Soothing Your Baby With the 5 S’s

soothing your baby with the 5 S's
Christine Brown

Christine Brown

Babies are hanging out, baking in the womb, eating and sleeping around the clock. It’s dark, warm and snug. It’s also loud and there is a lot of jiggling from Mom moving around.  Sounds like a pretty sweet place to be.

Next thing they know, they are in the big, bright, overstimulating world and everything that they are used to has changed.  I think of it like being snuggled in bed under the covers and having them ripped off of you.  Only much worse!

The transition to life outside the womb can be challenging for babies and parents alike.  It is really common for babies to cry, especially in the late afternoon / early evening hours.  The crying can last for hours, which is normal, but it can be incredibly stressful for parents. It leaves us exhausted and feeling helpless.  We think:

  1. “What am I doing wrong?”
  2. “Is something wrong with my baby?”
  3. “What can I do to help?”

For #1, you aren’t doing anything wrong.  This time is known as the period of purple crying/witching hours.  It usually begins around the 2nd week, peaks around 6 weeks and passes by 12-20 weeks normally.  This is a normal developmental phase that babies go through.

For #2, always follow your instincts and see your pediatrician if you have any concerns.  If you’ve ruled out anything being wrong, take some deep breaths and remind yourself “this is normal and it will pass.”

For #3, sometimes we can’t do anything, but we can always try!  Read on to learn about the 5 S’s, a proven soothing method that works like magic!

The 5 S’s

When my twins were newborns, a co-worker recommended the book, The Happiest Baby on The Block.  This book recommendation had divine timing because we were in the peak of the period of purple crying/witching hours.  I thought it was an upset stomach or teething – no one told me it was a normal developmental phase!

Dr. Harvey Karp, a renowned pediatrician, discovered a set of soothing tactics that work amazingly to help calm babies during fussy periods.  He calls them the 5 S’s.  I’m going to share the steps below, but I highly recommend that you watch the Happiest Baby on the Block video to perfect your technique.


We can help to recreate the womb environment by swaddling our babies. If you think your baby hates the swaddle, stick with it.  At first, your little one may not like it, but the magic comes when you follow the rest of the steps below.

Why is this important? Newborns have a very strong startle reflex that takes some time to go away.  Swaddling helps to decrease the reflex and calm our babies.  You can use a swaddle blanket or a Velcro swaddle but you want to make sure that it is loose on the hips and the arms are down by your baby’s sides and swaddled tight for fussy periods and sleep.

Side or Stomach

Remember back for sleep, but when you are trying to calm your baby, opt for the side or stomach or over your shoulder.

Also, have your baby’s face pointing away from yours. Our faces are considered playtime for newborns and can be overstimulating if they are already fussy.


My Dyson vacuum was my boys’ favorite sound when they were fussy!  I’d do all the steps; turn it on and they calmed almost instantly!  

Do you know why? It recreates the loud sounds in the womb.  You don’t have to use your vacuum, but a sound machine tuned to the white noise option also works well.  Stay away from ocean sounds or anything other than white noise. It isn’t as effective for soothing and isn’t recommended for sleep either.


This doesn’t mean you need to run out and get a mamaRoo! Unless you want to tell your husband that’s why you need it – my lips are sealed!

Really, you want to be holding your baby and while supporting their head and neck, you jiggle them gently back and forth with fast, tiny motions.  Think the bobblehead motion.  This is gold!

Why? Remember how we talked about how the womb is a jiggly place? This helps to recreate that environment and is so soothing to upset babies.


A clean knuckle, pacifier or breast are all good options for calming babies.  Sucking works brilliantly to calm babies.

An added bonus is that frequent nursing or cluster feeding during this timeframe helps to tank babies up for night sleep.  For nursing mamas, your breastmilk has more melatonin in it in the early evening hours.  Our bodies are amazing!

I hope the 5 S’s help calm your new little bundle!  If you want to learn more about your newborn’s sleep, we offer a 1-on-1 newborn sleep consultation.  We’ll answer all your questions and provide you with a roadmap and a toolkit to develop healthy sleep habits from the start. Plus, we’ll gush about how you have the cutest baby!

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