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Better Baby Sleep – The 5 S’s of Sleep with Dr. Harvey Karp

Every parent hopes their baby will be a great sleeper, but not every parent knows these simple steps. These tips will help you and your mini catch more zzz’s. Dr. Harvey Karp, Founder and CEO of Happiest Baby, shares his method for turning your babe into a great sleeper.

Remind Your Baby of Their Happy Place…the Womb!

Babies calm easily—and sleep best—when we give them an extra trimester, by lavishing them with womb-like rhythms. Babies are born with a special calming reflex that occurs when we precisely mimic the womb using the 5 S’s (swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging, and sucking).

Safety Tip: The side position is only for calming your baby in your arms. Babies should always sleep on the back, the only safe position.

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1. Swaddle — Even If Your Baby Resists at First

Want your baby to sleep well at night and take nice, long naps? Then never skip out on swaddling. It prevents flailing of the arms—a top reason babies accidentally wake themselves. Some babies fight the swaddle at first, but don’t let this fool you into thinking they don’t like it. Swaddling reminds babies of the snug security of the womb. Once your wiggly worm is nicely wrapped, layer in the other S’s and she’ll soon be blissfully calm and ready to sleep.

Safety Tip: Be sure your swaddle is hip-safe. Baby’s legs naturally are in a “frog” position. In the swaddle, your little one’s legs should be able to bend up and out at the hips. Baby’s legs should not be tightly wrapped straight down and pressed together. This can increase their risk of hip dysplasia and dislocation. Click here to view how to safely swaddle your baby.

Safety Tip: stop swaddling when your baby is attempting to, or can roll over.


2. Side/stomach position

The back is the only safe position for sleeping. Therefore, only do this “S” while holding your baby. Lay them on their side or stomach in your arms.


3. Shushing

Believe it or not, babies do not need (or like) to sleep in complete silence. Womb living is noisy, with the sound of a mother’s blood flow being louder than a vacuum cleaner. We recommend getting a sound machine to mimic the sounds they fell asleep to for the first 9 months. Avoid nature sounds or lullabies and just stick to good ol’ white noise. An actual machine will work better than an app, and don’t be afraid to turn it up to about shower level loud.


4. Swinging

While in utero, your baby gently rocked all day and night. They also jiggled around with every step you took. Continuous, rhythmic motion brings on sleep—think about how easy it is to doze off in a car, plane, or hammock.

Safety Tip: Doctors warn against using swings or rockers for sleep, because a baby’s heavy head can fall forward and cause suffocation. So, only rock your sleeping baby in your arms…or a smart sleeper, like SNOO, which provides safe motion on a flat surface.


5. Sucking

Giving your baby a pacifier is the “cherry on top” of the 5 S’s. Babies suck on their fingers in the womb because their hands are right next to their mouth. But once they are born, they don’t have the muscle coordination to get their digits near their lips. Therefore, many fussy babies are instantly soothed when given a binkie.

About the Author

Dr. Harvey Karp

Founder and CEO of Happiest Baby

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