Monday, November 28, 2011

Help for Parents of Fussy Babies

One of the biggest complaints of new parents is sleep deprivation. While some babies seem to “catch on” and sleep on a regular schedule fairly early, others spend their first weeks, possibly months, of life confused about when is day and when is night. Even more distressing to new parents is when their baby’s nighttime wakefulness is fraught with long periods of crying. It is easy for “seasoned” parents to tell parents of a newborn to relax, that this too shall pass.
However, when you are the sleep-starved parent who is trying to adjust to life after baby, it seems like this phase will never end.

Recent research is telling us that babies are most calmed by conditions that mimic life in the womb. Humans born at nine months gestation are physically ready to enter the world, however, developmentally, they are still not there. It makes sense that the transition from the warmth and comfort of the mother’s body to the cold and noisy world makes babies scared and fussy!

Dr. Harvey Karp a pediatrician and child development specialist at UCLA has developed a program to help parents and caregivers learn specific skills for calming babies. The Happiest Baby on the Block teaches parents to use the “5 S’s” to soothe a fussy baby if the standard steps such as feeding, burping, diaper-changing and rocking do not work. These five steps are:

Swaddle- wrapping a baby snugly in a thin blanket reminds him of the secure feeling he has when he was bundled up inside his mother.

Side position- for the calming phase only! Babies need to sleep on their back; however, during the time when you are trying to soothe the baby, holding him on his side is more comforting. Once he is calmed, he should be put to sleep on his back to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Shush- The “shush-ing” sound is very comforting to a baby as it is strikingly similar to the sounds of the mother’s body that he had become so accustomed to. Holding the swaddled infant on his side and making a loud “shushing” sound close to his ear provides the baby with the security he needs to relax.

 Swing- Babies miss the jiggling motion they experienced inside the womb. While supporting the baby’s head, make gentle, rapid jiggling motions with your arms. Be careful not to shake the baby or let his neck go unsupported.

 Suck- This is the most natural way that babies calm themselves. Nursing, pacifiers and even babies’ own fingers are the best tools for this technique.

All babies are different. Some will prefer one or a specific combination of the “5 S’s” while others may need all five in order to be soothed. Of course, if crying persists, consult your child’s health care provider to rule out other conditions. More information about The Happiest Baby on the Block can be found at

No comments: