Settling Your New Baby


One way of learning how to comfort your new baby is to think about what conditions she was used to in the uterus:


  • She was often moving around, being rocked by mum's movements.
  • She could hear lots of the outside noises, but this was muffled by the loud "swish, swish" of blood through the uterine arteries (you can hear this sound yourself when you have an ultrasound).
  • She was held securely by the muscles of the uterus.

So from this warm and secure environment during the pregnancy, your baby was thrust into the big wide world, with bright lights, strange noises and new experiences.  In a way, these first few months can be seen as the "fourth trimester", an important time of adjustment for the newborn.


There are some simple techniques that, when combined and done well, can soothe every baby and help him or her adjust to these changes.  Dr Harvey Karp has summarised these as "the five S's". 


That is


  • Swaddling
  • Stomach or side to settle
  • Swinging
  • Shushing
  • Sucking.


Swaddling - This means wrapping a baby firmly, so she is like a little cocoon.  There are a number of ways of doing this so that her hands are contained within the wrap, but her face if free.  This helps baby to feel secure.  Babies have a "startle reflex" that means that her hands can involuntarily jerk up around her face when she gets a surprise.  Swaddling helps to stop this reflex, particularly while the baby is dropping off to sleep.  Just make sure that her legs and hips are not wrapped tightly, but are free to move within the wrap.


Stomach or side - By placing baby on her stomach or side, the gentle pressure on her tummy is very soothing.  You may do this by lying her across your lap and rocking her side to side, or holding her tummy-down along your forearm with her head near your elbow and patting.  Do this until baby is sleepy, but remember to place her on her back when putting her down to sleep.


Swinging - Babies find swinging very soothing, but it needs to be fairly quick and strong.  If your baby does not settle with gentle swinging, try being more vigorous, and patting her nappy rhythmically at the same time.  Many babies settle well in slings because that mimics the constant motion that she is used to from being inside the uterus.  You can also use automatic swings for night sleeping, but you may need to put the setting on fast to get the best effect.


Shushing - As babies are used to the loud shushing sounds in uterus, parents can use a loud "shh, shh, shh" to soothe them.  This should be loud enough to muffle other outside noises.  "White noise" such as the radio or tv tuned to no particular station is another alternative.  You can leave this on all night.


Sucking - This is a very instinctive behaviour that ensures survival, so it is no surprise that babies are comforted by sucking.  At times the constant need for your baby to suckle can seem demanding, but there are ways to make this easier.  Perhaps you can feed your baby in bed so you can snooze at the same time.  Or co-sleeping might be an arrangement that suits you.  Just knowing that all babies go through times of needing to feed a lot can help you to accept this.


These techniques are meant to be used in combination, so yes, you may be swaddling and holding baby on her stomach, and swinging and shushing all at the same time as well as letting her suck whenever she wants to.  For more information see Dr Harvey Karp's book "The Happiest Baby".


 As you and your baby get to know each other, you will learn what methods work best for the two of you.  What works for one baby does not necessarily work for another, so listen to your own mothering instinct to guide you. 


For some information about recognising what your baby needs by reading her cues, see the "Baby Cues Video Guide" on our facebook page



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“I still remember the first time Gina came to my house and the relief I felt as soon as she walked in the door.  With no family in Brisbane I had no support to call on in those early sleep deprived weeks and was lacking confidence in my role as a new mum.  Gina was a listening ear, someone to ask questions to and hand my bundle of (screaming) joy over to so I could have some, much needed, time to myself.  She is such a warm, caring and knowledgeable person who just makes you breathe easier when there; she is not only a baby carer but also a mum carer.

It was through having the support of Gina that got me through the tough times and helped me be a better mum for taking care of myself; my only regret is not calling her sooner.  I now understand the saying "it takes a village to raise a child"... we are not meant to struggle on our own.”

Hayley from Bardon QLD     

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