I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a teacher. I am a writer. I'm a lover of reading, running, scrapbooking, and crossword puzzles.
Being a parent is wonderful, crazy, adventurous, and joyful, but it isn't wrapped up with a nice, tidy bow on top. It can be simultaneously messy, stressful, frustrating, and confusing. I read and researched a lot of information related to babies. Some of it was conflicting. Some of it was helpful. And some of it was take it or leave it.
HOWEVER, the single best thing that I read, and if you were to learn about one thing and one thing only, was Dr. Harvey Karp's 5 S's. His advice has tremendously helped keep my husband and me sane. In his book and on his blog, he breaks down how parents can gradually work in the 5 S's to calm a crying baby and get him/her to sleep. First, you swaddle. Then, you turn the baby to the side/stomach position (not for sleeping). Add in some loud shushing and vigorous swinging, and then top it off with sucking. I have seen these methods work firsthand with our son, and honestly I am nothing short of amazed. However, you need some help from the store to master these 5 S's. Therefore, I break down some products related to his 5 S's that literally (okay, figuratively) saved my life.
Disclaimer: I only have one child. I am not an expert. These products worked for my son. I have not used them with other babies. This is just my opinion.
S Number One: Swaddle
My son might have fought the swaddles and sleep sacks at first, but once he was safely and securely wrapped up like a burrito, he immediately started to calm and make less of a fuss. He slept well at nights with one and continues to be swaddled at 4 months, although his arms are free now that he can roll over. Babies typically like the feeling of being snug just like how they were inside of their mother's uterus.
Splurge: Halo Sleep Sack $21.99 + Baby Wrap Sling $27.99. You definitely need at least two of the sleep sacks, whether you want to get one for warm weather and one for cool weather or one in a size small and the other in a larger size. We would do the sleep sack at night. These sleep sacks have the options of zipping up the baby and securing both the arms or just one arm or simply letting both arms be free. Baby still feels snug either way. However, I want to caution you that, as a newborn, your baby will easily startle with both arms out, causing her to wake up and become fussy again. In addition, with mothers carrying babies throughout the day becoming quite popular, I would put my son in my sling and carry him throughout the day (or at least until I got too tired). My son would stop crying and fall asleep in one. It seemed like magic to me!
Bargain: SwaddleMe Original Swaddles $29.99. We would use these during the day for naps or if he was fussy. Although I do want to caution you that if our son was extremely agitated, he could easily kick and punch his way out of these, which would make him even more upset. Otherwise, they work wonders! Simply put him inside and then velcro his arms down. We bought a pack of Small/Mediums and a pack of Larges. I don't think we needed quite that many, but the extras were nice to have in case some were in the wash. If you want to forgo the sleep sack and sling, these can be used in place of those things for day and night sleep.
Free: Swaddle from the hospital. The amazing nurses at our hospital would work their voodoo and wrap up our son effortlessly with their swaddling blankets, and our son would sleep like an angel. Nonetheless, we couldn't quite master the art of the swaddle blanket sans the velcro straps. If you can do it without any of the blanket getting loose, go for this!
S Number Two: Side/Stomach
Babies typically love this position. It feels good to have some pressure on their stomachs, so that is what we would try when the swaddle alone was just not cutting it, or we wanted to try something different. Please keep in mind that the side/stomach position is only for calming or playing supervised. It is NEVER for sleeping.
Splurge: Boppy $39.99. While the majority of the time this product is used for breastfeeding, we have used it to place our son on his stomach and prop him up. He loves being on his stomach and looking around.
Bargain: Activity Mat $24.99. A simple activity mat is great for tummy time. One with a mirror and some playful toys that make noise or light up is all you need to keep baby entertained and relaxed.
Free: Your own arms and legs. This is the only S where I would highly recommend the free option and tell you that you don't need any products at all. We would swaddle our son and then slightly turn him to his side/stomach in our arms or splayed out on our legs. We would lightly jiggle him or pat his back, and he would calm a lot. Of course, the previous products in the other two sections have multiple uses and are good when your limbs just need a break. Otherwise, Mommy and Daddy work well enough alone for this S!
S Number Three: Shushing
There is often a misconception that you have to be super quiet around a sleeping baby. This isn't true, especially in the newborn stage. Babies come from a world where there is constant sound of blood flowing and a heart beating. They left a place that sounded like a large vacuum running 24/7. Therefore, loud sounds are very much soothing to a baby. The best sounds are blow-dryers, washing machines, a strong white noise, ocean waves, and sounds that mimic the womb. All of these have worked with our son.
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Splurge: Hatch Baby Rest Sound Machine $59.99. This might be my absolute favorite product of everything I have. And to think I almost opted for a cheaper sound machine. The Hatch connects to your phone in which you can set different programs. Mine is so aptly named "Sleep Dammit." I have it set to peaceful trickling water under a soft pink light as we get ready for bed. Around the time I lay him in his bassinet, it switches to very strong wind sounds under a dim orange glow, which lulls him to sleep on its own with little to no intervention from me. After he's been asleep for a bit, the machine plays a softer white noise under a glowing red light, which keeps him sleeping throughout the night. Finally, the rain setting under a calming blue light triggers that it is time to rise. In addition, I have nap settings to various sounds and light. And this is all controlled from my phone, so if he gets fussy at any time, I can jack up the volume or turn it on. It has worked wonders!
Bargain: Harvey Karp's Soothing White Noise Sleep Sounds App $10. I downloaded Karp's soothing sounds to my phone, and I turn on his playlist whenever I am away from my Hatch. I have stopped a crying baby with these sounds in Target, in the car, and while we have been eating dinner. The Hatch has a better success rate, but I have found the app to be helpful on the go.
Free: YouTube or your own voice. Shushing loudly in your baby's ear works, but, on top of feeling silly, you tire within like five seconds. YouTube has plenty of clips of hours of hair dryer sounds, but it ties up your phone or laptop from use. However, when you are desperate, you're desperate.
S Number Four: Swinging
Babies are born into a big, bright world in which they miss and crave the secure, rocking motion of their old home inside of you. That's why swinging, rocking, bouncing, and jiggling (never shaking) is so soothing to a baby. For my son, this has been his strongest S. During the newborn phase, we would put him in his swing during his "witching hour" and jack that thing up to as high as it would go. He usually calmed in no time. Dr. Karp sells a product that I am not going to even list under the splurge because it is so super expensive, but during one desperate night we almost caved and tried the one-month rental. However, the other products we bought ended up working just fine.
Splurge: Graco Simple Sway® Swing $99. Even though you will probably only get 3–5 months use out of this swing, I would say it is well worth it, especially if you have an extremely fussy baby. Our baby loved his swing, particularly in the early days. We would swaddle him, place him in the swing at its highest volume, and turn some loud sounds up. Those tears turned to tired eyes in no time, and we were able to peacefully eat our dinner once again. It is not recommended for extended sleeping. That is the reason why we almost bought Dr. Karp's exorbitant item, but otherwise it is great.
Bargain: Regular exercise ball $20.00. Any regular exercise or stability ball works. All we would do is hold him in our arms and rock him side to side as we bounced on the ball. The workout ball really came in handy in the middle of the night when we were tired. We also found that it worked better than merely bouncing him in our arms. The vigorous up-and-down of us bouncing on the ball combined with the back-and-forth rocking of our son really calmed him down and put him back to sleep.
Free: Arms and Legs. Again, your regular ol' body parts can do the trick. Of course, prepare for your arms to get tired and your legs to grow weary, especially after hours of holding and rocking. Nonetheless, they still work. Watch here as Dr. Karp demonstrates the Jell-O Jiggle.
Note of Caution: Watch your baby's head carefully when rocking.
S Number Five: Sucking
This S has been my son's least soothing S so far. Let me rephrase: Non-nutritive sucking has been my son's least soothing S so far. In the beginning, he would take a pacifier, but as of late he has not really been keen on one—although he has discovered how soothing his fingers can be. Now, on the other hand, nutritive sucking is a strong S for him. If your baby does take a pacifier, once he has been firmly swaddled and some loud shushing and swinging have been added, top him off with his favorite soothie. It's the cherry on top.
Splurge: Phillips Avent Soothie (or any brand your baby prefers) x 5 $15. Originally, we had pacifiers for different places in the house. One in our room. One in his nursery. One in the living room. Two in the kitchen. One in the diaper bag. One in the diaper caddy. We would joke about the pacifiers being in the wrong place. "What's the 2nd floor binky doing in the diaper bag? This is a nightmare," we would shout in a mock angry voice. Too bad my son lost interest in the pacifier really quickly. We still have them in their respective places just in case.
Bargain: Phillips Avent Soothie (or any brand your baby prefers) $3.99. See above, but you just buy one. Maybe throw in a pack of pacifier wipes to wipe it off quickly if it gets dirty.
Free: Fingers or the free pacifier that comes with other supplies you buy.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.