Skip to main content

The Five ‘S’ Way To Calm A Fussy Baby

Babies Need Noise, Like To Feel As If Back In Womb

Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician from UCLA, is getting rave reviews for his book and video on how to make a fussy baby calm down.

Why do babies cry? Karp says it’s usually not the usual suspect: gas; that makes most infants cry. He also says new parents are often under the mistaken impression newborns need stillness and quiet to fall asleep, when they’re actually missing the movement and noise of the womb.

Evelyn Crawford, whose 7-week-old daughter Caroline is a chronic crier, tried Karp’s methods. “It’s very frustrating because you realize you are blessed with a beautiful baby, but yet at the same time you are tired and you feel like you are not doing anything for your baby … like something must be wrong because you can’t soothe your baby,” Crawford said. Karp managed to calm Caroline in just seconds. His best-selling book, “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” was the subject of discussion this weekend at the lactation center at Mercy Hospital, where new moms like Crawford were hanging on his every word.

Karp showed the moms a swaddling method where parents wrap their infants tightly, starting at the lower part of the body and working upwards.

Karp says swaddling is the key to soothing a fussy baby. And he says the key to getting some sleep for tormented parents might be in finding what turns their infants “off.”

You may also like  Fatherhood Unveiled: A Guide to Dads' Involvement in Pregnancy and Beyond

“All babies are born with an automatic ‘off’ switch for their crying called the calming reflex,” said Karp. “With the calming reflex, there are five different ways of turning it on to calm the baby down, but they have to be done in exactly the right way.”

Karp calls them the five S’s.

In addition to swaddling, there is the side/stomach position” for holding your baby. For some babies, positioning on the side or stomach is the most important part of the calming process. Next, while supporting your baby’s neck and head, start swinging. That’s the third “S.”

Karp is not talking about shaking a baby, but “(more like a) shiver or jiggle movement,” he said.

Also, try “shushing” quietly in your baby’s ear — the fourth “S.” And finally, sucking either a finger or pacifier, the fifth “S,” can calm a baby by making them feel secure. “The whole idea is to make your newborn feel like he’s in the womb again,” said Karp.

Karp says parents often mistakenly believe that a baby needs quiet to calm down. “It turns out the reason babies cry is that the world is too quiet and still for them,” said Karp.

Dr. Karp’s Five “S’s” For Calming A Fussy Baby:

  • Swaddling
  • Side/stomach position
  • Swinging
  • Shushing
  • Sucking

Karp demonstrated his method on 2-week-old Julian, who was in quite a state. Within seven seconds, however, Karp was able to calm him down. Karp cautions parents not to try these techniques when they’re angry and parents should never violently shake a baby, in order to prevent severe brain injury.

You may also like  Sibling Rivalry: How to Foster a Positive Relationship

Written by Health & Family Reporter Diana Gonzalez, originally posted on November 25, 2002, at

Close Menu

Pin It on Pinterest