm.
Think about it: before they were born, your baby was always snuggled, warm, fed, rocked, and all with the perfect amount of white noise in the background. Then they get kicked out to a cold world, having to eat and breathe on their own, and also going from being held 24/7, to much, much less time than that.
So how do we ease the transition?
Here are the 5 S’s that Dr. Karp suggests:
And the key to soothe a crying newborn is not just one of them either. It’s all 5 at the same time. Now let me explain them a little bit.
It needs to be a good, tight swaddle. Think about it. When they were in utero, it didn’t matter how hard they kicked (well, maybe it mattered to YOU a little bit), their arms and legs stayed inside. Granted, there is the occasional baby who likes to have his/her arms free, but try having them swaddled first.
Sometimes they’re just mad because they’re tired and over stimulated—not because they’re arms are swaddled. I highly recommend Aden and Anais blankets. The muslin is light and breathable, and can hold a good swaddle. I personally think that typical receiving blankets are useless. They are too small and can get too hot.
2. Side/stomach position
This is to try and prevent the Moro reflex. The Moro reflex is the startle reflex that activates when a baby feels like she is falling. It’s that quick, arm stretched movement. Often when a baby is held on their back, it can trigger that reflex.
A side/stomach position calms a baby and helps the baby feel secure. One of the ways I love to hold a baby that really works for calming him, is to have the baby’s head in the crook of my elbow facing outward, with my hand then pressing against his stomach. That position has a high success rate for me.
This may sound like it would be rude to do to a baby. I mean, the baby is already screaming, and who likes to be shushed? Won’t that make the baby angrier? In fact, no!
Before your baby was born, he had the constant sounds of your heartbeat, the gurgling of your stomach, and the whooshing of your breathing. These were very calming to your baby. Shushing acts in the same way.
Now a good rule of thumb is to shush as loud as your baby is crying. Go right up next to her ear and shush loud and long. I like to hold it out like shhhhhhh, instead of shh shh shh, if that makes sense. Once your baby starts to calm down, shush more quietly. It’s amazing how quickly just that little bit of white noise can make a difference.
Did you notice that before she was born your baby would typically get really active right after you sat down or lied down to sleep? That’s because it was your movement that lulled her to sleep and when you stopped moving, she woke up!
Your baby has a calming center in her brain, and when activated, helps her to sleep. Let’s go back to my favorite position to hold a newborn. Remember how I said to have her head in the crook of your elbow? That is so you can move your elbow up and down, gently bouncing her head. Bouncing her entire body is not as vital as the gentle bouncing of her head. Make sure to not be too rough though!
This is in reference to nursing, a bottle, a pacifier, or even your (clean) finger. Sucking has the same effect as swinging. It triggers that calming center in the brain allowing your baby to, well, calm down! And just because you use a pacifier for the first few months does not mean your child will be using it in kindergarten and then have braces for 8 years. I promise there is no harm. And there is definitely no harm in you getting a little sleep yourself.
But just be aware, it is recommended to hold off on a pacifier for about the first month if you are breastfeeding. So if you use it before the first month is up, just continue to be diligent in getting a good latch while actually breastfeeding.
Now this list may seem like a lot, but after a few tries, these 5 ways to soothe a crying newborn will seem second nature to you. Dr. Karp has many more details in his book too than what I have listed, so I highly recommend you purchase or borrow it; it’s my go-to baby shower gift! Once you get your baby to sleep though, make sure everything is as it should by checking out my post “Is My Baby’s Sleep Normal?”
And make sure to sign up for my FREE 5 Day Baby Sleep Course to get all of the tips you’ll need for a better night’s sleep!
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