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How to Calm a Crying Baby


It is heartbreaking and exhausting when you have a crying baby who refuses to settle no matter what you have tried. To a certain extent, crying is a very normal newborn behaviour. Babies cry for all sorts of reasons and for newborns it is one of their only ways of communicating their needs to their parents. There will be times when you have fed your baby, changed their diaper and despite all your best efforts, they continue to cry. Newborn babies will cry or fuss an average of an hour and half a day for the first few months. Ten percent of these babies will cry for over 3hrs a day, which is the medical definition of colic. Dr. Harvey Karp says that "colicky" babies who cry, aren't sick babies or necessarily have anything wrong with them, they are "homesick" babies. They are simply struggling to cope with life outside the warm, noisy and cozy womb. Dr. Harvey Karp is the author of The Happiest Baby on the Block (among other books worth reading) and in his book he talks about the 5 S's to trigger the "Calming Reflex" that all babies have.

These are the 5 S's:

1. Swaddle. Babies like to feel snug and secure. Swaddle them with their arms down by their sides and secure enough that they can't easily break free but not so tight that you feel it would be uncomfortable for them.

2. Side or Stomach. The safest place for babies to sleep is on their back but while in your arms and when trying to calm a crying baby, turn them onto their side or stomach.

3. Shush. Babies are not used to a quiet environment! While in utero the sound of mom's bloodstream is louder than a vacuum. They are used to hearing mom's heartbeat, her voice and all the sounds mom is exposed to on top of the loud vacuum of blood flow. Get down right next to your baby's ear and make a "shhhhh" sound. Long and drawn out shhhhhh not directly in their ear but past the ear.

4. Swing. Babies in utero are used to being on the move all the time. They were floating in fluid and are used to the sway of their mothers body. Slow rocking may work to keep a baby calm but a baby who is upset likely won't respond as easily to slow movement. Dr. Karp recommends what he calls the "Jello Head Jiggle" Being very careful of course, not to shake your baby, this movement is no more than an inch back and forth while always supporting the head, neck and shoulders.

5. Suck. Babies are very soothed by sucking. If your baby is breastfeeding well, you may choose to introduce a soother or pacifier. I recommend using these steps in order and if you baby does not respond the first four steps then offering a soother and allowing your baby to suck might be very helpful.

Here is a short YouTube video clip of Dr. Karp talking about and demonstrating the 5 S's.


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Melanie Pinet

IBCLC Lactation Consultant

Holistic Sleep Educator

Alberta, Canada