Tips for a Happy Baby and a Happy You
Dr. Harvey Karp’s 5 Ss for the happiest baby on the block
Dr. Harvey Karp is a pediatrician, child
development specialist and Assistant
Professor of Pediatrics at the USC School of
Medicine. He teaches the 5 Ss for a happy
baby to sooth colic, boost infant sleep, and
help reduce how much a baby cries to
make parents and children happy.
Soothing a baby can be harder than it seems,
but there is a way to help crying babies.
There are reflexes the baby already has that
can be used to soothe the baby. These
techniques have been used for centuries.
The first three months of the babies’ lives is
the fourth trimester. Our babies are very
immature at birth unlike other animals.
Their survival depends on the brain. The
main reason babies cry is because they need
to be born before their brain gets too big, but
it’s too early for them. They are still fetuses
and they often get upset because they miss
the uterus. Trying to copy the uterus setting
with sound, confinement, and movement is a
way to start the baby’s calming reflex and
help them stop crying.
5 Ss can be used to turn on the calming
1. Swaddling- This is the most important
first step in calming, but usually does not
work by itself.
ξ Wrap the baby tightly with the arms
down; this is an unusual position for a
baby, but it is very important to keep
arms in the blanket.
ξ Use a square blanket that is big
enough to wrap all the way around the
ξ Wrap in this pattern: DUDU (down,
up, down, up).
ξ Wrapping too tight will make baby
more upset, but it should be as “tight
as the elastic waistband at the end of
ξ Many parents give up swaddling
because they think their babies do not
like it. A new baby does not need
freedom; this is a common
misconception in the US, but it is not
2. Side/stomach lying position- This
position simulates how the baby was
positioned in the last weeks in utero.
ξ The baby’s head is in the palm of your
hand and their feet are closest to your
ξ This is also called the “reverse breast
feeding” position or “football hold.”
ξ This is not a position for sleeping,
just when they are held. They should
sleep on their back!
3. Shushing- Make a “sshhh” sound close to
the baby’s ear and loudly.
ξ Shush as loud as the baby is crying.
ξ Radio white noise and hair dryers can
also be used.
ξ A loud shush seems rude in the US,
but it is not to babies!
4. Swinging- This is jiggling; most moms
do this already.
ξ You want the head to jiggle, don’t
hold the head. Open your hands so the
head can move.
ξ Do not use big movements, but you
can do it faster if the baby is more
ξ This is not shaking, like in Shaken
Baby Syndrome. It is just jiggling, like
in utero with mother’s movement, so it
will not hurt the baby.
A mechanical seat can be used after the
baby is initially calmed to continue the
calming, but do not use the seat at first.
Make it at a fast speed, belt the baby in, and
swaddle the baby first.
5. Sucking - this is not breast feeding, use a
finger or pacifier.
ξ You can pull on the pacifier a little bit
to make the baby think they are losing
it so they suck harder. But do not pull
it out because it will have the opposite
ξ Do not give a baby a pacifier until
they are breast feeding well.
ξ Do not dip the pacifier in anything or
hang it around a baby’s neck.
If the baby is really wailing, you may need
all 5 Ss. Be as intense with the Ss as the
baby is when they are crying. For this
reason, sometimes dads are better at first!
Sometimes you can calm your baby with 5
Ss, but as soon as they are put down again,
they cry. They want to be with you, but you
cannot be with them all of the time! You can
swaddle, put them in a swing, and put on
white noise to maintain their calmness.
Some babies need to swing all night long.
You can phase every S slowly out. For
example, to start phasing out swaddling,
swaddle with one arm out and see how they
do. Then you can try two arms out.
You need to do each S exactly right to
trigger the calming reflex, but practice
makes perfect! Be patient and keep trying.
Karp, H. (Producer). (2002). The happiest baby on the block [DVD]. United States: The Happiest Baby, Inc.
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