So a few days ago in this post I mentioned "the cuddle cure" which is a concept Chris and I learned from "The Happiest Baby on the Block", a book (and DVD, apparently) by Harvey Karp MD. My friend Amber asked what I was talking about, and to save her (and you) the trouble of reading Dr. Karp's entire work, I will summarize*.
Dr. Karp believes that the first three months of a baby's life are "the missing fourth trimester". Babies are born at nine months' gestation not because they are ready for the outside world, but because if they stayed in the womb any longer their brain development would make it impossible for their giant heads to pass through the birth canal. But those first three months are, really, an extension of the time they spent in the womb: they are still developing at that rapid rate, they are sleeping most of the time to allow them to do so, and they are really not ready to deal with real life yet.
If you picture the vast differences between a newborn and a three-month-old infant, this rings true.
As such, Dr. Karp recommends The Five Ss to help babies deal with life on the outside, by making it mimic life on the inside. The Five Ss are:
The "cuddle cure", of course, is doing all five at once. Most babies only need one or two of these Ss at a time - Gwen, for example, calms down fairly easily when we swaddle her and make loud Shhing noises in her ear (the white noise mimics the sounds she heard in utero). She is also, as mentioned before, a sucky baby - she loves it when one of us gives her a finger to suck on, even when she's not hungry. In the post linked above, when she was really hysterical, Chris was doing 4 of the 5 Ss to soothe her - she was swaddled, lying on her side, he was making Shh noises in her ear, and jiggling her firmly but gently back and forth. It can take a minute or two for the baby to take a breath and notice all these calming techniques, but they do work.
I recommend this book (or the DVD if you're pressed for time) to any parent-to-be. We have had great success with these methods.
*The book is really poorly-written, with loads of annoying repetition (perhaps it's meant to be read by sleep-deprived parents?). However, despite the frustrating prose, the ideas Dr. Karp puts forward seem sound. I just wish he'd gotten a ghost writer.