The "Happiest Baby" method: How the 5 S's help babies sleep (2024)

Pediatrician Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, says his "five S's" method can calm fussy newborns and help them sleep. The five S's are swaddling, side or stomach position, shushing, swinging, and sucking. These five things can help re-create the environment of the womb, which can be comforting for your baby.

There's no sweeter sight than a sleeping baby, but getting your baby to sleep can turn into a daily struggle.

If you're a sleep-deprived new parent looking for help, you might want to try pediatrician Harvey Karp's method for soothing crying or fussy infants and getting them to sleep. At the heart of his method are the five S's: swaddle, side or stomach position, shush, swing, and suck.

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The "Happiest Baby" method

Karp says the best way to calm your newborn and get them to sleep is by re-creating the noises, movement, and snug environment of the womb. The "five S's" baby sleep strategy outlined in his book, The Happiest Baby on the Block, is designed to do just that.

Many experts, including Karp, describe the first few months after birth as the "fourth trimester." Babies are out of the womb, but they're not quite ready for our world. Human babies need special care because they're immature at birth compared to the babies of most other mammals. (One example: A newborn horse can walk, while humans take months to get mobile.)

Many new parents may assume that newborns need calm and quiet, but the place from which they've just emerged is quite active and noisy. Babies in utero are rocked and swayed. They're bombarded with the whooshing and gurgling sounds of their mother's body and cradled by the walls of their "room."

So it's no wonder that they may feel insecure and unhappy when lying alone in a quiet nursery, their arms and legs loose and flailing. Creating an environment similar to the womb can comfort your newborn and help them sleep better – enter the five S's.

The five S's of baby sleep

While Karp recommends doing all five S's and taking care to do each of them exactly right, every baby is different. You don't need to follow all five S's if your baby doesn't need them. Some babies need only swaddling and being held on their side or stomach, for example. Experiment and see what works for your little one.

Karp's method is aimed at babies during their first four months of life. Once your baby is 4 months old, they're out of the newborn phase and their sleep and comfort needs are different.

Swaddling

Swaddling soothes babies by providing the secure feeling they enjoyed before birth. It also keeps your baby's arms from flailing and prevents startling, which can start the cycle of fussing and crying all over again.

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Swaddling isn't hard, but it's important to get the technique right so the swaddle is safe and effective. You can use a thin blanket (here's a video on how to swaddle with a blanket), or you can buy swaddles with Velcro that make it easy and fast to wrap your little one up.

The idea is to wrap babies snugly so they won't try to wiggle out of the swaddle, but leave enough room at the bottom of the blanket for them to bend their legs up and out from their body. Do swaddle your baby for naps, for the night, and when they're crying. Don't swaddle when they're awake and happy.

It's time to stop swaddling your baby once they show signs of rolling over. This usually happens around 3 or 4 months, but can be as early as 2 months.

Learn more about the benefits of swaddling your baby.

Side or stomach position

Now that you've swaddled your baby, you can begin to calm your crying or fussy baby by putting them on their side or stomach while you hold them.

To reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), it's extremely important to put your baby to sleep on their back. But because newborns feel more secure and content on their side or tummy, those are great positions for soothing (not sleeping).

Hold your fussing or crying baby in a side or tummy-down position in your arms, on your lap, or over your shoulder. Use this "S" only for soothing your infant. Never put them on their side or stomach when they're asleep. If they fall asleep, put them down on their back.

Shushing

Shushing is a sound that calms and comforts your baby, helps stop crying and fussing, and helps them go to sleep and stay asleep.

Newborns don't need silence. In fact, having just spent months in utero – where Mom's blood flow makes a shushing sound louder than a vacuum cleaner – they sleep better in a noisy environment. (They're also happier, and better able to calm down.).

At its simplest, you apply the "shush" step by loudly saying "shhh" into your swaddled baby's ear as you hold them on their side or tummy. Put your lips right next to your baby's ear and "shhh" loudly (usually while gently jiggling them – see below).

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Shush as loudly as your baby is crying. As they calm down, lower the volume of your shushing to match.

You can also use a white noise machine while your baby sleeps. Some sounds are much more effective than others. Karp says that fans, sound machines, and recordings of ocean waves may not work, and recommends sounds that are more low and "rumbly" (like the sounds in the womb). You can experiment and see what helps your baby.

Play the sounds as loud as your baby is crying to calm them down. To accompany sleep, play them as loud as a shower.

Swinging

A baby swing might be your first thought, but that's not what "swing" means in this case. Instead, it refers to jiggling your swaddled baby using very small, rapid movements.

In utero your baby was often rocked, jiggled, or otherwise in motion. That makes this "S" familiar and comforting. Do this while shushing (or playing white noise to) your swaddled baby in a side or stomach position.

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Be sure to support your newborn's head and gently jiggle – do not shake – your baby. Karp describes it as more of a "shiver" than a shake, moving back and forth no more than an inch in any direction.

In Karp's opinion, other types of movement (being rocked in a rocking chair, swung in a baby swing, or carried in a sling, for example) are useful for calm babies, but this gentle jiggling is more effective for a wailing baby.

Sucking

This simply means giving your baby a pacifier or thumb to suck on. Some babies love to suck and find great comfort in it. If your baby is in that camp, sucking may help them relax and calm down.

Give your swaddled baby a pacifier or your thumb if they're upset and seem to want to suck. In combination with being held on their side or tummy, being soothed with loud shushing or white noise, and being gently jiggled, sucking may do the trick to calm your baby.

Pacifiers can also reduce the risk of SIDS, and it's okay to let your baby keep the pacifier while they sleep. Some experts do say to wait to give your baby a pacifier until after breastfeeding is established, since sucking on a pacifier feels different than sucking on a breast, and the pacifier could interfere with early feeding.

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Learn more:

  • Newborn sleep guide
  • What to do when your baby cries for no reason
  • Is it normal for your baby to cry all the time?
The "Happiest Baby" method: How the 5 S's help babies sleep (2024)

FAQs

The "Happiest Baby" method: How the 5 S's help babies sleep? ›

The five S's are swaddling, side or stomach position, shushing, swinging, and sucking. These five things can help re-create the environment of the womb, which can be comforting for your baby. There's no sweeter sight than a sleeping baby, but getting your baby to sleep can turn into a daily struggle.

What are the 5 S's for baby sleep? ›

  • Step 1: Swaddle. Swaddling means wrapping up your baby to make them snug as a bug. ...
  • Step 2: Side-stomach position. Research shows that babies who sleep on their tummies sleep longer and don't react as quickly to noise. ...
  • Step 3: Shush. You know what shush means, but does your baby? ...
  • Step 4: Swing. ...
  • Step 5: Suck.
Jun 18, 2020

What are the 5 steps to calm a baby? ›

Dubbed “The 5 Ss,” this method of calming baby (coined by pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp) includes five specific techniques to help your little one stop crying: Swaddle, Side/Stomach, Shush, Swing and Suck. Each of these techniques help mimic baby's environment in the womb, which helps them feel calm and safe.

What is the summary of the happiest baby? ›

Brief summary

The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp is a parenting book that teaches parents how to soothe their newborns and address common sleep issues. It offers practical techniques for creating a nurturing environment that helps babies thrive.

What is the 5 8 method for baby sleep? ›

Results showed that the most effective way to put a baby to sleep was to carry them and walk around for five minutes, sit and wait for five to eight minutes, then put them to bed. Even if the baby is asleep, they notice when they have been separated from their caregiver.

What is the 5 minute method for baby sleep? ›

It involves checking in with your baby every five minutes with a reassuring scripted mantra, such as "Mama is nearby. I love you. You can go to sleep now." The chair method involves sitting in a chair next to your baby's crib and giving them a pat and reassurance when they cry – but not picking them up.

What is the best sleeping method for babies? ›

The Cry It Out Method

With this method, parents take their baby through a bedtime routine, cuddle with them and give them a kiss goodnight, and then leave the room. If the baby cries, the parent does not respond. Eventually, the baby tires themselves out from crying or self-soothes back to sleep.

What is the 5s rule for babies? ›

The five S's for baby sleep. Pediatrician Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, says his "five S's" method can calm fussy newborns and help them sleep. The five S's are swaddling, side or stomach position, shushing, swinging, and sucking.

What are 5 ways to stay calm? ›

Tips to calm down
  • Breathe. ...
  • Admit that you're anxious or angry. ...
  • Challenge your thoughts. ...
  • Release the anxiety or anger. ...
  • Visualize yourself calm. ...
  • Think it through. ...
  • Change your focus. ...
  • Have a centering object.

What are the five steps to calm anxiety? ›

5 Ways to Cope With Anxiety
  • Start with a 'growth' mindset. Some people have a fixed mindset. ...
  • Notice how anxiety affects your body. When you're anxious, do you feel "butterflies" in your stomach? ...
  • Breathe. ...
  • Talk yourself through it. ...
  • Face the situation — don't wait for anxiety to go away.

What makes a baby feel happy? ›

Smiling, rituals, routines, reading, and more.

Happy music calms babies' levels of arousal and decelerates their heart rates. Reading books to infants is associated with increases in parental warmth and sensitivity.

Why do babies bring happiness? ›

Generally, looking at babies makes us feel happy because it reminds us of the simplicity of life and how good it is to be alive. Babies can be so pure and innocent, but also so aware and present. They are in a world of their own and they are just having fun exploring it!

Will a baby bring me happiness? ›

A Surprising Result

The scientists found out that having a baby changes psychological well-being in several ways. The most pronounced effect was a strong increase in life satisfaction and happiness in the first year of parenthood—so baby bliss is indeed real!

What is the 321 bedtime rule? ›

10 hours before bed: No more caffeine. 3 hours before bed: No more food or alcohol. 2 hours before bed: No more work. 1 hour before bed: No more screen time (shut off all phones, TVs and computers).

What is ABC of baby sleep? ›

Infant Safe Sleep

It's as simple as ABC. Babies should sleep Alone, on their Backs, and in a crib. Babies should always sleep ALONE in their sleep area, with their sleep area being close to their caregiver's bed. A baby should sleep in a crib, bassinet or pack in play with only a fitted sheet.

What is the 4 s sleep method? ›

You may do that with a "Four S" wind down ritual of setting the stage, s waddling possibly, sitting quietly and a s hush-pat (patting baby's back and making shush-sounds) to help baby quiet down. Tracy Hogg's Baby Whisper sleep method, and the whole philosophy behind it, is well rounded and based on valuable ideas.

What are the 4 S of baby sleep? ›

Aim: To determine the effect of teaching 4S soothing techniques (swaddling, holding at side or stomach position, shushing-white noise, swinging) on parent-reported infants' self-regulation behaviors with respect to sleeping, crying, and feeding.

What is the 2 3 4 sleep method for babies? ›

According to this schedule, your baby should be up for 2 hours before they go down for their first nap. 3 hours after that morning nap ends, your baby goes back down for their second nap. And then 4 hours after your baby wakes up from their second nap, it's time for bedtime.

What are the ABCS of baby sleep method? ›

Infant Safe Sleep

It's as simple as ABC. Babies should sleep Alone, on their Backs, and in a crib. Babies should always sleep ALONE in their sleep area, with their sleep area being close to their caregiver's bed. A baby should sleep in a crib, bassinet or pack in play with only a fitted sheet.

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