Calming an Upset Baby

Dr. Karp was onto something when he came up with the 5 S’s. For those of you that don’t know Dr. Karp or the tactics he uses to calm babies, you might want to read or watch, “Happiest Baby on the Block.” Here’s the summary: When baby is upset, try the 5 S's.

The 5 S’s

This baby is swaddled, swung, shh-ed, and on her side. All she’s missing is a pacifier. She was instantly calmed.

This baby is swaddled, swung, shh-ed, and on her side. All she’s missing is a pacifier. She was instantly calmed.

  • Swaddle- Help baby feel hugged, warm, and safe by swaddling them up.

  • Side- Hold baby on their side to help prevent arm flailing.

  • Swing (or any rhythmic movement will work)-If baby is very upset, you’ll want to swing them more vigorously until they’re able to calm down a bit, then continue a moderate, calming swing back and forth. Baby was moving inside a body for a long time. They crave this motion.

  • Suck- Babies are born wanting to suck. You can nurse baby or pop in a pacifier (research says nipple confusion isn’t as common as people say).

  • Shhhhh- It is LOUD inside mom’s body—blood is moving, a heart is beating, food is digesting, there's mysterious popping and gurgling. Babies are used to this orchestra. White noise, of any kind (and you’ll learn quickly what baby prefers—vacuum or washing machine) helps settle baby.

Of course it’s important to make sure that baby isn’t crying because he or she is hungry, has a wet diaper, or is overly tired. In those instances, it’s important to meet baby’s immediate needs.


Sometimes those 5 S’s don’t work on their own.

Think about being inside a body for 9 or 10 months and then suddenly being cast out into a bright and loud world. It’s startling, scary, and newborns need some extra love to settle after being worked up in a big way. When the 5 S’s don’t work, what can you do?

Magical Hold - I can’t even explain what’s happening here. It’s genius. Just watch below.

fussy baby hold

Fussy Baby Hold- This is what it looks like to your left. A little pressure on baby’s belly helps, in addition to them feeling like they’re suspended once again in mom’s womb.

Go Outside- A change in scenery does wonders. It doesn’t matter if it’s cold or hot (though cold weather is preferred, we can’t control nature)—taking baby outside resets them.

It does take some time to learn what comfort measures newborns prefer. When one tactic doesn’t work, try another.

Additionally, newborns change every single day. What works one day, might not work the next.

If the crying ever becomes too much—set baby down somewhere safe—and step away for a few moments to breathe. Try again. The newborn stage doesn’t last forever, and though it’s difficult now, it does get easier.