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How to Use ALL 5 Infant Soothing Techniques While Babywearing and Breastfeeding

One of the best books I ever read as a new parent was The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp, MD. Other books, magazines, and well-meaning parents would rattle off a list of dozens of things to try to get my baby to stop crying, which quickly became overwhelming. How could I possibly keep track of what was working and what wasn’t when I was constantly pulled in so many directions?!

What gives a parent confidence is learning their baby’s cues so they have the ability to prevent crying or stop a tantrum in its tracks. We should make it as easy as possible for parents to get to this point. In The Happiest Baby on the Block, Dr. Karp teaches just 5 infant soothing techniques.

Here’s why I teach these techniques to my own clients (alongside breastfeeding and babywearing) and how you can use all five.

The 5 Infant Soothing Techniques

I’ve worked with hundreds of babies in the past eleven years in various roles as a doula, RN, and Lactation Consultant. What I’ve learned is that most babies are simple. That’s why I recommend and teach Dr. Karp’s 5 S’s to all of the new parents that come into my office seeking lactation help. I take the 5 S’s and build upon them - teaching parents how to do them while breastfeeding and babywearing because those two things in and of themselves are part of the 5’s.

Dr. Harvey’s 5 S’s are:

  1. Swaddling

  2. Side or Stomach Position

  3. Shushing

  4. Swinging

  5. Sucking

For a full explanation of why these work so well to soothe babies, I highly recommend you read the book, which you can get on Amazon or your local bookstore.

Combining Infant Soothing Techniques During Breastfeeding

Part of using these techniques is learning when and how to layer them so that you combine them as needed. Breastfeeding obviously hits infant soothing technique #5 (sucking), but you can combine all 5 S’s while the baby is at the breast if needed. For example, if a baby is having a difficult time latching because they have developed a breast aversion from bottle feeding (or for other reasons), then layering the five S’s can be a way to get them back to the breast.

Start by swaddling the baby, then placing them in the cradle position (belly to belly) with mom. As mom moves to get a deep latch, she will also be swinging or swaying baby, AKA using motion by rocking in a rocking chair or bouncing on the edge of her seat. Typically, this is enough to keep the baby calm enough to latch, but if it’s not, we move on to the next layer, which is shushing. Once the baby has latched and started sucking, we have hit all 5 S’s.

That said, I strongly recommend doing this with a Lactation Consultant for the first time. A full evaluation is necessary to filter out and address any other underlying issues.

Combining Infant Soothing Techniques During Babywearing

Parents can also do all 5 S’s while babywearing. Babywearing mimics the tight, comfortable feeling of being swaddled because the baby is snug against the wearer’s body. Most babywearing is done while the parent is in motion, which provides the swaying effect. Mothers can learn how to breastfeed in their carrier, fulfilling the sucking technique, which also helps them meet the baby’s nutritional and comfort needs. Parents that don’t breastfeed can offer their infant a pacifier while in the carrier, and if the infant is particularly fussy, going for a walk outside and “shushing” can be quite effective in soothing your baby.

In addition, infant crying increases and peaks at 6 weeks of age for all babies - but research shows that we can decrease crying and fussing by 43% when we offer supplemental carrying. Babies worn in baby carriers cry 51% less overall. Read the research here.

These techniques are highly effective. If used individually or layered and applied during breastfeeding or babywearing, parents will be able to soothe their infants quickly. Plus, they’ll get the added benefit of boosting their confidence and attachment.

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