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Newborns: The S's and why you care

Written by sarah pollak


Posted on February 19 2022

There are Karp's 5  S's and there are Siegel's 4 S's

Both are key to an important parenting S, Sanity!

Karp wrote a book that you have probably heard of, The Happiest Baby on the Block.  It's a good read.  My opinion.  Someone came in today and thanked me for sharing the abbreviated version, which means I shared the 5 S's and told her that they were valuable when you have a new baby. 

So, first, here they are:

  • Swaddle (and do it without fear, baby was in a very close confined space recently, your womb, and this feels good to them, even if they resist which some do)
  • Side (hold baby on their side)
  • Swing (side to side or bounce gently up and down, there was motion in that confined space)
  • Shush (that confined space was playing that music-shhhh, shhhhh, shhhhh)
  • Suck (pacifier-they call them that for a reason;)

Most parents of newborns are not as familiar with Siegel's 4 S's. Siegel is a brain guy, he has written 13 books on the developing brain and they are all worth reading if you have the time. (I never could have done it without a pandemic that closed our business for 3 long months.) I find them to be good touchstones for all parents, particularly when baby is a toddler, and then when baby is a pre-teen and teen! These are all times when "baby's" brain is exploding and connecting like crazy, and us parents can lose our minds!

So, here are Siegel's 4 S's:

  • Seen
  • Safe
  • Soothed
  • Secure

And, you may notice some similarities?  Karp's S's are literally baby steps for Siegel's S's.  As parents of newborns many of us are terrified that we are doing something wrong and that this new tiny human, who we love more than we ever imagined possible, will suffer.  

If you are reading this, let me assure you, you are paying attention, you care, and...your baby may still cry.  Babies cry. Even if you master the 5 S's. 

Baby is a survival machine.  Seriously, they cry.  We think that there must be something wrong!  And, no doubt there is.  They may be hungry, and when they cry, they get fed! Survival! They cry and we act on their behalf.  They are smart those babies!!

Sometimes they have discomfort that we cannot take away.  This is particularly hard, on them and on us. Here's a MOM tip-Often, not always, you know your baby- they cry when they are overtired.  They do not know to close their eyes and sleep, so they scream louder. The 5 S's can help with that.  They may have other pain. Do you trust your doctor?  Talk to them if you are concerned. 

And, remember this: babies have no other way of saying "That last place?  The small confined one that was warm, and I was fed without demanding and I was being rocked?  I MISS IT!!"  So, they cry.  And, sometimes we cry too.

The more that you set aside time-think 5 minutes- to check in on your 4 S's with another full grown adult the better. How are you doing with your Sanity?   

Do you feel Seen, by yourself, by the other parent if there is one, by any other support people-grandparents, siblings, friends, neighbors, doctors? It can be hard to see yourself when you are suddenly thrown into this new role as parent. 

It's easy to see yourself as a parent...until you are one.  Then suddenly you're afraid that you aren't doing it right!  Remember, you are doing it perfectly, it's a new job, you're learning!  Babies cry. this is not an indicator that you are a bad parent.

Lastly, if there is another parent, are you seeing the other parent? The first weeks of parenting can become a battle of being seen, because everyone is focused on baby, as they should be.  Taking turns, letting the other parent take over while you take care of yourself, which might be as simple as showering, can help your sanity.  Then do the same for them.

You will get through the first 3 months.

Pay attention to all the S's.  You are worth it.

You've got this. 


Sarah Pollak has styled women through their pregnancies for 25 years at Mom's the Word. She also coaches parents of pre-teens and teens at Plan P. She is a trained Newborn Sleep Coach, a certified Positive Discipline Parenting teacher and an IPEC trained Life Coach. 



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