The Ultimate Guide to Soothing a Crying Newborn for Better Sleep

Jun 08, 2023

Welcoming a newborn into the world is a joyous experience, but it can also be overwhelming, especially when it comes to soothing a crying baby and ensuring they get the sleep they need. In this blog post, we will explore effective soothing techniques that not only address the renowned "5 Ss" by Dr. Harvey Karp but also introduce three additional techniques to provide extra comfort and promote restful sleep. By incorporating these techniques, you can create a nurturing environment that will help calm your little one and foster a better sleep routine. So, let's dive in!

The 5 Ss: Foundation for Soothing

Dr. Harvey Karp's 5 Ss—shushing, swaddling, side hold, swinging, and sucking—have been hailed as invaluable tools in soothing fussy babies. By incorporating these techniques, you can create a sense of familiarity that mimics the womb environment, providing comfort and promoting sleep. However, let's take a closer look at some additional tips to enhance the effectiveness of the 5 Ss:

1. Shushing: Introduce white noise in the background to provide a continuous soothing sound. Babies are accustomed to the constant noise within the womb, so playing white noise at a moderate volume can create a calming environment. You can also make shushing sounds and vary the volume of the shushing in accordance with the volume of your child's crying. 

2. Sucking: Offer a pacifier once breastfeeding is well-established, as it can provide additional comfort. If a pacifier isn't available, allow the baby to suck on the breast, their own fingers or gently offer a clean finger to help soothe their need for sucking.

3. Swaddling: Ensure your swaddle is snug around the arms while leaving some room for the hips to move comfortably. Experiment with different swaddle types to find the one that works best for your baby. Remember, swaddling helps recreate the secure feeling of being in the womb.

4. Side hold: Holding your baby on their side can help soothe them. Support their head and back with one arm while gently rocking them from side to side. You can also hold them over your shoulder.

5. Swinging: Gentle swinging motions can have a calming effect on newborns. Use a baby swing or your arms to create a rhythmic movement that mimics the womb's sensations. If your baby is crying hard, use small but fast movements to soothe. 

Additional Soothing Techniques: Going Beyond the 5 Ss

In addition to Dr. Karp's 5 Ss, there are three lesser-known techniques that can further enhance your baby's soothing experience:

6. Skin-to-Skin: Embrace the power of skin-to-skin contact through baby wearing and kangaroo care. Not only does this promote a strong bond between you and your little one, but it also provides a sense of security and warmth. By holding your baby close to your bare chest, you create a nurturing environment that promotes relaxation and comfort. You can also massage your baby to promote skin-to-skin contact to help them relax.

7. Safely Set Aside: It's natural to feel overwhelmed as a parent. If you find yourself in need of a moment to regroup and calm down, don't hesitate to safely set your baby aside in their crib and step outside briefly to catch your breath. Prioritizing your well-being allows you to return to your baby with a regulated and calmer state of mind, better equipped to meet their needs.

8. Stroking Eyebrows: Here's a unique addition to the soothing techniques—a gentle stroke of your baby's eyebrows. This simple action can help reduce fussiness and lull your little one into sleep. By delicately stroking their eyebrows, you can relax their eyes and induce a soothing effect that aids in their overall relaxation.

Addressing Misconceptions: Unraveling the Myths

There are several misconceptions surrounding some of the soothing techniques. Let's address them to help you make informed decisions:

1. Swaddling: Some may view swaddling as restrictive, but it actually provides a sense of security, recreating the cozy environment of the womb. When done correctly, swaddling can help your baby feel calm and secure.

2. Pacifiers: Concerns about pacifiers causing dental issues, masking hunger cues, and creating nipple confusion can be valid. However, dental issues are typically associated with prolonged pacifier use beyond 18 months. To be on the safer side, introduce pacifiers after breastfeeding is firmly established and use them as a tool for comfort when necessary instead of using it anytime the baby is fussing. 

3. White Noise: Proper usage of white noise is essential to reap the benefits. Play it at around 50 decibels at crib level to create a soothing atmosphere. Remember to keep the white noise machine at a safe distance, approximately 4-5 feet away from the crib, to prevent any potential hearing damage.

Minimizing Crying: Preventing Overtiredness

One additional tip to minimize frantic crying is to avoid overtiredness. Newborns have limited awake time, typically around 45-60 minutes, including feeding. Allowing them to stay awake for too long can quickly lead to overtiredness, making it difficult for them to fall asleep. Pay attention to your baby's cues and establish a nap routine that accommodates their need for rest.


Soothing a crying newborn and promoting restful sleep is a journey that requires patience, experimentation, and an understanding of your baby's individual needs. By incorporating the foundation of Dr. Harvey Karp's 5 Ss—shushing, swaddling, side hold, swinging, and sucking—and adding the additional techniques of skin-to-skin contact, safely setting aside, and stroking eyebrows, you can create a nurturing environment that fosters comfort and relaxation. Remember, each baby is unique, so adapt these techniques as necessary and trust your instincts as a caregiver. By providing a soothing environment, you can help your newborn find solace, enjoy peaceful sleep, and thrive in their early days.