For the first three months, newborns spend the majority of their time sleeping or feeding. They’ll have short periods of alertness as they adjust to life outside your womb. There are many steps to take towards the development of your baby’s self-settling ability. This is actually a skill your baby is born with! However, self-soothing is different. This life skill begins to develop from around 6-months old and continues to grow and strengthen throughout your baby’s life!
At Sleep Thrive Grow we are a big fan of Dr Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s. They can work a treat on calming most newborns. Follow these 5 steps to encourage healthy sleep habits for the beginning.
This is the cornerstone of calming! Swaddling is best used from birth to 4-6 months old and is a safe and effective product to promote sleep. Swaddling prevents the moro reflex (the startle response) from happening, meaning baby isn’t as easy to startle from sleep, able to flail their arms, scratch or whack themselves. The key to success is to swaddle your baby when they are calm or starting to show tired signs. Some babies will fight being swaddled but it is worth persevering with as most babies will learn to love it. 15-20 mins before they are due a sleep can help. Swaddling mimics the close and cozy environment of the womb, allowing baby to feel secure and relaxed while adjusting to life on the outside and sleeping apart from you. Swaddling should only be used for sleep and to help calm baby and never in a carseat or pram where baby is in a seated position. You can ensure the swaddle is not too tight by sliding your hand between the blanket and baby’s chest, it should feel as snug as an elastic waistband on your pants. Our recommendation is to swaddle arms down at baby’s side. You may choose to transition to an arms up swaddle like the love to dream swaddle as your baby grows. Once baby has mastered the ability to roll, they are ready to transition into a fitted sleeping bag. They now have better control of their limb movements and they then may begin to start to use their hands to calm and soothe.
The cherry on top! Sucking is known to be the most calming of the 5 S’s. It turns on the calming reflex, lowers heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels. Sucking on a dummy is also known to reduce risks of SIDS.
This is baby’s feel good position. Back sleeping is the safest and only recommended sleeping position but it is the most difficult for helping baby to calm down and settle to sleep. Lying on baby’s side/stomach mimics the foetal position which activates position sensors in the muscles and inner ear, switching on that calming reflex! There are three positions that you can trial, find what works for your baby: Reverse-breast feeding hold, football hold, over-the-shoulder-hold. This can be tried on the cot surface too. Always remember to make sure your baby is on their back to sleep. These positions are just for calming and settling
Movement echoes the motion that baby experienced in the womb, tiny jiggles (no more than one or two inches) from side-to-side are more effective than broad swinging movements. It is the movement of the head (think jelly wobbling a little on a plate) that activates the calming reflex. Again, follow baby’s lead, match the movements to the level of upset. Gentle movements are great for keeping baby sleepy and calm, but fast, small movements are often needed to calm an upset baby. Try and see what works for your baby. Movements can include: dancing, rhythmic patting on back or bottom, bouncing on the edge of the bed/exercise ball, rocking in a chair, car rides, infant swings, baby slings, brisk walks. Ensure clear airways to prevent airway obstruction, chin to chest is not a safe position for baby.
Silence is the most ineffective way to calm or help baby to sleep well. Shushing is the best sound for calming and white noise is best for sleep. Effective shushing when holding your baby: Place your mouth two inches from baby’s ear, make sure the shhh is going past the ear, not in it! Release a soft shhh to start, then raise the volume/intensity and try different pitches to see what baby responds to best. Match the level of crying, then ease off as bub relaxes.
Getting through the first 3 months with your new baby doesn’t have to be exhausting for everyone. At S.T.G we have a library of support packages to help you through this journey. Check out our available support packages here!