I picked up Tracy Hogg’s Secrets of the Baby Whisperer purely out of desperation. A friend of my sister’s had given it to her and said “Gabby must read this! It’s wonderful.” I laughed at the silly title and put it on my shelf to collect dust for a few months.
When I finally did read it, it was only because I was sleep deprived and desperate for something to help with my child’s gassiness. We’d been home from the hospital for only a day or two, but my baby had such terrible gas that I was staying up all night with her. I began looking at the index in the back of every baby and parenting book I owned, trying to find some way to fix the baby.
As it turned out, the primary source of her gas problems were the result of a device given to us by our hospital to “help” her nurse better. That’s a long story that I won’t share here, except to say that it didn’t help, it only made matters worse, and it gave my child terrible gas. After teaching her to nurse without it, she only had gas (“colic”) about one night a week. The Baby Whisperer had great techniques on holding the baby and doing tummy massages, so after reading their section on gas, I began reading the rest of the book.
Last week, I told you all about our positive experience with Babywise. We loved it. But as much as we loved it, I think I love Secrets of the Baby Whisperer even more. The principles are the same for both books: A baby who is on a routine throughout the day will sleep better at night. And you must begin as you mean to go–never start a habit that you aren’t willing to maintain.
The difference is the approach of the authors. Tracy Hogg’s approach is much kindler and gentler in tone. When I read Babywise, I was only about 4 or 5 weeks pregnant with my first child. I’d taught freshman English for 4 years at a public high school in Texas. I thought I was tough. When I read about letting your baby “cry it out” (CIO), I thought sure, I can do that. I’m tough. It’s what’s best for my baby, so I can do it, no matter how hard it is. Ha.
When my daughter was born, I discovered what a big ole softy I am. It’s a good thing she easily fell into a routine, because I could never have done CIO with her when she was just a couple months old. No way. She melted my heart completely.
What I love about The Baby Whisperer is that she doesn’t advocate tough methods either. She has a much gentler approach that produces the same results. She still says that the best way to prevent problems is to start as you mean to go–if you never begin bad habits, you won’t have any to break. We definitely found this to be true.
One of my favorite aspects of her book is the baby personality profile. Yes, your baby has a personality already, even if he’s only a few weeks old!
Tracy Hogg categorizes them as the Angel baby, Textbook baby, Spirited baby, Touchy baby, and Grumpy baby. The purpose of discovering your baby’s personality is so that you learn to work within those parameters. We discovered that our baby was an Angel baby. She did everything not just by the book, but earlier, when it came to things like sleeping. We enjoyed our angel baby and completely do not expect to have a child with the same temperament next time. My friends say it just wouldn’t be fair. She was so easy that if we wanted to go out to lunch, and it was her naptime, we could just cover her carseat with a blanket and she’d go right to sleep…even at five months old! On car trips, she was the easiest infant because she followed her schedule on her own. If her morning naptime was at 9:30, she would put herself to sleep in the car by 9:35.
But she was a touchy baby in two areas, eating and bathing. When it came to eating, she would only nurse if held in a very tight football hold. Cradling would not work, and I couldn’t nurse while lying down until she was almost a year old (and by then I didn’t need to–she was only nursing twice a day). At nine months, she refused to eat from a bottle, so when we had to leave her with my parents for my 10 year high school reunion, we told my parents to try the bottle, but then just use the milk to add to her cereal so she’d have a full meal.With bathing, she would scream during baths, probably because of the temperature of the house (she was born December 21!). A friend shared tips she’d learned while watching nurses in the neonatal unit bathe her son. We followed her advice and wrapped our baby up in a bath towel before her bath, keeping her wrapped up even in the water. We would pull out an arm or leg to wash, then return it under the towel so she could stay warm. This made her enjoy bath time, and eventually we could stop bathing her this way, but she has continued to love taking a bath. In fact, we spell the word out at our house because if I say “bath,” she immediately gets excited and runs to the tub, ready to get in.
Charts, Instructions, Troubleshooting, and Advice
I also love the tips and charts found in this book. She goes through, step by step, how to bathe a baby, how to give an infant massage, and other important skills. Tracy Hogg includes charts that show how many hours a baby should be sleeping at each age. I felt like my baby slept all the time, but she was just at the top end of what is considered “normal” for a baby.
Tracy Hogg also takes the time to troubleshoot common problems. What if, for example, you don’t begin as you mean to go? What do you do with your 6 month old baby who can’t put himself to sleep at night? The works through this and other issues.
I also love her older, wiser, motherly advice and perspective. She gives a couple of illustrations of women and their responses to motherhood, and shows how important it is for a mom to take care of herself in those early days, rather than trying to get back to work early.
When We Broke All of the Rules
At one point early in parenthood, I did come to the conclusion that, as much as I loved the tips I’d been reading in both The Baby Whisperer and Babywise, following the rules was not nearly as important as enjoying our new baby. My husband, who really hadn’t been around young children very much, was very confident in his parenting skills early on, and he helped me realize my priorities. One night, he took the baby, laid her on his chest, and let her fall asleep there, nice and cozy. I smiled at this sweet picture and said very pointedly “Is that a habit you’ll be willing to break in two months?” His response? “Yes, it sure is.” His actions seemed to fly in the face of everything I had read. The truth of the matter, however, was it wasn’t something we did regularly. Letting her fall asleep on us from time to time wasn’t going to create a bad habit, but it would create sweet memories for all of us.
Nursing and Scheduling Babies
Most advocates of nursing are not big fans of scheduling babies, for various reasons. I firmly believe you can do both. But I did notice in both Babywise and The Baby Whisperer that the authors do not place a high value on nursing. I think the authors take this approach because their goal is to help you schedule your baby, not guilt trip you if you’re not able to nurse. But know that both can be done. With some effort, you can have a breastfed baby who sleeps through the night beautifully.
Don’t like Babywise? I’m not sure I’m a fan anymore either. You can hear me saying “I was wrong” here.