Newborn Care Specialist

Soothing Techniques

Soothing Techniques

        Five “s”

Swaddling: It can be a very effective tool for parents to calm their babies, as well as be a way to make the baby themselves feel safe, calm and comfortable. Swaddling creates a sense of security and suppresses involuntary movements.

Here is a list of how and when to swaddle a baby:

                    Daytime: Leave baby un-swaddled.

  •         During the daytime you should encourage skin to skin contact to reduce Moro reflex, (i.e. an infantile reflex normally present in newborns for up to 3 to 5 months after birth; it is a response to a sudden loss of support or loud sound, which then makes the infant become extremely startled and/or feel as if they are falling”). If the mother finding it difficult to find the time to do skin to skin contact, you can recommend doing it after each breastfeeding session.

                    Nighttime: Swaddle baby with hands up; knuckles to chin.

  •         These are new recommendations that should be followed as they ensure hunger cues won’t be suppressed in the baby.
  •         After the first month and the baby’s feeding schedule has been well-established you can swaddle with hands down at night.

Swaddling Arms Down:

Swaddling Arms Up:

Sound: This can mean multiple things. It can mean holding the baby to the chest and humming lightly, and it can also mean making soft “shh” noises. Depending on the home (if it’s a louder environment with other kids), it can mean placing a sound machine in the baby’s room at night. This sound helps drown out other voices and noises in the family’s home that may make it more difficult for the baby to fall and stay asleep. It can also help to serve as a constant for the baby throughout all the sleep cycles. If you opt for this, the sound must remain constant, so don’t set a timer so that the sound machine turns off after a certain number of minutes, otherwise this will disrupt the baby’s sleep cycles. The sound must remain constant all night long and be a genuine white noise. Additionally, the sound machine can’t have a nightlight, as any light (except red) will disrupt the baby’s circadian rhythm.

Suction: Typically, this would mean to give the baby a pacifier. This can be an extremely effective soothing tool, although you must gently take the pacifier away once baby is soothed. If you don’t, the baby will continue to suck on the pacifier, because babies have sucking reflexes that are triggered when something is in their mouths, and this will in turn suppress hunger cues. This can encourage a longer than ideal stretch between feeds, which is problematic and potentially dangerous for proper weight gain. In addition, the baby could become extremely attached to the pacifier, making it difficult to wean from it later. Use it as a tool and, like any one of these tools, use it only as needed.

Swatting: This is basically patting the baby lightly on the bum, belly, or back, sometimes accompanied by a sort of rocking motion. This works well if baby wakes and needs to be soothed, as it calms without lifting the baby in your arms.

Side/ Stomach Sleeping: Laying a baby down on side or stomach relieves the moro reflux. This is also a comfortable position for them. After soothing, you must turn your baby onto the back. You can’t leave babies on their sides because they may roll over onto their stomachs, and if they aren’t capable of barrel rolling when they do this, you have to roll them back yourself.

You can also use side soothing in your arms or stomach soothing on your chest as you lay back. For a reflux baby, this can be helpful with the pain, and for all babies, mama’s or papa’s chest is a great place to rest.

Laying a Baby Down: This is often a point of stress for parents and is ideal to work on from day one. Be aware of the proper way to lay your baby down, so as not to trigger moro reflex. This is normally present in newborns for up to three to five months after birth. It is a response to a sudden loss of support or loud sound, which then makes the infant become extremely startled and/or feel as if they are falling. This is often referred to as the startle reflux where your baby’s arms will flail out and they look scared.

        Keeping the baby close to you and moving your body with the baby towards the sleep surface will help eliminate triggering the moro reflux. Lay them down with your body touching theirs, chest to chest and remain over the baby. Hover for a moment or until you feel their body relax. Then, replace your body with your hand to continue the pressure and security on their chest. When you pull away, do so slowly. Do not simply use your arms to lay your baby down, or baby will feel as though falling and jerk awake.

Nervous system:

        A baby’s nervous systems take up to three years to develop enough for them to be able to reset them on their own[7]. Therefore, babies will need help to reset their systems for the first three years of their lives. Resetting a baby’s nervous system is an important part of your job and part of the parent’s job. This is because it is the system babies have the least control of, and the system that parents have the most control helping with.

        You can really change a baby’s mood and demeanor by resetting the nervous system. Bring baby to your chest, put a hand flat on the head, and engage in deep breathing. It is important that you do not make any noise and don’t move; just remain calm and focus on the stillness and your breathing. This should reset the baby’s nervous system. Do this, at the very least, once a day and encourage the parents to do it as well.

        A baby’s nervous system needs to be reset multiple times through the day. This is because cortisol levels build up, and baby will become overstimulated. Their system will eventually reset by accident or without you being aware that resetting has occurred. This usually happens when both baby and mom are crying at the same time. Or it could happen while mom is breastfeeding baby. The more aware of it you are and the more often you do it, the more in control of the situation you will be, and the happier and more agreeable the baby will be.

        Additionally, one of the reasons that the cried-out method doesn’t work and is, in fact, harmful for your baby is that—according to research—mothers and their babies are in sync with each other, and so Mom’s presence is often calming. When a baby is left to cry, both mom and baby’s cortisol levels (i.e., the hormone in the body that signals stress) increase. The difference is that, while mom’s nervous system will reset on its own, and her cortisol levels will decrease and regulate, the baby’s won’t (Middlemiss et al. 2011). Even though babies may stop crying, (because they’ve cried themselves out), their cortisol levels will remain high.

        This is a problem because it results in mothers’ and babies’ systems to be out of sync with each other, and then mothers are not able to reset their babies’ nervous systems as easily. Also note that the “cried-out” method burns so many calories for the baby that it causes harm through loss of energy as well, and, again, creates negative associations.ues

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