Crying. Screaming. Tears. Red-faced. Sweaty. It can drive a newor even an experienced parent crazy, left feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, confused, and fed up.
We have been really lucky – Jia really was never much of a crier. The only time we really experienced much crying with her was in the early days when she was trying to teach us what she needed – to be fed. After that, around 3 months old (like the photo above), she only cried when she was in an unfamiliar place and someone else wanted to try holding her, or if we were in the car. Yep, the “drive the baby around the block to stop their crying” didn’t work for us at all. She’d be a happy smiley baby and the second you got in the car, you better hope you didn’t hit the red light on your 1/2 mile drive to Target.
Anyway, we attribute our happy hardly-crying baby to white noise and swaddling, which we started literally from the day she was born. Jia was swaddled basically the whole time we were in the hospital and when she cried, Jeff immediately placed her on her side and shushed then jiggled her and she became serene. Immediately. I wanted to share with you what tips for white noise and swaddling we swear by.
Pre-delivery, Jeff and I studied up on The Happiest Baby on the Block, methods published by Dr. Harvey Karp, a practicing Pediatrician at UCLA. I first learned about his 5 S’s Method back when I was in graduate school working for LA County’s Dept of Public Health, helping put on his seminar. His methods center around the theory that the first 3 months of an infant’s life is really the 4th Trimester, where they need to be comforted in an environment that mimics being in the womb – swaddled and hushed with shushing and white noise. His methods promise instantaneous serenity by triggering the calming reflex in babies, when followed precisely. We followed Dr. Karp’s direction and are so happy we did.
The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics reports findings that are consistent with deeper sleep and less arousal when swaddled (see link below). I’m not going to go into all of the 5 S’s, because you should really check out his DVD on Netflix or just watch his YouTube videos below and his YouTube channel . I wanted to focus this post on swaddling and white noise.
The 5 S’s:
Swaddle (nice and snug)
Side (baby placed on side or stomach in your arms, while swaddled)
Shushing (loudly and right up against baby’s ear)
Swinging/Jiggling (with baby’s head in your hands, while baby on his side/tummy, jiggle their supported neck/head like jello)
Sucking (pacifier or clean finger)
Swaddling – This is KEY. Done for thousands of years, a snugly wrapped swaddle helps babies feel comforted, safe, secure, and reassured. For 9 months, baby has been crowded into such a small space, that the open world outside of the womb is very unsettling to them. Swaddling suppresses their startle reflex, allowing baby to sleep for longer periods of time without being awoken from being startled. Good swaddles are snug and have both arms tucked inside. When Jia was tiny, we got away with using the hospital receiving blankets. We inherited Aden & Anais muslin swaddle blankets, but the overwhelming amount of fabric turned us off to swaddling with it (the many layers would make her roll over because she was so little). We usually used a hospital receiving blanket and then wrapped her with a Summer Swaddleme, which had velcro to secure her inside of it. My MOST recommended item is the Miracle Blanket (you can get it on Amazon.com, but we got ours from Buy Buy Baby and Target). It’s a genius swaddle blanket that combines the “2 swaddle” method in one blanket. There are many other swaddle products out there on the market, sometimes it’s good to experiment which is best for you.
Watch the videos below to figure out how to fold a good swaddle.
Dr. Karp on Dr. Oz:
A great video of a crying baby immediately responding to the 5 S’s:
Dr. Karp on the 5 S’s and White Noise:
White noise is paramount to calming a crying baby. As mentioned above, from day 0 of Jia’s life, we started using white noise. We actually used the White Noise app on our iPhones and iPad to have where she slept, set to “Extreme Rain”. Whenever Jia would start crying when she was a new baby, we’d check her diaper, swaddle her, I’d make sure she wasn’t hungry, and then follow with the other S’s. We only had to swaddle, place on her side, and shush, with sometimes performing the jiggling motion (see videos above if you haven’t). She calmed instantly at that point so she didn’t have to suck to calm.
Dr. Karp recommends white noise for all periods of sleep only – naps and bedtime – to trigger to the baby’s brain that “oh I hear white noise, I hear this when I sleep.”
So, for every nap and at bedtime, we turn on our Extreme Rain white noise and turn on our Cloud b Sleep Sheep (another must-have of ours) set to “Mother’s Heartbeat.” Now, there are a LOT of white noise machines out there, and this is the only one we have ever needed and tried (besides the iPod app) so others will definitely work. The key, as Dr. Karp explains, is to use a grating and harsh white noise that is steady, like a vacuum cleaner, noisy fan, rain, etc. to keep baby asleep. Not the ticking of the clock, dolphins or whale sounds. Those sorts of noises aren’t rumbly consistent sounds, they may even cause the baby to wake up. The Sleep Sheep isn’t the greatest out there – it only has a timer for 23 minutes (why??) and 45 minutes. I’m sure a ton of parents are with me when I ask, “why can’t this just go on indefinitely???” I don’t know… it would be great if it even at least ran straight for 2 hours.
White noise should not exceed 45 dB from where the baby is sleeping/resting, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. They state that even though white noise provides ambient noise to help babies sleep, if the noise level is not monitored it can be detrimental. Hospital nurseries and intensive care units aim to maintain a noise level of 45 dB, to follow this guideline. Don’t assume your white noise machine made for babies stops at 50 dB. Check. Most products allow you to blast your baby’s ears out so it’s a good idea to check. Download a decibel meter from the App Store. Mine is the Decibel 10th app. I only used it in the beginning when I was paranoid we were noise polluting our little newborn and to test to see if our white noise was way beyond acceptable, and it helped. Because it was!
Why white noise? Because it mimics the loud noises the baby heard while in the womb. Dr. Karp says that the noise of the amniotic fluid, mother’s heartbeat, etc are all louder than a vacuum cleaner. Combined with swaddling, white noise mimics a calmer more familiar environment. Just make sure you don’t leave your white noise device in the crib!
I hope these tips help!
So for crying out loud, get your baby to stop crying!
Next Week’s Topic: Soy and Dairy Intolerances in Infants
American Academy of Pediatrics (swaddling and white noise) Parents Guide Swaddling 101: http://www.aap.org/en-us/professional-resources/practice-support/quality-improvement/Quality-Improvement-Innovation-Networks/Documents/swadling_infant_PS.pdf#search=white%20noise
Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics on swaddling: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/110/6/e70.full.pdf+html
Study on NICU noise level recommendations for well-being: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10111-012-0235-6/fulltext.html
American Academy of Pediatrics on white noise: http://www.aap.org/en-us/search/Pages/results.aspx?k=white%20noise
Also, look for Dr. Karp’s DVD available on Netflix!