By Gabi Falanga
Newborn babies are often niggly, leaving new parents worried, exhausted and out of ideas. These tiny beings are adjusting to life outside of the womb - an overwhelming new world of bright lights, cold air and periods of separation from their mothers. Their immature digestive systems are having to work overtime for the first time ever, often leaving gassy or crampy.
The 5S technique was developed by American paediatrician Dr Harvey Karp to soothe newborns. The idea is that these sensations mimic the womb’s environment, which comforts and settles the babies.
- Swaddling: Swaddling a baby securely is meant to replicate the snug feeling that babies experience in the womb. New babies also have protective reflex, called the Moro Reflex, where they fling their arms upwards when startled. This means they often wake themselves up and swaddling prevents this.
- Side or stomach position: Babies lying on their sides or stomachs tend to feel more comfortable and settle down more quickly. You can do this by draping your baby across your arm, or let them lie on your chest or over your shoulder. Doing this skin to skin is also extra comforting to the baby and is a great bonding exercise. It’s important to only use the side/stomach position technique to settle a baby, and not for sleep, as babies sleeping in these positions are at a higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Babies should be placed on their backs to sleep.
- Shushing: Shushing your baby or playing white noise mimics the constant sounds they heard while in the womb. You can use these sounds for your baby to settle them down or to help them sleep. Many parents find that playing white noise in the room where baby sleeps helps them sleep better and for longer.
- Swinging: Babies were used to constant movement in the womb. Even when their mother wasn’t moving around, they were still floating in the amniotic fluid. Replicating this movement by swinging a baby, bouncing them, wearing them in a carrier against your body, or taking them for a car ride are all helpful soothing mechanisms.
- Sucking: Babies are born with the instinct to suck and they find it very comforting. Allow your baby to breastfeed on demand, or let them suck their thumb or a pacifier if breastfeeding has already been established successfully.
Most of these techniques can be used in combination with one another to help your new baby feel comforted and relaxed, and you to feel like a more confident parent.