The 5 S’s involves swaddling, sucking, swinging, shushing, and side/stomach position, and has been found to reduce the distress and crying that are experienced by babies after a needle is stuck into them during routine vaccinations, researchers from Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Virginia, reported in the journal Pediatrics.

The authors explained that parents might be able to help their babies after a vaccination by simply holding and comforting their baby.

In this prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, involving 230 infants, aged 2 and 4 months, the babies were randomly selected into one of four groups in which a combination of two variables were used – water versus sugar, and standard-of care comfort measures (e.g. pacifiers and distraction) versus the 5S’s.

The 5S’s comes from a book (also on DVD) called “The Happiest Baby on the Block”, written by Harvey Karp, MD, FAAP.

The researchers used the The Modified Riley Pain Score to determine the babies’ pain levels at 15-second intervals after their injection for two minutes.

The authors found that those in the 5S’s groups had considerably lower pain scores, in both the sugar and non-sugar groups, compared to those in the other groups. In other words, the 5 S’s are what had the pain-lowering impact, rather than the sugar.

Breastfeeding an infant immediately after vaccination is known to comfort them and reduce their distress from pain. However, for those who are unable to breastfeed, the authors say the 5S’s approach helps.

In an Abstract in the same journal, the researchers concluded:

“Physical intervention of the 5 S’s (swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging, and sucking) provided decreased pain scores on a validated pain scale and decreased crying time among 2- and 4-month-old infants during routine vaccinations. The use of 5S’s did not differ from 5S’s and sucrose.”

Written by Christian Nordqvist