Fussy babies soothed with ‘Cuddle Cure’ in Alaska

“Are we going to wrap you up like a burrito?” cooed Katie Ziesmer to her 4-month-old son Reuben, as she began swaddling him in a large flannel baby blanket.

The ritual wrapping combined with holding the baby on his side in a reverse-nursing position and jiggling his head slightly has gently eased young Reuben into the real world since his Nov. 4 birth.

Katie and husband Mark Ziesmer can’t say enough good about “The Cuddle Cure,” a program offered by the Resource Center for Parents and Children, to help parents, grandparents and caregivers of infants make it through those demanding early months of life.

The Cuddle Cure approach is based on age-old concepts advocated by a California pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp, who teaches parents how to use what he calls the five S’s–swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging and sucking.

In short, it’s five ways to imitate the uterine environment and calm babies, especially during the “fourth trimester,” the time between birth and the end of a baby’s third month.

The Ziesmers usually rely on three of the five techniques to calm Reuben. But if he’s really upset, his mother said, they bring in the other two.

“We found what works for our baby as we get to know him,” Katie explained. “It’s nice that there is not just one set way to console him.”

The first three months of an infant’s life, sometimes referred to as the fourth trimester, can often be a difficult transition for babies and their and parents. Some babies calmly eat and sleep while others are fussy, crying-prone babies, oftentimes labeled colicky for lack of a better explanation.

The Cuddle Care approach advocated by Karp has been time-tested for millennia by many cultures worldwide.

Marilyn Eggleston, who teaches the two-meeting class at RCPC, says the techniques are “trying to recreate the womb” where baby’s environment is snug (swaddling); they are in suspended balance (side/stomach position); hearing the sound of blood rushing (shushing or white noise); with gentle swinging motions as the mother walks and climbs stairs (swinging); and sucking, sometimes done in utero.

“Lots of parents with sensitive babies think their babies have colic, but what the babies need is to have their calming reflex activated so they can get used to their new environment,” she said.

After being in the uterus so long, Eggleston said, the critical time to regulate babies’ systems is from birth to three months.

Like adults who enjoy the comforting sounds of waves rolling in or being wrapped in blankets, newborns also find the simulated rhythms of the uterus calming.

With their first child, Annika, the Ziesmers walked and rocked her for hours, wearing holes in the flooring under the family rocking chair.

“As soon as you put her down she would be back up,” they both recalled.

Anticipating a repeat pattern with their second child, the Ziesmers began successfully using the Cuddle Cure approach within a few days after Reuben’s birth.

“You can get him to go to sleep and stay asleep,” Mark said.

And with both parents rested, Annika gets the attention an active 2-year-old demands.

Cuddle Cure classes are an ongoing program at RCPC, a parenting information center.

“A main goal of RCPC is to keep children safe,” said RCPC director Coleen Turner, “and one way to do that is by reducing parental stress and arming them with practical childcare tips.

“We do the Cuddle Cure classes because it is keeping kids safe at a practical and basic level. It gives parents very practical skills and support, like five quick things you can do to help stop your baby crying.”

Katie calls the Cuddle Cure classes “empowering,” and the $20 class fee one of the best deals around. In addition to learning the five S’s firsthand, attendees walk away with a baby bag, Karp’s book, “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” a demonstration DVD, a CD with soothing, shushing sounds and two large flannel baby blankets.
Cuddle Cure classes are held two evenings, a week apart, each month. The next class is slated for April 5 and 12, and the following month, May 3 and 10, at RCPC, 1401 Kellum Street.

And the classes aren’t just meant for moms.

“What I think is so cool is that the dads take to the Cuddle Cure like ducks to water,” Turner said. “The guys are just natural at it, and it engages dads in raising their children.”

Written by Mary Beth Smetzer, posted on March 28, 2006, at Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

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