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Soothing your baby after shots with the 5 S’s

As a new parent, bringing your child in for the 2 month and 4 month shots can almost seem unbearable. Watching your child’s eyes fill with a flood of tears after being stuck with a needle can cause many parents to second-guess the importance of these vaccinations for newborns. Parents are not the only ones who are concerned; doctors are too, which has led to research studies to find a better method for soothing a baby’s pain.

A study published in the journal Pediatrics has identified a way to help soothe babies after a round of shots called the 5 S’s: swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing sounds, swinging, and sucking. The research was based on Dr. Harvey Karp’s The Happiest Baby on the Block, where he teaches parents to use the 5 S’s to help prompt a calming reflex in babies who struggle with colic. According to Karp, there has been extensive research on the individual S’s, but what researchers failed to recognize is that babies are born with a reflexive off-switch for crying and an on-switch for sleeping, which can be triggered by a combination of the 5 S’s.

Swaddled Baby So, if the 5 S’s help calm colicky babies, would it be an effective calming method for babies experiencing discomfort from shots? Researchers found that when comparing a group of babies who received a sugary solution for comfort and a group of babies who did not, the 5 S’s helped soothe and relieve pain the fastest in both groups. On average, the babies who were comforted by the 5 S’s stopped crying within a matter of 45 seconds.

What do the 5 S’s mean?

Swaddling: This first step is crucial when calming your baby. Tightly wrapping your baby will help them feel like they are still in the womb and in their “comfort zone”. Refer to this to learn how to properly swaddle your baby.

Side/Stomach Position: This is your baby’s comfort position. Did you know this keeps babies from feeling like they are falling?

Shushing Sounds: These loud sounds help calm your baby by replicating the whooshing sounds they were so familiar with in the womb.

Swinging: Stillness is often unsettling to newborns, which is why swinging is so important to help soothe your baby. Swinging may need to be vigorous at first to get your baby to stop screaming, but can be reduced to gentler movements to help keep your baby calm.

Sucking: You’re almost there! Once your baby has calmed down from the previous S’s, it’s time for sucking. This triggers your baby’s calming reflex and releases chemicals to the brain to allow for total relaxation.

Sounds too good to be true, right? Watch as one baby goes from fussy to peaceful using 4 of the 5 S’s:

There are many ways to help calm a baby in discomfort. One common method is to use a sugar solution given to the baby before the shot to ease pain, another being breastfeeding. The key is to find what works for you and your baby and what you feel most comfortable with. Talk to your pediatrician to ease any anxiety you may feel over the discomfort of infant immunizations and to address any concerns or questions you may have.

What have you found works best to help calm your baby? What advice would you give to first-time parents?