Even if the 5 S’s of baby calming found in the Happiest Baby work a few times, they may not last in the long run. Here’s why the 5 S’s don’t always work.
During the newborn weeks, my husband and I followed the methods found in Dr. Karp’s The Happiest Baby on the Block book. It really does work. A newborn baby isn’t ready to enter the world and prefers an environment that mimics the womb.
So when the baby would fuss, we did the 5 s’s of baby calming (swaddle, side or stomach, shush, swing and suck). He’d stop crying almost immediately.
Months later with the baby clear of his newborn stage, we now have to wean him from each one of those miracle workers. Hence begins our love-hate relationship and why the 5 S’s of baby calming don’t always work.
Why the 5 S’s of baby calming didn’t work
Swaddling kept our son’s arms and legs from flailing and waking him up. So we wrapped him up in a tight blanket like a little cocoon, and he felt safe and snug like he was back in the womb.
But we had to wean him from the swaddle because he outgrew them. He’d burst out of his straitjacket like a magician. But he still wasn’t ready to go cold turkey on his back (or at least, we never tried).
Side or stomach
Newborn babies hush up after you hold them on their side or stomach. When they’re on their backs, their Moro reflex makes them think they’re falling. But hold them sideways or on their stomach, and they feel snug and connected to gravity.
Except now he can’t sleep flat on his back.
In the womb, newborns hear loud, whooshing noises of the mother’s blood. So when newborns are out in the world and face silence, it freaks them out.
We’re supposed to “shush” babies loudly and near their ears. Loud enough to hear above the baby’s already loud cries. So we did, and it worked: he remembered the sounds he was familiar with and felt comforted. Maybe this is why we say “sshh” to others when asking them to be quiet.
But try going “ssssshhhhhhh” for 10 plus minutes for each nap and bedtime. You’ll see why I can’t wait until I don’t have to do this anymore. This doesn’t include the white noise he sleeps with, another one of the shushing tricks. It’d also be great if I didn’t have to sleep with static blaring out of the speakers. Thanks, shushing.
Ahh, my favorite one, the swing (or motion in general, e.g. rocking). Living in the womb is a bumpy ride. Every movement a pregnant woman makes rocks the baby inside. His world includes plenty of motion. So when a baby cries, we rock them to comfort, creating that same environment they remember. They love it, and…they get used to it.
Rocking him to sleep is my least-favored task of all the child-rearing things I have to do. It’s great to do once in a while, but to have to do it is painful. It’s the main way he falls asleep, so we are pretty much bound to rocking and bouncing him in order for him to knock out.
I’d like to reserve rocking him to sleep when we are out and about and I wouldn’t have a crib or bed to lay him down on. Let’s say we’re out at a store—I wouldn’t mind rocking him to fall asleep in my arms in that situation. But as the main method of falling asleep even at home? I’ll pass.
One of the reflexes newborns have is sucking: they need to eat. This sucking motion soothes them so much that they can fall asleep easily. It’s also the reason babies and toddlers suck their thumbs.
While rocking is the main way he falls asleep, sucking or breastfeeding is the second. We’ll have to wean him from this sleep association as well if we want him to learn how to fall asleep on his own.
So how does a baby learn to fall asleep on his own? We all have skills within us that help us fall asleep, babies (over 4 months and 15 pounds) included. For them, that might mean moving their head side to side. Scooting themselves in a comfortable position, sucking their hand, or talking themselves to sleep.
But these skills can only emerge when parents give them the chance to develop them. In the first few weeks and months, babies aren’t able to do any of that. They’re still like the fetus that they were in the womb.
That’s why the 5 S’s worked so well. Babies weren’t ready to leave the womb and needed us to recreate that environment. But once they get older, they have the skills to do it on their own and just need the chance to put them to practice.
Dear 5 s’s of baby calming, thank you for all you have done for us and for saving our sanity when he was young. But now, it’s time to say good bye to each of you.
Did you know your baby’s awake time affects how well he sleeps? Get my FREE handout and discover one mistake you may be making with your baby’s awake time. Don’t make the same mistakes I did—help your baby fall asleep with this one simple trick! Download it below:
Get more tips:
- How to Teach Your Baby to Self Soothe
- 10 Baby Items You Don’t Really Need
- Newborn Tips and Tricks for New Moms You’ll Be Glad You Read
- Why I Regret Rocking Baby To Sleep
- 9 Things to Do Before the Baby Is Born
Your turn: Did the 5 s’s of baby calming work for you? Did you have to wean from any of them? Let me know in the comments!
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