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How to Calm a Newborn Baby

Newborn infants are dependent on us to provide for all their needs, but it can be confusing when you have met all the obvious needs for nutrition, a clean diaper and warmth and your infant is still upset.  Babies can cry for many reasons but most infants can be soothed once you have met their basic needs with a few steps.  Dr. Harvey Karp coined the phrase “The Five S’s” to remind us of the steps to calm your newborn.

It is important to remember that newborns lack the ability to self soothe and need us to help them settle and feel secure.  In addition, newborns have a startle reflex so that if their arms are unwrapped and they are laid down their arms will stretch out and then they will cry until consoled.

The 5 S’s

Swaddle – babies should be wrapped snuggly with their hips in a natural position.
Side – hold your infant on their side and close to your heart.
Sway – gently sway your body while you maintain your baby in a side position.
Shush – make a shushing sound to settle them further.
Suck – allow them to suck on your finger or a pacifier to calm them even more.

  • These are in order to help your baby initiate a calming reflex to counteract the startle reflex.
  • Please remember to meet your baby’s basic needs first before starting this process, and then that baby should always be placed on his/her back to sleep in a safe sleep environment.
  • Please know that it is OK to place the baby in a safe location if you need a “parent time-out”.  Enlisting support from family or friends often helps ride out these fussy periods.

Dr. Susanna Jalkut