Aug 192011


I love my son, I really do.  But man, some days…

Above, the picture on the left is Nathan being a good kid, pleasant, smiling.  The picture on the right is Nathan being a serious pill, on the verge of a tantrum.  Same, day, same hour –I think.  This was from a few weeks ago, but you get the idea.

Any of you dads (and moms) with babies will know what I’m talking about when I say that these little darlings can go from adorable to nuclear in about a second and stay crying and fussy for hours on end.

In a class that my wife and I took at her hospital (Kaiser) the instructor mentioned the “Five S’s”.  I had heard about it before, and in fact, I had read a book called “The Happiest Baby on the Block” which I mentioned in a previous post.  The author is Dr. Harvey Karp and what he advocates for fussy babies is the what can be described as the Five-S rule.  It’s something he observed other cultures doing and it’s mostly been in the traditional knowledge base for child rearing for probably every culture in the world – except our modern high-tech scientific one.  We are now just rediscovering it through folks like Dr. Karp.

So what is this?  Basically, it’s the following:

  1. Swaddle
  2. Side-laying
  3. Sway
  4. Soothe/suck
  5. Shoosh

What Dr. Karp is saying is that human baby’s really need 12 months in the womb, but because our brains get too big for the birth canal, we are born after 9 months.  Which means that in the first 3 months after birth, we have a baby that’s really acting like he still belongs in a womb.  But since he’s out in the real world, he doesn’t know what to do with himself and therefore freaks out, frequently. The Five-S’s are supposed to simulate for the baby his conditions that he’s used to in the womb, and helps to soothe him and chill him out so that he can feed, or rest, or sleep.

The swaddle is supposed to simulate the tight quarter conditions of the womb – at 9 months, the baby is big enough and the womb small enough that his arms and legs are tightly bound.  The side-laying is supposed to simulate the side lying positions that most mothers take.  The sway simulates the back and forth motions that he’s gotten used to in the womb as the mother moves about.  The sucking and soothing action is a reflex that he’s born with and he does this in the womb, ingesting/inhaling the amniotic fluid.  And the shoosh simulates the apparently very loud conditions that the baby experienced in the womb – external noises filtered through the mother’s stomach, the mom’s blood circulating and the heart pumping, and all kinds of other internal bodily noises that the mom makes that the baby basically formed hearing.

I was a little skeptical at first, but this seriously works.  The trick is, you can’t just do one or two or three of these S’s.  If you’re gonna use them, you have to use ALL of them together.  Check out this video.

OK, the hosts of tis show are annoying, but check out how the baby just instantly quiets down.  I saw this very same clip at that class at Kaiser and was both flabergasted and not quite believing.  Well, one day after Nathan was born, still in the maternity recovery ward, I used these Five S’s to calm Nathan down.  And I am still doing it now, three months into fatherhood.

In a later clip, I’ll describe some additional tricks and tips on how to use the Five S’s effectively.


  One Response to “The Five S’s”

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