Monday, May 16, 2011

Week 3 and My Favorite Tips to Calm a Crying Baby

Hey everyone, week three was a pretty good one around this good ol' green house, as we're starting to get this "parent thing" down. Don't get me wrong, we're still learning each day, but we feel way more confident now than we did 3 weeks ago when she was born! One of the reasons for our increased confidence has come from being better able to calm Avery down when she is crying. Nothing is more frustrating, disheartening, and sad than having a baby that is crying and nothing will get he or she to stop. Granted we've been fortunate that Avery doesn't cry often and it's usually not for very long, just 5-10 minutes at the most.  But over the past three weeks, we've tried out and utilized a few techniques to calm Avery when she cries and it boils down to two resources: understanding her cries from Dunstan Baby Language and applying "The 5 S's"from The Happiest Baby on the Block. Let me tell you a little bit more about both of these theories, how they work, and how we make them work for Avery.

Oh no! Crying Avery...
One of my favorite techniques that we've used since the day Avery was born was learning what baby's cries mean according to the Dunstan Baby Language DVD. In this DVD you learn that there are five types of baby cries that nearly all babies make, no matter where they're born or what language their parents may speak. Even more powerful is that each type of cry is actually the baby attempting to communicate a need to you. Before you spend the money to buy the DVD, you might try checking your local library  (if they carry DVDs) as that is where I found mine and I didn't have to buy it, which is one way to go green.  Now here are the five cries and what they mean:

Here is a short video explaining the Dunstan Baby Language system, and examples are given of the five types of cries and what they mean. 

When first learning these baby cries, I felt a bit overwhelmed that I had to try and remember all five cries, what they mean, and what to do when they are used.  But, when Avery was born, we found that she used one main one..."Neh!" (sounds like a horse's neigh) meaning she was hungry. So what did I do? Feed her, of course! Since then, we've found that whenever she cries, it's pretty much always a hungry "Neh!" cry, and we respond accordingly.  It's kind of funny because one of us will be holding her and then she'll start fussing and we'll be like: "Wait for it...wait for it comes..." and then Avery will belt out a: "Neh!" "Okay," we'll say, "Time to feed this girl, hand her to mama!"  Needless to say, we are very grateful to have learned how to decode Avery's cries (most of the time), and if anything we are at least able to know when she is hungry, probably the most important need I want to make sure I am helping her get met.  Yet, this hasn't quite solved all of the cries.  Sometimes I will have just fed her and she's still fussy and not really doing any of the cries mentioned in the Dunstan cries, this is when I call upon our second resource: "The 5 S's" from Harvey Karp's book and DVD, The Happiest Baby on the Block.

Now back when I was pregnant, I came across the The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD, and it really stuck with me.  I showed it to Brandon as well and he immediately began calling Harvey Karp "The Baby Whisperer!" LOL.  Basically Karp has several beliefs about newborn care, the first is that the first three months of a baby's life are essentially the "fourth trimester" and they should continue to be cared for as though they are still a fetus. The next is that babies have a "calming reflex" and if you can turn this reflex on, it will make them more calm and happy...or in other words- less screaming and crying at 3 AM!  The last concept is that there are "5 S's" or 5 techniques that can be utilized to help you achieve this calming reflex and they are:

1- Swaddle, or tightly wrapping the baby, which re-creates the tightness they experienced when they were in the uterus
2- Side or Stomach Position- holding the baby in the stated ways...on their side or stomach
3- Shh!- Who knew that when babies were in the womb that the noise level was about that of a vacuum cleaner? To recreate this you can make "shushing" sounds or call upon some white noise to soothe your baby.  Karp says to "shush" as loud as the baby is crying.  I've called upon this many times during diaper change when Avery is struggling to calm down (as you can see in the very first picture of this post), and even though she's not swaddled it helps calm her down a bit.
4- Swing- Just as babies had constant noise in the womb, they also had constant movement, so attempting to recreate this can result in a happy baby.  Gentle bouncing or patting her back, usually is enough to calm Avery down.
5- Suck- Karp suggests offering babies a pacifier, or a knuckle/thumb to suck on to complete the 5 S's.  One form of sucking I often utilize is to offer her the breast (which she can obviously suck) and this usually makes her pretty happy, as well as satisfies her hunger at the same time.

Here is a short video of Harvey Karp demonstrating some of his theories and "The 5 S's".

Now, on about day two or so after Avery was born, she had a crying fit and we couldn't figure out how to calm her down, so I remembered these "5's" and I ran and got one of the swaddles I so happily registered for and we tried it on her...unfortunately it did not work! She kicked and screamed even harder! "She just wants her hands and arms free," we thought.  I tried a few of the other 5 S's, without the swaddle, and they didn't work either.  At that point, I tossed this idea out the window and said "Forget the Baby Whisperer...this stuff doesn't work!" 

Well, during this past week or so Avery started to get a little bit more fussy at times, even after a good, long feed and diaper change (usually the equation for one happy baby!).  So I remembered this DVD, and I decided to give it one last try.  I then bumped it up to the top of my Netflix Queue and when it arrived I watched it and had some big "Aha!" moments.

Now that I had an actual newborn at home in my arms, the concepts stared to make a lot more sense! On top of this I brushed up on the techniques and learned some important things like...even though babies may fuss and cry initially when wrapping them in the swaddle, they will most often calm down once a few more of the "5 S's" are utilized.  On top of this, the other "5 S's" will not work if the baby is not swaddled.  Later that day, when Avery started to get a bit fussy after a diaper change, I broke out the swaddle, wrapped her up, turned her on her side, and started "shushing" in her ear as I walked around the house...BAM...instant calm! Are you kidding me? No way!
My little swaddled sleeper!

 Sure enough, I rocked her for a few minutes, put her down in her Fischer Price Rock N' Play Sleeper (we call it "The Rock N' Roller") and she took a four hour nap! Usually her naps were about an hour or this was pretty amazing!  That night we gave it a try and again it worked pretty well as she got up about every 3-4 hours, instead of 1.5-2 hours.  Granted, it's not perfect every time, but it sure is better than before we used the 5 S's.  On top of this I feel like she's a bit more calm and happy when she is awake, almost like: "Thanks for meeting my needs mom, I think I'll take it easy now."

So peaceful and sweet.
So, I know I'm only 3-4 weeks into this mommy job of mine, but these are some of the resources I've found that have helped us to calm Avery's cries and maybe if you're a first time parent, these strategies can help you too (and get you some more sleep and happy time with your baby).

Last, here are few more pics of Avery from this week:

She loves putting her hands up by her face...also, she's mesmerized
by her Daddy! ( :

Next week she will turn "One Month Old" look for some fun pics to come this way.  Also, if you have any other strategies or resources that you have found to help calm a crying baby, please post them below.  (  :


  1. What a cute baby!!! I thought I'd throw out one other calming idea that worked for all my babies. Late night crying jags seemed to be calmed by cool night air. I think just the change from the indoor environment to the outdoor environment was the thing they really liked. I just wrapped them up in a cozy blanket and stood outside for about 5 minutes. That always seemed to help. Also, singing and talking to them seemed to help. Good luck as you navigate this super awesome new road!

  2. Dawn,
    Great tip about getting some cool night air...will be remembering that one! ( :


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