Brand new parents often find themselves in for a shock when their newborn bundle of joy wakes up and starts crying. In Secrets of the Baby Whisperer [Ballantine Books, 2001], Tracy Hogg promises new parents that with the proper schedule and approach they will be back in control of their lives and their babies in no time. While some parents might find Hogg’s approach more appealing than the thought of responding to a newborn’s cues whenever they happen around the clock, the truth is that newborns have unique needs and aren’t able to respond to a structured routine.
Starting as You Mean to Go on with Your Newborn
Hogg tells parents it is wise to start as you mean to go on, especially when it comes to babies and sleep. This is sound advice for starting a new job or romantic relationship, but when you start caring for a newborn baby, however, an approach that is suitable for a baby at six months of age simply won’t work with a newborn. Newborns are not expected to dress themselves or start off eating vegetables, so why should they be expected to wake, sleep, eat and play according to a parent’s schedule or in an independent manner? Gently teaching an older baby or toddler to fall asleep on his own can be useful and appropriate, but not for babies under 4 months old.
Slow Down and Listen to Your Baby
One suggestion Tracy Hogg does make that is good advice for all parents is to slow down and learn how to read your baby’s cues. By learning to read baby’s physical cues, along with the time of day, environmental circumstances and your own emotions, parents can learn to respond to all of baby’s cues with appropriate action. Not every cry means baby needs to be fed and not every cry can be immediately soothed.
Mixed Messages Makes the Baby Whisperer Confusing
If it seems like these two messages highlighted from Secrets of the Baby Whisperer are contradictory, you’re right. On one page Hogg admonishes parents for letting their babies set the pace and schedule of their homes, saying that this approach will quickly spiral into hopeless chaos that will damage both baby and parents, and on the other she says that you should learn to distinguish between a hungry cry and a overstimulated cry in order to respond correctly to your baby’s needs.
Tracy Hogg is correct when she says that routine is beneficial for most households, but most babies will naturally grow into a routine of regular eating and sleeping times as they enter their third and fourth month of life. Newborns, on the other hand, wake, eat, sleep and eliminate around the clock. Expecting that you can change that by adhering to a routine is unrealistic at best and at worst potentially harmful to a baby if their cries for food and comfort are ignored.
If you want basic baby care information such as directions for giving a baby a bath or baby massage, or you feel you need a stern English nanny to call you “luv” and tell you to get out of your pajamas because it’s four in the afternoon, then you might enjoy Secrets of the Baby Whisperer. If you’re looking for information on caring for a newborn that is based on science, physiology and the actual needs and abilities of newborns, you’d be better off with Dr. Sears’ The Baby Book [Little, Brown and Company, 1992].
Originally published on Suite101.com on April 28, 2009
Disclaimer: I borrowed a copy of Secrets of the Baby Whisperer from my public library to review.