“Four” S’s: In Action

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If you have never used the “4 S’s” from Tracy Hogg (The Baby Whisperer), I highly, highly recommend you do so. I describe it in this post:  https://www.babywisemom.com/2009/04/sleep-training-four-ss.html. I once did a poll on the 4 S’s, and 97% of people who had used it said they would again. The other 3% were undecided. 97%! That is very high rate of satisfaction. Some people worry about what using the 4 S’s will mean for future sleep–for my thoughts on that, see this post:  The 4 S’s (three years later).


Turn the lights down. I either dim the lights (we have a light dimmer) or turn them off. With McKenna, I also closed the blinds, but Brinley sleeps just fine with her blinds open, so during the day, we have blinds open and close them at night. If I have a baby that sleeps well with blinds open, I leave them open. My idea–I don’t know if it is accurate or not, but it is my idea–is that it will help the baby distinguish day and night. However, McKenna was fine with days and nights and slept with blinds closed. When the child moves to fewer naps a day, I will close the blinds for naps. For sure by two naps. I think this helps older children relax for sleep.I am using the 4 S’s again with Brinley. I thought I would run down how I have adapted it because I don’t do it exactly like Hogg describes. I think people should read about how Hogg does it, but I hope this post will illustrate that you can tweak it to suit you and your baby. Here are my steps:

  1. Swaddle. I then swaddle Brinley. We use the 
    Summer Infant SwaddleMe Blanket . 
  2. Sit. We sit in the rocking chair in her room. I hold her over my shoulder, pat her back, and rock. As we rock, I sing her lullaby to her. Once the lullaby is done, I stop the rocking and patting and just rub her back for a bit. Then I stop that and we just sit. I wait for her to relax. She is not the obvious relaxer that McKenna was. With McKenna, I could feel her whole body relaxing. Brinley is usually quite relaxed from the start.
  3. Place in bed. I then stand and lay her in bed. I make sure her SnuggleU is close to her and she is all cozy, then I turn the light off and leave the room.

There are moments of exception. Sometimes she is in some sort of discomfort and instead of having her over my shoulder, I hold her cradle style. I still rock and pat her back. If she is not relaxing over my shoulder, then we do cradle.

Another exception is sometimes she is obviously not in the mood to be held. In those instances, I just put her in her bed. I don’t remember this happening with McKenna, but it has happened a handful of times with Brinley. 

Sometimes I hold her for a while as she sleeps. If you feel like holding your baby, don’t feel like you can’t. 

Hopefully this description will show you that you can make the 4 S’s work for you. Hogg says to not rock, but I find it very natural for me to rock my baby gently. I am not going fast, it is a just a slow, rhythmic gentle rocking. It feels right to me so I do it. Do what feels natural to you. 

valplowman

Valerie, also known as The Babywise Mom, is the mother to four children. She has been blogging on Babywise and general parenting since 2007. She has a degree in technical writing and loves using those skills to help parents be the best parents they can be! Read her book, The Babywise Mom Nap Guide, to get help on sleep from birth through the preschool years. You can also find her writing at Babywise.life, Today Parenting, and Her View From Home. Read more about Valerie and her family on the About page. Follow her on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram for more tips and helps.

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10 Comments

  1. Whitney
    September 6, 2012 / 6:27 PM

    We've used the 4 S's with our second baby (now 4 months old) and have loved it! I also think holding him upright over my shoulder helps him relax without needing a paci. Whenever I held him in a cradle position, he'd root around like crazy and would start to cry. He wasn't hungry, I think it just reminded him of nursing and he wanted to suck for comfort. As soon as I started holding him upright, he calmed down immediately.

  2. Amanda
    September 8, 2012 / 1:20 PM

    We used the 4 S's with Peter and it was a lifesaver! He didn't even need any CIO (which was good since he had reflux) and just fell asleep happily. I do the "sit" part standing up since he was attached to an apnea monitor with a limited cord and would cry when I sat down and kick his legs against my lap. Standing worked well, I just sang 1-2 verses of a lullaby and then would shhh him and lay him down, then walk out. Emily, you might try an even louder shhh and firm pats on her butt while she's in your arms, and definitely try standing. Also, if short naps are also a problem for her then she may need a waketime adjustment (1 hour, 15 minutes is average ideal for 3 month olds) or maybe there's some discomfort waking her. Especially since she cries at naptime, sleeps well in the swing, and has early waking you may want to check and be sure she doesn't have a touch of reflux. Some babies have reflux and it's not too severe so it goes unnoticed. This is usually easily fixed with burping very well after feeds and before nap, inclining the mattress, and using a SnuggleU like Valerie makes. Those things definitely helped Peter sleep and he had severe reflux and food intolerances. I hope you find something that works soon!

  3. Kelty
    February 6, 2013 / 5:19 PM

    Thank you for showing us how you do the 4 S method. This encourages me that adding some of my own flair won't necessarily ruin the whole process. I'm too literal sometimes. 4 S's worked great for our #1. #2 is having a bit of a hard time. Setting the stage and swaddling goes fine but when I sit and try to hold her upright, she starts to fuss and struggle mightily. Her waketime is already pretty short (30-40 minutes for 5 weeks old.) It seems to wind her up rather than calm her down.Has anyone else had this happen?

    • Julie Lewis
      November 22, 2013 / 3:49 PM

      Kelty, this happens with my LO. I have tried shortening her waketime and still the same thing happens. I have tried lengthening too and its the same as well. Did it ever get better for you? If so, what did you do?

  4. Gigi m
    September 23, 2014 / 8:25 PM

    When you are done with steps 1 & 2 and then u place baby down to bed, do u make sure baby still awake but sleepy or ok to be asleep? Thank u!

    • Valerie Plowman
      September 30, 2014 / 5:17 AM

      Best to be awake, but if baby is asleep, I wouldn't wake the baby.

  5. Ashlie Rocks
    February 26, 2016 / 7:38 PM

    I did CIO w my first at 4 months old and have enjoyed the benefits ever since. My second is just over 3 months and due to some medical issues he has (which are now mainly resolved), we waited (maybe too long) to do CIO. I've tried the 4 S's but sitting still before sleep just irritates him as he is used to being rocked to sleep now. The main issue I'm finding now is that I'm out and about every morning – gym, groceries, doctor's appts, errands – and pick my eldest son up from daycare in the afternoon, and so my baby has gotten very used to being lulled to sleep in his car seat. Naps, therefore, when they need to be in his crib, are full of tears and I feel like I'm confusing him… Half his naps he gets the rhythm of the car and his pacifier, then I expect him to fall asleep with no soother and no motion in his bed once or twice a day and more on wknds? (I have been timing the car rides to his nap schedule btw.) He sleeps pretty well at night, but is still up for one feed, usually around 4 am. I'm trying new things w his routine/schedule now, cluster feeding in the eve and an earlier start to the day to try and drop that midnight feed without CIO. I guess what I'm asking is… If I just put my life on hold for two weeks to do CIO in his crib for every nap to establish self-soothing, is it then "fair" to go back to having him take two-three naps a day in his car seat w his soother? I need to be able to go out in the morning and get stuff done as well as pickup my first from daycare in the afternoon. With my first I was home all day so we didn't experience these kinds of issues (thusly it was only church on Sunday that made naps difficult).

  6. Sarah B
    February 27, 2016 / 11:00 AM

    For this method did you find it most successful starting the whole process once you notice a sleep cue or do you start the process earlier in anticipation the sleep cues will arise during the sitting??My reason for asking is my little guys – 8 weeks- will yawn and need fall asleep right after a yawn. So if I am starting as soon as he yawns he falls asleep while sitting. But naps have been 45 min. Could his yawn sleep cue be too late. Should going by the clock be appropriate? If he usually yawns about 50min into wake time should I actually have him in bed at say 45 min?

  7. JenTaylor
    June 9, 2017 / 2:07 AM

    Any suggestions for a baby that hates to be put down on her back? I can get her asleep and down but she never usually stays asleep long, I'm lucky if she goes a half hour and most times it is a few minutes or less and the only thing that seems to calm her down is being held.

  8. Amy
    October 10, 2017 / 4:50 PM

    Hi, This is my 3rd week dipping my toe into BW…I started late when my son was 11 weeks old. (I've posted other questions to the starting late and 5-6 am waking blogs). The first two weeks were spent establishing the eat/play/sleep routine, moving naps to his crib, and using CIO to go down for a nap. This week I'm committing to staying at home for the next two weeks to really get my 3 month old on a consistent schedule. As I was beginning yesterday I came across these posts about the 4 S's and tried it for our first nap of the day. It went pretty well and I must say I much prefer him going down nice and relaxed and not having to hear him CIO for 10-20 before each nap. I was already doing 2 of the S's: I was setting the stage by closing shutters and blinds, turning white noise machine on, and reading a book before bedtime/some naps (I guess I need to decide whether or not to read before every nap or just bedtime.) I also swaddled him for sleep until he started breaking out of his swaddle and now he is in a Halo sleep sack swaddle with both arms out but still wrapped tight around his tummy. (He likes to suck on his hands.) Does it matter if I swaddle him first then set the stage? He seems to cry more if I lay him down in his crib to be swaddled when the room is dark, like he knows what's coming. The last two S's were new for us yesterday. My main question is about what to do if he cries during the sitting. The description of this S sounds like the baby is quietly being held upright and quickly gets more and more relaxed to the point of being ready to be laid down. My son, however, cried, flailed, and fought being held upright. I sing him a song the entire time, pat his back, and do some slight rocking. The first few times yesterday it only took 5 or so minutes for him to become calm. (Once he even fell asleep in my arms). So I thought, ok this is working, he's just getting used to it and needs to cry a bit. For the witching hour nap it never really worked, which I know is an outlier so I didn't worry. But then this morning I had to sit with him for 15 minutes and he cried/fought me the whole time and never really got relaxed, he just got quieter to the point where I could lay him down and walk out. But then I could still hear him making noises for another 15 minutes. I'm looking for some advice…should I keep going with the 4 S's, go back to cry it out, or try something else? I worry about being consistent and don't want to switch back and forth from CIO to the 4 S's, unless you think this is ok to use whichever method seems to work for that particular nap? Like start with the 4 S's but if it's not going well just set him down and let him CIO? Maybe this was just a rough nap, maybe I let him stay away too long for first thing in the morning. I am ordering Tracy Hogg's book so I can read all about the 4 S's myself…maybe I should have waited to implement this strategy until I knew more about it from the book. Thanks!

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