Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Dr. Karp's 5 S's

Dr. Harvey Karp, a well known pediatrician, child development specialist, and teacher at USC, has been helping families with their children for over 20 years! He has traveled the world teaching his famous 5 S's for calming a fussy baby and he has created both the book and the movie, "The Happiest Baby on the Block."

Dr. Karp touches on 5 specific steps to calm a baby in the first months of life. He calls this stage the "4th trimester." Why do babies cry in the first place? Are they scared? In pain? Tired? These all may be true, but according to Dr. Karp, when a baby can be calmed in less than ten seconds, the baby is not in pain, they may just be missing the comforting surroundings they became accustomed to in the womb.

Babies are born with many reflexes. They know how to suck, swallow, breathe, and cry - all from birth. But did you know that babies also have a calming reflex? This is considered an "off-switch" for crying. When you go to the doctors office and the doctor taps your knee to see if it moves, he is checking for a reflex. He has to hit your knee in the right spot in order for that reflex to kick in. According to Dr. Karp, the same is true for babies. Babies need to be held the right way in order for their calming reflex to be triggered.

The 5 S's


Swaddling is simply wrapping a baby with a square blanket. Swaddling can be somewhat of an art, but just keep in mind that it takes practice to get that perfect swaddle. Tight wrapping can help babies movements from waking themselves up or startling them. You may notice that when swaddling a baby, they may cry even louder and harder. This can be hard, but stick to it! You'll be glad you did when the baby sleeps longer and calms down quicker. 

The Perfect Recipe for an Effective Swaddle:
Step 1: Use a square blanket. Lay the blanket down in a diamond position, and fold down the top corner.
Step 2: Place the baby in the center on the folded corner with the neck at the fold. 
Step 3: Keep the baby's arms down and tight. Start with the left side and bring the corner over and tuck behind the baby. 
Step 4: The bottom of the diamond comes up over the baby's left should and behind the back.
Step 4: Keeping baby's arms down, bring the right corner around the baby and secure behind the back tucking the tail of the corner in the front. 

Voila! You have a swaddled baby! For a video on swaddling, click here!

Side/Stomach Position

For triggering the calming reflex, it is best to put the baby on their side or stomach. Think of carrying the baby like a football in one hand, or just imagine breastfeeding your baby but on the opposite side. This will put the baby at the perfect position for calming. Remember, for sleeping make sure you put the baby on their back; it's the best position for sleeping. However, for calming, the side and stomach are the best.


Shushing can be very smoothing to a baby. It reminds them of the "vacuum cleaner" noise from the womb.Try a 5 second "shush" to calm your baby.

Swinging or Jiggling

Is your baby still crying after doing the first 3 S's. Don't loose hope!  Babies are often calmed by quick, jiggly, movements. Dr. Karp suggests moving baby no more than one inch back and forth. This jiggling motion takes practice and dedication so don't give up. Be sure not to shake your baby and never jiggle roughly. 


Dr. Karp describes sucking as "the icing on the cake of calmness".  Try breastfeeding or offer a clean finger or pacifier. If using a pacifier, push down a little bit so baby has to suck harder. This will calm them in no time!

Remember that every baby is different. Some babies will respond to the first two S's, but for others, it may take all five. This is completely normal. Remember, the 5 S's take time to master. Just keep practicing, and you'll have a calm baby in no time! Good luck!

To see all of the steps performed by Dr. Karp click here!

All information was taken from Dr. Karps "Happiest Baby on the Block" movie.

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