Title: Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with your Baby
Author(s): Tracy Hogg with Melinda Blau
Credentials: Tracy Hogg is a nurse and child-care specialist; Melinda Blau is a writer
Genre: Parenting handbook, moderate [between parent-centered and baby-centered]
Audience: Very new parents, primarily mothers
Happy meal version:
Tracy Hogg offers a structured routine for adjusting to a newborn. In a colloquial style, she advices parents to relax and listen to their babies, to slow down and give both themselves and the newborns time to adjust to their new lives. Her major offering to the world of parenting handbooks is the EASY routine: she advises following a routine of Eat, Activity, Sleep, and then grabbling some You time while the baby sleeps. Within the chapters, she offers practical advice and anecdotes (some of these anecdotes are composites).
Introduction. Here, Hogg describes her experience and her development of the EASY system.
I. Loving the Baby You Gave Birth To. According to Hogg, babies come in five temperament. She offers you a test to determine which temperament your baby is. Throughout the book she offers advice targeted at each temperament: Angel, Textbook, Touch, Spirited, and Grumpy.
2. EASY does it. According to Hogg, the EASY routine offers a middle ground between scheduled and on-demand baby care, and between “parent-centered” and “baby-centered” parenting by focusing on the family. “Mindful parenting” is the alternative to “accidental parenting,” and you should “start as you mean to go on.” This chapter includes a very practical and helpful step-by-step guide to what to do when you come home with your baby.
3. SLOW Down (and Appreciate your Baby’s Language). Parents often make the mistake of responding to crying in a panic. Instead, Stop, Listen, Observe, and ask What’s up. It’s important to treat your baby like and individual and realize that he has needs and desires of his own. Head-to-toe, babies give of lots of signals to tell you what’s wrong. Hogg includes a chart to help you learn to read your baby.
4. Eat. Hogg argues that breastfeeding and bottlefeeding are both good choices and you should make the one that’s right for your family. After the first few days, babies should be on a feeding schedule and not eat on demand. This chapter also includes a timetable and chart on weaning. [Note: I found this chapter problematic. Although she claims to talk about the pros and cons of breastfeeding versus formula feeding, she really only looks at the cons of breastfeeding, and she purveys some information that is inaccurate, such as the myth that babies will self-wean at 9 or 10 months. If you are nursing and want to continue past the first few weeks, ignore this chapter. It will reduce your confidence and possibly your milk supply.]
5. Activity. Babies should be given toys that are within their “learning triangle.” It’s important not to give your baby toys that she can’t handle and not to force her to do things, like roll over, before she’s ready. Here, she discusses childproofing, bathing, dressing the baby, and massaging the baby. This is an extremely helpful, practical chapter.
6. Sleep. This chapter discusses sleep patterns and habits. She presents herself as occupying the middle ground between Sears’ bed sharing and Ferber’s controlled crying. Hogg’s solution is to put the baby down sleepy and pat his back while he cries. She advises dream feeds and cluster feeding to help the baby sleep through the night. Her chart of average sleep seems optimistic. She advises parents that they can expect their baby to sleep up to 12 hours in a row by six months. [For alternate opinions on that, see Weissbluth and Sears; for similar opinions, see The Sleepeasy Solution.]
7. You. This chapter offers helpful, practical solutions for the new mom, including information on moodiness, PPD, relationships, sex, and work and childcare. She discusses different “types” of dads and offers information and tips. A very helpful tip is the suggestion to assign reluctant or nervous dads specific tasks, like bathing or reading. She is dismissive of a cult of motherhood and urges moms to get help and not think that only they can care for the baby. She is supportive of moms who choose to go back to work. This chapter is balanced and moderate.
8. Special Circumstances. In this chapter, Hogg talks about the peculiar challenges facing adoption, surrogacy, multiples, preemies, and those who may have had trouble getting pregnant. It seemed a little light on content.
9. Three-Day Magic: The ABC Cure for Accidental Parenting. This chapter offers a plan for parents who want to change some aspect of their baby’s behavior, like not wanting to be put down or resisting her crib. She advises figuring out the Antecedent–what caused the behavior?; the Behavior–what exactly is your baby doing?; and the Consequence–what pattern has been established? It contains a troubleshooting guide with common behaviors that cause parents anxiety. The “ABC” guidelines are catchy but forced. I can’t visualize how I might put them into action myself.
This is a comforting, reassuring book that offers lots of practical advice and tips. I particularly liked the sidebar explaining how to get a shirt on a baby (which is a lot harder than it sounds). Her EASY plan is sound advice and has entered collective knowledge. Her advice is dispensed in catchy phrases that are easy for new parents to remember. In fact, I wish I had read it before having my baby, especially the first three chapters.
However, chapters 4-6 and chapter 9 contain many, many opinions that are disguised as facts, particularly around eating and sleep. For example, she claims that no baby needs to eat every hour and a half. In fact, many breastfed newborns do need to eat every hour and a half, and on-demand nursing is extremely important not just for the first day, as she suggests, but for the first weeks in order to establish a good milk supply. Other experts will also point out that sleep patterns are quite variable throughout the first year. Her chapter on temperament doesn’t acknowledge that babies can change radically. At two weeks old, my baby would have been either grumpy or touchy; at nine months, she’s absolutely textbook. More troubling to some of her critics, she believes that babies should learn to be independent and self-soothing from the day they come home from the hospital–an opinion that many infant development experts will challenge.
Recommended for middle-of-the-road parents, but do read other books as well for a more rounded perspective.