Fall Letter 2015

If you're a new parent, you likely are tired – perhaps even exhausted. As a maternity nurse, I often joke with my sleep-deprived, laboring patients that they will not sleep again for the next 18 years. But, really, exhaustion is no laughing matter.

At this year's AWHONN (Association of Women's Health, Obstetrics and Neonatal Nurses) conference, pediatrician Harvey Karp spoke about the connection between fussy babies, lack of sleep and postpartum depression (PPD). He explained that between 15 to 40 percent of new moms develop PPD and that up to 50 percent of men, whose partners have PPD, experience depression as well.

So, what can you do? While Dr. Karp acknowledges his well-known "5 S" system may not be a miracle cure, in most cases it helps. He outlines five specific steps to help settle a crying baby:

  • Swaddling
  • Stomach or side-lying (while being held, not sleeping)
  • Shushing
  • Swinging
  • And sucking

Dr. Karp maintains these techniques turn on a "calming reflex" and soothe fussy babies. The methods have been used for thousands of years, but his 2002 breakout best-selling book, The Happiest Baby on the Block, provided a step-by-step guide that made the 5 S's part of new parent vocabulary.

At the AWHONN conference, I was amazed watching a video Dr. Karp presented of a father soothing an extremely fussy baby using the 5 S's. The dad swaddled the baby, picked him up and held him snug on his side, swayed, allowed him to suckle on his finger and shushed in his ear. The baby stopped crying in a matter of seconds!

I have known about the 5 S's for a while but did not realize babies may need a combination or all five of the S's at once. It also is important that parents get precise guidance on exactly how to perform the techniques in order for them to be effective. If you are caught in a cycle of exhaustion or your baby is fussy, offer a feeding, a diaper change and try some or all of the 5 S's.

Still, realize no matter how hard you try, there may be times nothing seems to work. This can be extremely frustrating and exhausting. If this is the case – or you are feeling sad, anxious or overwhelmed – reach out to family, friends or your healthcare provider for support. Sometimes, new parents need a little extra help, other times a lot. Do not be afraid to ask. Parenthood should be a joyous experience and sometimes just a little rest can make all the difference.

Warm Regards,

Linda Ciampa, RN