Once an infant is given his or her vaccination, it’s up to mom or dad to find a way to comfort their crying baby. In a new study, researchers say the five “S’s” may help.
The five S’s are swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging and sucking.
Pediatrician, Dr. Harvey Karp, in the book “The Happiest Baby on the Block”, popularized the method.
Based on the new study, the result is less pain and a lot less crying, said Dr. John W. Harrington, of Eastern Virginia Medical School and Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk, who led the study.
"It's probably working as a distraction technique," Harrington told Reuters Health in an interview.
Different infants will respond to different methods of comfort, whether it's swaddling, a pacifier or being rocked, Harrington said. "If you do all of the 5 S's, you're likely to hit upon the one that will help a child soothe himself."
The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.
After the vaccine is given, the baby is wrapped in a snuggly tight blanket. She or he is then placed on their side or stomach and gently “shushed” and rocked. If that fails, a pacifier is then given.
The study included 234 two- and four-month-old infants having routine vaccinations.
The researchers divided the babies into four groups. In the "control" group, infants were given a tiny bit of water right before their shots, and after the jab they were passed to their parents for comforting. A second group got sugar water instead of plain water.
The other two groups received either water or sugar water before their shots, and then the 5 S's afterward.
Overall, the researchers found, the 5-S groups showed fewer signs of pain -- less grimacing and frowning. And their crying faded sooner.
Only a few were still crying one minute after vaccination, versus about half of the babies in the control group and 30 percent of infants given sugar water only.
By offering physical comfort and a soothing voice, "I think we're just tapping into kids' natural ways of comforting themselves," Harrington said.
After the baby is vaccinated in a busy pediatrician’s office, are the 5 S’s really practical?
This study, Harrington said, was designed to test whether the measures work -- not how effectively they can be done in everyday practice. Harrington had pediatric residents on hand to do the 5 S's, which is a luxury not available in the real world.
But ideally, parents can be taught over the course of their routine "well-child" visits to perform at least some of the 5 S's, according to Harrington.
That way, parents will learn some extra tools for soothing their baby anytime, and not just after a needle stick. "Parents could do this instead of just giving them a bottle," Harrington said.
And unlike breastfeeding, he added, "dads can do this, too."
* Sucking is a natural calming reflex and helps baby’s level of relaxation rise.
* Swaddling is the cornerstone of claming. Swaddling also helps keep babies from accidentally flipping onto their stomach. Avoid overheating and loose blankets. I recommend wrapping babies with their arms straight at their sides. Wrapping with flexed arms usually fails because the arms soon wiggle free. Swaddling is the cornerstone of calming. Swaddling is the only "S" that does not directly turn on the calming reflex. In fact, many babies struggle even more for a minute or two when first swaddled with straight arms; that's probably because their biceps are hypertonic from their position in utero—we don't know with certainty.
* Shushing. The louder a baby cries, the louder the shushing has to be to calm him. The noise needs to be as loud as a baby is crying for it to trigger the calming reflex.
* Side or stomach position. This "S" can be activated by putting a baby on her side, on her stomach (again, not for sleeping), or over an adult's shoulder. Some babies are so sensitive to position that, even on their side, they won't calm down if they are rolled the least bit toward their back. All babies should be put on their back to sleep.
Unfortunately the calming reflex goes away after about three months, Karp says, and Harrington found the 5 S's didn't work as well with 4-month-olds as with 2-month-olds.
But it’s worth a try!