New parents are often overwhelmed with their new baby. Parents are often overtired and desperate to find ways to quickly comfort their baby, especially fussy babies who cry often for long periods of time. In recent years there has been a shift in thinking about newborn babies and how to best care for them. Dr. Harvey Karp created a new philosophy that recognizes that during the first three months of life, babies often crave the feelings and sounds of the womb. During this stage, infants have a calming reflex and respond well to imitations of the womb. Therefore, parents can use some calming womb-like sensations, often referred to as the 5 S’s: Swaddle, Side-Stomach Position, Shush, Swing, and Suck. It is important that parents use these happiest baby techniques correctly or they will not be effective.


The tight wrapping of swaddling mimics the feeling of being inside the womb. When swaddled, babies’ arms should be at their sides and their hips should be loose and flexed. Initially a swaddled baby may become more upset but with some rocking and “shushing” the baby will often calm down. Babies should be swaddled when they are fussy or tired because it can provide comfort and increase sleep duration.

Side or Stomach Position

Babies should only sleep on their backs because it reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). However, many babies prefer to be held on their side or on their stomach over your shoulder while they are awake. When your baby is fussy during the daytime try holding them on their side or stomach for the happiest baby approach.


The womb is actually very noisy and babies like this soothing noise. The inside of the womb sounds like a vacuum cleaner. Therefore, babies do well with white noise that mimics the sound heard inside the womb. White noise machines are very popular, or parents may play white noise on their phones or tablets. Parents can also make a loud “shushing” sound in their baby’s ear while rocking her.


While inside the womb babies get used to rocking and jiggling often when their mom moves about. Fussy babies often need to feel fast, tiny movements to calm down and do not calm down with slow rocking. It is essential to support the head and neck while rocking your baby and avoid shaking them.


Babies are often calmed by sucking and calm easily with a pacifier. Some parents are hesitant to introduce a pacifier too early as it may cause nipple confusion with breastfeeding. Some parents will choose to offer a clean finger for their baby to suck instead of a pacifier.

Better Sleep

The 5 S’s ultimately lead to better quality and longer durations of sleep for infants. Parents are thankful for this additional time to rest. These soothing techniques can be invaluable for parents, especially those with very fussy babies.

What if the Happiest Baby 5 S’s are not working?

Oftentimes the 5 S’s are very effective in soothing babies under 3 months old who are still becoming accustom to life outside the womb. But what if this strategy isn’t working for your baby?

Perhaps your baby is hungry, wet, or lonely. Even if a baby just finished feeding, he may need a little more or may be craving skin-to-skin contact. Sometimes babies become fussy when they are struggling to make a poop or digest. If your baby is colicky, she could have a medical problem, such as an allergy to milk, infection, or stomach acid reflux. If the baby does not have an of these issues, ensure that you are doing the 5 S’s correctly. They will not be effective if they are not performed properly. If your baby is inconsolable it is time to talk with your pediatrician. Learn more in the video below from pediatrician Harvey Karp, M.D., author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block.”

Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny Can Help!

Night wakings can be exhausting for parents and lack of sleep can leave parents feeling scattered and foggy. An overnight newborn care expert provides care so sleep deprived parents can get a good night of sleep. Your baby needs sleep and so do you.

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Our trained professionals can teach you how to best care for your baby. Many parents have questions about how to bathe their babies, how to swaddle, or a host of other questions. We also offer a variety of breastfeeding support and lactation services designed to help support and maximize your breastfeeding experience.

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One in four children under the age of five has a sleep issue. Most children’s sleep issues are behavioral and not medical. If your child is struggling with sleep issues, you are not alone!

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