Nothing can frazzle a parent more than an inconsolable baby. Adding to the stress is our belief that, as parents, we should automatically have the power to calm our wailing infant. The innate bond we have with our children, often leads us to believe that if we are unable to calm them that we have somehow failed. But when diapering, feeding and burping doesn't work, what's a parent to do?

Paula Chase-Hyman

Relax! Babies cry!
Harvey Karp, MD of Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, an expert on children's health and author of the book and video He says the key is being aware that all babies are born with three reflexes: crying, sucking and calming. The calming reflex is an automatic off switch for their crying and the trick is to know how to turn it on. "When you're anxious you jump from one solution to another without confidence," he points out. "You're never doing any one thing long enough for it to truly work."

The veteran doctor wants mothers to know that while it's an instinct to want to calm your baby, actually knowing how to calm them is a skill. He offers "The 5 S," steps that, when done correctly, will activate any baby's calming reflex.

No BS -- The Ss work
Dr Karp's technique has been profiled on Good Morning America, in the LA Times and People magazine. One convert to the Ss was Dhari Thien, of Altadena, California who was featured on the Good Morning Americasegment. "It's really working well," she said of the techniques she and her husband tried on their then five-week old infant.

Thien now helps the parents in her new moms support group, sharing with them, Dr Karp's technique. "They all call me Saint Dhari because I've helped them to deal with their babies," she says with a laugh.

So what's this "miracle" method that is turning bawling babies into serene infants? Well, really it's no miracle, just a few no nonsense tips to help baby feel more at home:

  • Swaddling --Wrapping the baby tightly in a blanket. Although the baby may struggle against it, the swaddling controls the flailing and turns on the calming reflex.
  • Side or stomach position -- Holding a baby so that he or she is lying on the side or stomach. Unhappy babies only get unhappier lying on their backs.
  • Shushing --Providing some type of loud, white noise to soothe the baby. Some suggestions, a radio turned to loud static, a tape recording of a hair dyer or a white-noise machine. Sometimes just running the vacuum can help.
  • Swinging --Creating a rhythmic and energetic jiggling motion for the baby. While supporting baby's head and neck, wiggle the head with fast tiny movements, kind of like you are shivering. You can then move the baby into a swing for continual, hypnotic motion.
  • Sucking -- Having the baby suck on something. This could be Mom's breast, a finger or a pacifier. It works best after you have already tried the other techniques.

Although Dr Karp's technique consist of tactics, which many parents try naturally, he says they will not work if implemented incorrectly. "It's not hard to learn," he says. "But it is a little bit weird when you first begin and it takes some practice."

Other ways to help soothe a crying baby include infant massage, warm baths and taking baby outside to enjoy some of nature's pleasures. Karen Deerwester, parenting consultant with Family Time Inc, says, "Get outside, put baby in a stroller, lay baby on a blanket in the shade. Nature can be a wonderful resource."

Ultimately, the key is to take the time to learn how to respond to your baby. Also, recognize that although we instinctively love our children and want to keep them happy, just as we've had to acquire many other skills throughout life, learning to calm our baby will require similar patience to work at it until we get it

Tags: calm soothing

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