The Shush-Pat for Newborns
Newborns can be fussy. Even more easygoing, mellow babies often have a stretch of the day where things get difficult for them. For many babies, this occurs around 6 pm (AKA the witching hour) and for others, it’s between 3 and 6 am. This newborn soothing technique, called the Shush-Pat, can work wonders to soothe a fussy baby and begin laying the foundation of independent sleep.
Here’s how it works:
If your baby is laying on her back, roll her over to her side. Pat her back in a steady soothing rhythm while repeatedly making a loud shushing sound right next to her ear. Continue the simultaneous patting and shushing until your baby stops crying or fussing, and then let her relax in her crib. If the fussing starts up again, resume the Shush-Pat. This can take about 10-15 minutes of nonstop patting and shushing, so be prepared with lots of patience and determination.
The psychology behind this technique is that a newborn can’t focus on 3 thoughts at the same time. The rhythm of the patting is one thought for her to focus on, the shushing is a second, and her cries are a third thought. If you don’t stop the patting and the shushing, she will eventually give up the crying.
You have to stay calm and determined as you use this technique, even if it doesn’t yield results right away. Some babies take 10 or 15 minutes of this non-stop action to relax, and some babies will only catch on the 3rd or 4th night. The biggest mistake in any sort of sleep training is giving up too soon!
The Shush-Pat method can be used in two ways: either as another tool in your newborn tool box to help you get through the tough stretches in the day, or as an gentle form of early sleep training. If you use this as early sleep training, you are sending a signal to your baby that when she cries, you are available and present to comfort her, but not to do the actual work of falling asleep. This is a great tip for moms that want to get on the right track with some gentle early training as soon as possible.
Here are the words of Yehudit, a Dallas mom who tried the Shush-Pat method on her baby:
The shush-pat method worked great and got my baby calm enough to give me the confidence that he was ok, and we were working through this together. By day 3 my baby slept 6 hours straight (the longest stretch since he was born) AND he was going to sleep on his own. If he woke up in the night, he put himself back to sleep. I moved on to naps and within 2 more days naps were great! He’s happier all around and plays more by himself when he is awake. This really helped me focus on what to do again. Thank you, Riki.
Another tip to keep in mind is that this won’t work if you’re tense and anxious as you Shush-Pat. Babies are like sponges, soaking up everything around them, especially their parents emotional state. Yes, you read that right.
When you are tense, your baby tenses up. When you are sad, your baby feels sad.
So by stressing out while you try to help your baby relax, you are actually spreading the very stress you feel towards your baby! Panicky mothers can’t soothe their babies. Fact.
Stay calm and relaxed while you Shush-Pat, recite a positive mantra in your mind and take breath after deep breath.
All babies can learn to sleep. This is a passing stage. My baby will sleep eventually. I will help her get there.
Keep breathing and keep shush-patting!
*Disclaimer: This technique won’t work for older babies. Once your baby is around 4 months old, this trick will actually upset her more than comfort her. At this stage, she will expect you to pick her up and be more actively engaged with her when she cries, so this could come across as more of a tease than a comfort. You should be good using this technique for the first 3-4 months of your baby’s life.