YOUR NEWBORN BABY'S CALMING REFLEXES
Did you know that you have the ability to instantly calm your crying newborn baby? Leaving the womb and entering the big, wide world is a huge change that newborns go through, and closeness, comfort and 1:1 settling is the most common theme when it comes to settling and triggering your little ones calming reflexes.
The actual existence of a calming reflex was completely overlooked until Dr Harvey Karp stumbled onto it in the mid-1990s while working with 100's of crying babies in his practice. He found that the typical rocking, shushing and other well known calming techniques seemed to fail, unless they were performed exactly right! Karp describes that to trigger the calming reflexes in a newborn baby, it is much the same as triggering the knee reflex (triggered by a precise whack of a hammer on exact tendon), the calming reflex of a newborn baby would only kick in with very specific and precise actions.
What he discovered was that the womb like soothing sensations and imitations triggered newborns to calm over and over again, if and when he was able to perform them perfectly! Much like a baby in the womb, the final stages of pregnancy, from weeks 32-40 see a tighter, more confined and comforting space, combined with the motions the mother would perform on a daily babies - from walking, jogging, laying and so forth, meant they were hypnotised to a calmer state. Was further supported by many mothers finding that when they stopped to hop into bed for the night (or the motion stopped) their unborn baby would begin to kick, move, wriggle and squirm, as soon a the motions stopped!
So, what are the calming positions for a newborn baby?
SWADDLE: Swaddling recreates the sensation of being in the womb and is the most significant point of calming. It can increase sleep by decreasing the startling reflex in babies. A swaddled baby will respond must easier and faster to the further 4 S's involved in settling. To have a successful swaddle the arms should be wrapped at the side, with hips loose and able to be flexed easily, and only swaddle during the sleep or unsettled periods.
SIDE/STOMACH: The back is the only safe sleeping position, however, the side or stomach allows for baby to settle easier by activating the 'deep position sensors' which then creates a calming reflex. Baby may not settle while on their back as this position can give the feeling of 'free falling', known as the 'moro' reflex – which creates further unsettling. Laying your baby with their head in the join of your elbow, laying alongside your arm will help in combination with the swing/sway further down.
SHUSH: Again, the shush mimics the sounds heard by baby while in the womb. This mimics the blood being pumped around and is actually over 70 decibels, or as loud a a vacuum cleaner or shower facuet! By ensuring that the volume of your shush is louder then your babies cry [so they can hear it!] and then work to reduce the volume in accordance to your baby's settling and needs.
SWING/SWAY: The jiggling motion mimics the womb, with small, trembly like movements. Lay your baby along your are as described in the side/stomach section above, and with a soft hold to ensure that baby can wiggle their head a bit, adjusting speed according to baby's fussiness – faster for an unsettled baby, and down from there as they settle- jiggle your arm from the elbow. You can introduce swinging or swaying if needed!
SUCK: Being either a breast of pacifier – this method triggers the baby's survival reflexes. It is a naturally soothing reflex and is the only way babies know how to feed. If the baby refuses the dummy it may be that they are actually hungry, and therefore are best offered breast/bottle instead.
For more information on how you can settle your newborn baby, awake time thresholds and sleep enhancing routines, see our popular newborn sleep guides. We cover all things newborn babies, timeliens, sleep help, settling & MORE!!