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  • All babies cry—and that’s a good thing. How else would we know if our helpless infants were cold, hungry, lonely or in pain? Traditionally, moms and dads have just been encouraged to keep their chins up and wait until the baby grows out of it. But, that’s easier said than done!

    Crying Takes a Toll on Babies AND Parents

    Typically, babies get increasingly irritable around sundown and can continue for hours. No wonder, parents get concerned, frustrated and very, very tired.

    Exhaustion triggered by persistent crying creates huge stress in families, including marital conflict, maternal and paternal depression and obesity. It causes car crashes and other accidents—people make all kinds of poor decisions when stressed and overtired. It also puts babies in danger when a wiped-out parent falls asleep with a baby in his arms, on an unsafe couch or a bed, which increases the risks for SIDS and infant suffocation. And believe it or not, the national costs of complications of infant crying and parental exhaustion total well over $1 billion dollars a year! 

    My ‘Aha!’ Moment on Calming Babies

    Most doctors say that colic (crying for more than 3 hours a day) is a mystery. That’s what I used to say, too, until 1981 when I learned about the !Kung San of the Kalahari Desert, whose mothers usually calm their fussy babies in under a minute! The more I thought about it, the more I realized we could be as successful as !Kung parents, but only if we adopt 2 new ideas:

    1. All babies are born 3 months early. Newborn horses can run within an hour of birth but not our mushy little babies. A virtual 4th trimester of womb sensations (soft touch, jiggly motion, snug holding, etc.) may just be what they need.

    2. The rhythms experienced inside the womb trigger a reflex that keeps babies relaxed. This calming reflex is a virtual off-switch for crying and on-switch for sleep.

    The !Kung mothers are master baby calmers because they imitate the womb by carrying and rocking their babies 24/7...and feeding them 3 times hour. American parents have long turned to similar womb-mimicking tricks, whether they’ve realized it or not, like going for car rides and turning on the vacuum cleaner to soothe their babies. In fact, smart parents around the world have invented all kinds of variations on the calming womb-like sensations I’ve dubbed the 5 S’s: Swaddle, Side-Stomach Position, Shush, Swing and Suck.

    The basics of the 5 S’s method are below, but complete guidance can be found in my Happiest Baby on the Block book and companion DVD/Streaming Video.

    The 1st S: Swaddle

    Swaddling recreates the snug packaging inside the womb and is the cornerstone of calming. It decreases startling and increases sleep. And, wrapped babies respond faster to the other 4 S’s and stay soothed longer because their arms can’t wriggle around. To swaddle correctly, wrap arms snugstraight at the sidebut let the hips be loose and flexed. Use a large square blanket, but don’t overheat, cover your baby’s head or allow unraveling. Note: Babies shouldn’t be swaddled all day, just during fussing and sleep.

    The 2nd S: Side or Stomach Position

    The back is the only safe position for sleeping, but it’s the worst position for calming fussiness. This S can be activated by holding a baby on her side, on her stomach or over your shoulder. You’ll see your baby mellow in no time.

    The 3rd S: Shush

    Contrary to myth, babies don’t need total silence to sleep. In the womb, the sound of the blood flow is a shush louder than a vacuum cleaner! But, not all white noise is created equal. Hissy fans and ocean sounds often fail because they lack the womb’s rumbly quality. The best way to imitate these magic sounds is white noise. Happiest Baby’s CD / Mp3 has 6 specially engineered sounds to calm crying and boost sleep.

    The 4th S: Swing

    Life in the womb is very jiggly. (Imagine your baby bopping around inside your belly when you jaunt down the stairs!) While slow rocking is fine for keeping quiet babies calm, you need to use fast, tiny motions to soothe a crying infant mid-squawk. My patients call this movement the “Jell-O head jiggle.” To do it, always support the head/neck, keep your motions small; and move no more than 1 inch back and forth. I really advise watching the DVD to make sure you get it right. (For the safety of your infant, never, ever shake your baby in anger or frustration.)

    The 5th S: Suck

    Sucking is “the icing on the cake” of calming. Many fussy babies relax into a deep tranquility when they suck. Many babies calm easier with a pacifier.

    The 5 S’s Take PRACTICE to Perfect

    The 5 S’s technique only works when done exactly right. The calming reflex is just like the knee reflex: Hit one inch too high or low, and you’ll get no response, but hit the knee exactly right and, presto! If your little one doesn’t soothe with the S’s, watch the Happiest Baby DVD / Streaming Video again to get it down pat. Or, check with your doctor to make sure illness isn’t preventing calming.

    How Do the 5 S’s Relate to Another Favorite S – Sleep?

    The keys to good sleep are swaddling and white noise. In another "Aha!" moment, I realized technology could assist parents with their 4th-trimester duties. So Happiest Baby invented SNOO, an innovative baby bed based on the 5 S’s that helps calm babies and ease them into sleep. Parents especially love when it quickly calms babies for those 2 a.m. wakings!




    1. The Happiest Baby Team August 29, 2018 at 02:13 PM

      Hi Glenda,

      We recommend purchasing Dr. Harvey Karp’s book “The Happiest Baby on the Block.” You can find it here: or you can check if your local library has it in stock.

      The Happiest Baby Team

    2. Glenda Ford August 29, 2018 at 02:11 PM

      My son and daughter-in-law are expecting their first child and they need all the help they can get! Where can I get the book about the 5 s’s? Can I check it out at the library? I can’t afford much since I am on a fixed income..

    3. The Happiest Baby Team August 20, 2018 at 08:32 AM

      Hi S. Applemen,

      It can certainly look odd to see a newborn all swaddled up, lying on the back. But many studies show that snug swaddling keeps babies happier (less crying/better sleep). When used correctly, our SNOO sack’s special wings make it the only baby swaddle that can prevent accidental rolling. Also, you do not need to worry about your granddaughter’s safety should she vomit in SNOO. Babies naturally turn their heads to the side when vomiting. The elastic wings on the swaddle attach to the bed so your infant is not rigidly strapped in—this elastic allows for enough movement to turn the head. Also, for the last 20 years babies have been recommended to only sleep on their backs. Even though so many babies spit up and vomit, there have not been reports of babies having serious problems because of that. Additionally, when you place your granddaughter in SNOO you simply slide each elastic loop—on the SNOO Sack safety wings—onto its own safety clip. It is very fast and simple, so should you have an emergency in your home, you can easily slide the wings off the safety clip and evacuate quickly.

      The Happiest Baby Team

    4. S. Appleman August 20, 2018 at 08:30 AM

      I bought my son and daughter in law for my granddaughter not really knowing what it was. When I had to put her in it I felt very guilty that I was strapping her in a straight jacket type of garment. My daughter in law couldn’t figure out why the baby wouldn’t take a nap. I felt it was because she couldn’t move freely. My concern was what if she spits up? Could she turn her head far enough to release the vomit and what happens if you need to get the baby out quickly in a fire emergency? Now they are hooked on that thing. The cradle itself is nice because of the movement of the cradle. Call me old fashion but I don’t like it. Sorry

    5. Happiest Baby Staff April 18, 2018 at 03:43 PM


      Thank you for sharing this story with us. We are so happy to hear the 5 s’s worked like a charm to calm your grandbaby.

      Wishing you and your family much happiness!


      The Happiest Baby Team

    6. brenda costilo April 17, 2018 at 07:44 PM

      Our great granddaughter was born in 2016— the family was staying with us. I did most of these at different times for our own children but not at the same time, it worked ok BUT then—when you put all 5 S’s together it was fantastic. Our great grandbaby was a breeze with the technique, I am so glad I heard about this with her to make it easier on us and her parents.

    7. Happiest Baby Staff September 15, 2017 at 09:50 AM

      Hi Pam,
      Congratulations to you and your family! SNOO is so helpful to parents of twins—an ‘extra set of hands’ to help out 24/7. However, it is not safe to place more than one baby in SNOO at a time; each baby will need their own SNOO. We have even had quintuplets sleeping in their own 5 SNOOs…one right next to the other!

      If you’re using 2 SNOOs or more in the same room, we recommend spacing them at least 1 foot apart. Please contact if we can help answer additional questions!

      The Happiest Baby Team

    8. Happiest Baby Staff August 29, 2017 at 11:06 AM

      Hi Kanisha,
      SNOO Smart Sleeper can be used for up to 6 months. It delivers 3 of 5 S’s to calm crying and boost sleep and gives parents more peace of mind than ever before (because they know their baby can’t roll to a risky position.) And, it quickly gives most families 1-2+ hours sleep a night! Trying it is easy, we offer a 30-day risk-free trial, free shipping and the option to buy now…and ship whenever you want.

      If you’re expecting, or if your baby is of the right age, we hope you choose SNOO. We think you’ll be very glad you did!

      The Happiest Baby Team

    9. Kanisha Agarwal July 27, 2017 at 07:19 AM

      What is the maximum age till this sleeper can be used?

    10. Pam June 22, 2017 at 05:15 AM

      My son and daughter-in-law are expecting twins. Can two newborns sleep together in a Snoo?

    11. Gricel Beltran-Taj February 14, 2017 at 01:54 PM

      We were lucky enough to have a friend recommend “The Happiest Baby on the Block” book before our baby was born. As soon as she was born, we implemented the 5 S’s – this was 4 months ago- and to this day, I can say we truly have the happiest baby on the block! Other than when hungry, she has never cried! Our lifesaver S’s were swaddle, Shushing (white noise machine), and the swing! Thank you Dr. Karp for these wonderful tools! Every parent should read this book before baby arrives- it is truly a lifesaver!

    12. Lauren January 9, 2017 at 01:54 PM

      Just finished reading your book and found it so helpful!! I have a question though… when I swaddle my baby she tries so hard to get her hands out even after we lay her down! She thrashes until she succeeds (and sometimes she does!). She’s only 2 weeks old. I’m not sure I can make the swaddle any tighter! Any suggestions? She’s a preemie approaching her due date and her crying is definitely getting worse!!

    13. Melissa | Baby Castan on Board January 9, 2017 at 07:32 AM

      The day after we took our little guy home we left him unswaddled and we paid the price that night. He did not stop crying from 4pm-1am. I happened to remember a book that a friend passed along (what a lifesaver). Once we swaddled him and did the 5 s’s from Harvey Karp’s The Happiest Baby on the Block he stopped immediately and we were able to calm him to sleep.

    14. Olivia September 26, 2016 at 11:33 AM

      I didn’t know about the 5 S’s and I love the whole system and it works very well! I tried it today and my little guy calmed down considerably faster than usual. I’ve also started using white noise a few weeks back and it is great at relaxing him and me as well :).

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