Updated: Nov 5, 2019
Shhh is said gently to a distressed babe can bring peace and comfort and quiet. We say it automatically as our parents and theirs before them said it to countless generations and hopefully our children will calm their child with it too. We also comfort our children naturally by holding them close and moving in some way. It‘s intrinsic and beautiful. We don't even realise at times you're doing it. You can alway tell a mum , they rock for no reason ! But it has been shown that there are 5 official S words to calm a child but with my experience I say there is 9 ! They all feed and lead into each other and all are vital to helping your child to calm and then self settle in the end
Shh , as I said is the first response to a distressed wee baby. Usually said gently to soothe them, but try saying to louder and closer to them, right in their ear. Babies are used to noise, from the womb to their room, where ever they are in the house and especially outside there is noise and its loud. You'll find you child sleeps better with it around them during the day and if you have something playing or in my case OH ( Other Half ) snoring they sleep well. Im going to be putting two monitors in my wee ones room when she goes in there eventually , one for us to hear her and one the other way round so she has the noise of her father to soothe her to sleep.
But as I said the first S - Shh said close to them is to fills their world with sound (white noise ) and distracts them from what ever is bothering them. This is of course once you have tried everything else like checked nappy , taken socks off or on, fed them , burped them and tried playing with them or picking them up. It‘s a mired of problems that they can't tell you. Mostly they need to sleep, we've missed the cues and they need calming. By holdMing them close and shhhhh directly to them, they can feel the warmth of your breath and the second S- smell
When you are shh ing them, they can smell your breathe , you have them close to you , they can smell you. You are familiar. For Dads, that seems to have the problem that they are not Mum , I tell both to get Mum to wear a t shirt or Dads t'shirt for a couple of nights, get it really smelly of her, breast milk, perfume, soaps, lotions etc and then have Dad wear it when it's his turn to soothe bubs. If it is an emergency, pop a breast pad ( used ) between his chest and bubs and it works as an instant pacifier.
When you are holding them close, then for me comes the third S- safe. Babies like to feel safe or secure. Feel your body heat, listen to your heart beat, it reminds them of being in the womb. When they are trying to settle they flail their arms around and even their legs, heads thrash as they try to find a comfortable spot. Im not saying crush them but as you soothe them be like a boa constrictor and as they relax, pull in that wee bit tighter so they know you are there.
My last S is snuggle, we all love a snuggle. Especially with our baby who is all warm and lovely , they like that too. Sometimes the act of just holding them and talking to them face to face or having them watch the world from the safety of your arms is all they want. In nature when there is danger, safest place parents arms, need a perch to assess situation, parents arms. Reaffirm bonds, parents arms. Don't underestimate the power of just snuggling, in bed at night or in the morning, on the couch . They instinctively know it to be a good place to be so reaffirm this by just holding each other.
Just on a side note muslins are the best tool for parenting you can have! so practical. In winter they are an extra blanket/swaddle. in summer , all they need to sleep in if it hot, a blanket for the beach, a towel to dry them. A good old spit rag, milk mopper upper for them and for you. sun shade,(just NEVER over the pushchair , see surprisingly hot ), hat and even make shift nappy in dire times ! All my children have bonded with them as their special thing and needed them to sleep as a comforter. This is great, they are easily changeable, washable and replaceable. Trust me wandering around said car park or shop looking for a lost teddy that is everything to a child is no fun, lost mussie, got another one !
Now once you have all their physical needs met its time for you to get active . The next S is to Sway. Movement is distracting and familiar to them. They were sloshed and swished around inside Mum for 9 months. So get moving , dance, bounce, sway , swing what ever you want to do. The act of movement as I said distracts them , they can't focus on anything, so as the act of white noise in the sounds of your voice Shhh'ing them the Sway/Swing action lulls them in to a state of calm. As they settle you can slow down too ( before your arms drop off ) to just gently movements. I also find a bum pat is a good one to add to the combination as it can be continued after you have put them down, if needed.
All this is done in the next S which is Sideways. We have all been held like this and generations after will too. Head on chest , body lain outwards on arms. There is scientific reasons for this , but I think its just a tried and true way to hold baby. You can tuck an arm under yours , you have another hand free to do the next S , Stroke , It holds baby close to you enabling you to make them feel safe, secure, you can shh them , they can smell you.
As I stated above , my next S is Stroke. I have found over my years of working with littlest people that they have an off button on their faces, usually right between the eyes, so when you have got them to a calmer state and they are just about asleep but are keeping eye contact with you and your afraid they will abort mission. A gently stroke around the forehead, eye brows and down between the eyes ( what people call the T zone ) helps to let them let go of the visual world and drift off. Remember they are learning, computing and taking in everything they see and hear it is hard for them to Switch off. So you have to help them . I find that this can also be done once you have put them down to reassure them you are still there before they complete surrender to slumber.
The other S is Suck. Its up to you if it is bottle, breast, dummy/pacifier/binky ( insert name) their thumb or yours but it is a wonderful calming effect of bubs when they are upset. Its a natural reflex from inside the womb months when they would practise swallowing and sucking and then fall asleep or have quiet time. The act physically is distracting for them to take them away mentally or physically from what was bothering them , they might have been starving to peckish or just need some comfort and a ( the last S ) Snuggle.
My last S is snuggle, we all love a snuggle. Especially with our baby who is all warm and lovely , they like that too. Sometimes the act of just holding them and talking to them face to face or having them watch the world from the safety of your arms is all they want. In nature when there is danger, safest place parents arms, need a perch to assess situation, parents arms. reaffirm bonds, parents arms. Don't underestimate the power of just snuggling, in bed at night or in the morning, on the couch . They instinctively know it to be a good place to be so reaffirm this by just holding each other.
So as you can see the S's - Shh, Smell, Safety/Security, Swaddle, Sway/Swing, Sideways, Stroke, Suck, Snuggle are Super important to the well being of you and your baby . They can be done all at once, a few here together and or just on their own . You will find you child like their own unique combination of them to settle like a key in a lock to literally unlock your babies needs. Eventually your baby will start to do some of these themselves to self settle. My bubs needs to dummy, a muslin in her face, and stroked to sleep. She will hold her own hands I have seen for comfort. She is doing the Smell ( muslin ) Suck (dummy ) and the safe ( holding her hands) I provide the snuggle and the stroke and if needed the Shh. Although when she gets herself in to a state where she needs my help I use ALL of the above to help her find her happy place. And you can too !!