For thousands of years, parents and grandparents have intuitively known how to turn off their babies’ crying. But the existence of a calming reflex in babies was completely overlooked until I stumbled onto it in the mid-1990s while working with hundreds of crying babies in my practice. Heres what you need to know:

What is the Calming Reflex in Babies?

I was struck by the fact that rocking, shushing, and all the well-known methods for calming a crying baby failed to work unless they were done exactly right. Similar to the knee reflex, triggered by a precise whack of a hammer, the calming reflex kicks in with very specific actions. And when it does kick in, it acts as an off-switch for crying.

[Read more: Baby Reflexes]

The soothing sensations in the womb—and close imitations out of the womb—trigger this reflex over and over again. This innate reset switch is truly a baby’s (and parent’s) best friend. But I dont believe nature created this blessed reflex to calm crying babies…I believe it evolved to soothe fussy fetuses!

You see, early in pregnancy, a fetus flips all around like an Olympic gymnast. But in the last two months, the womb gets tighter, and flipping creates a serious risk: Your baby might end up in sideways or breech position, which until very recently, meant babies would often get stuck coming down the birth canal.

Because of this, during the last months of pregnancy, babies are almost hypnotized by the rhythmic sound and motion of the womb. In fact, its possible that the very survival of our species was only possible because this ancient calming reflex! After all, it kept our big-brained babies perfectly positioned head down as they waited to be born!

Now that you know what the calming reflex is, learn to trigger it with the 5 Ss method for soothing babies!


Looking for more sleep and calming tips for Baby? Check this article out, where we’ve collected some of Dr. Harvey Karp’s very best Baby sleep advice to help guide you through these early days, right here!

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.