A Review of Baby Sleeping Techniques
The Five S’s
Author of The Happiest Baby on the Block (and the more recent Happiest Toddler on the Block) books and DVDs, Dr. Harvey Karp is endorsed by the Surgeon General as well as La Leche League, Lamaze, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Karp has been teaching his specialized calming techniques for more than 25 years. The Five S’s—swaddling, side, stomach positioning, shushing, swinging, and sucking—are simple and easy to employ, and each S triggers natural calming reflexes to soothe your baby.
Swaddling is an excellent way to prepare younger children and newborns for a good night’s sleep. Dr. Karp cites a 2002 study done at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, in Missouri, involving 37 infants (aged 19 days to six months). The study found that the younger babies went to sleep more quickly after being swaddled. The study also showed that babies who are swaddled, or wrapped tightly in cloth before being put down to sleep, were more likely to sleep on their backs—a position that is now suggested by most pediatricians for prevention of SIDS. “You get the benefit of tummy sleep with the safety of back sleeping,” says Dr. Karp. “It extends an hour to two hours a night the sleep of babies, I like to tell my parents.”
Side and stomach positioning mimic your baby’s posture in the uterus—it also switches off your baby’s Moro (falling) reflex. Dr. Karp suggests placing a swaddled infant on a parent’s lap while seated; put the child on his right side with his head on your knees and his feet on your hip. Then slide your left hand between your knee and his cheek so you support his head in your palm and fingers. Finally, roll him onto your left forearm so his stomach rests on your arm; bring him in close to your body, lightly pressing his back against your chest.
White noise can also be a benefit for many babies and toddlers. Reminiscent of the womb, white noise is especially helpful for soothing newborns. You can add this to your routine simply by softly “shhh”-ing to your infant as you help her to sleep; or you can play a white noise recording (see Karp’s website for several examples). The sound works to mask other sounds in your home that may wake up light-sleeping children.
Since ancient times, parents have employed “swinging” to soothe a crying baby. Gentle motion mimics life in the womb for your baby—much like “shhh”-ing—and, as Dr. Karp writes, “[it] turns on ‘motion sensors’ in [your baby's] ears, which then activate the calming reflex.” Dr. Karp’s swing motion is achieved by beginning in the same lap position as in the side/stomach posture (baby swaddled, and stomach-down in your arms). Just add a gentle rocking back and forth by swaying your legs from left to right, and add a little jiggle by bouncing your knees up and down. Or, you can try an infant swing as well.
Sucking is another age-old soothing technique. In a modern-day twist, Dr. Karp suggests the use of a pacifier for children who haven’t found a favorite finger or thumb to suck. He prescribes bottle and breast feeding whenever your infant appears hungry (a sure sign is when he turns his head and opens his mouth when you touch his cheek), or employing the use of a pacifier when your infant is merely looking for comfort. But when using a pacifier, Dr. Karp says it’s important to know when to stop. “At three months, phase out pacis and wake them up a bit just before you put them to sleep so they can learn how to self-sleep.”
Dr. Richard Ferber is director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Since the release of his book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, Dr. Ferber has become a world-famous pediatric sleep expert; however, some see his views as rather controversial.
The Ferber technique is centered on putting your child to bed awake so he can learn how to fall asleep on his own. Often misunderstood as a cold and insensitive parenting style, many completely miss Ferber’s “progressive” approach to helping a child fall asleep and stay asleep. Dr. Ferber strongly recommends developing a loving and predictable bedtime routine for you and your child to help ensure that the transition to falling asleep solo is comfortable for your little one.
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