Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby

3.8 88
by Tracy Hogg

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It's an insidious myth that all new parents must give up not only their sleep but their entire lives for the first year of a baby's life. Codswallop, says British-born Tracy Hogg. Having worked with more than five thousand babies over the past twenty years, and dubbed "The Baby Whisperer" by her grateful clientele, Tracy has the unique ability to understand a baby's…  See more details below


It's an insidious myth that all new parents must give up not only their sleep but their entire lives for the first year of a baby's life. Codswallop, says British-born Tracy Hogg. Having worked with more than five thousand babies over the past twenty years, and dubbed "The Baby Whisperer" by her grateful clientele, Tracy has the unique ability to understand a baby's every coo and cry. She can tell instantly whether a baby is hungry, tired, in real distress, or just in need of a little TLC. But her most amazing gift is her ability to teach parents how they too can "whisper" to their babies.

In this groundbreaking book, Tracy concentrates her vast knowledge (and huge doses of uncommon sense) into simple, accessible programs that parents can begin as early as the first weeks of a baby's life. With these programs you will learn

¸ E.A.S.Y.--how to get baby to eat, play, and sleep on a schedule that will make every member of the household's life easier and happier.

¸ S.L.O.W.--how to interpret what your baby is trying to tell you (so you don't try to feed him when he really wants a nap).

¸ How to identify which type of baby yours is--Angel, Textbook, Touchy, Spirited, or Grumpy--and then learn the best way to interact with that type.

¸ Tracy's Three Day Magic--how to change any and all bad habits (yours and the baby's) in just three days.

But perhaps the most important part of Tracy's philosophy is contained in one word: respect. Tracy advises treating your baby as you would any human being--think twice before shaking loud toys in a baby's face, lifting a baby's legs over her head with no advance warning, or even letting a baby cry it out. At the heart of Tracy'ssimple but profound message: treat the baby as you would like to be treated yourself.

Reassuring, down-to-earth, and often flying in the face of conventional wisdom, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer promises parents not only a healthier, happier baby but a more relaxed and happy household as well.

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Editorial Reviews Review
The Barnes & Noble Review
Focusing on the need to incorporate a new baby into the family's routine, and emphasizing that parents should treat babies like people rather than little gurgling things, "Baby Whisperer" Tracy Hogg provides a wonderful primer for parents interested in fully understanding their babies' unspoken needs. Because, as Hogg explains, although all your baby's cries might sound the same at first, with a little practice an observant parent will be able distinguish between a cry of hunger, a tired cry, a bored cry, or...well, you parents know how many different cries there are!

Drawing upon her 20 years as a nurse and midwife, Hogg outlines some simple programs that parents can follow to ensure they're meeting their baby's needs but not making mistakes that could result in a difficult and overly demanding child. The E.A.S.Y. program -- which breaks the baby's day into Eating, Activity, Sleeping, and You -- will provide a structured routine that is beneficial for both baby and parents. And by adhering to the S.L.O.W. program -- Stop, Listen, Observe, What's Up? -- babyspeak will quickly become decipherable.

The guiding principle for all the recommendations in Secrets of the Baby Whisperer is respect . In her warm, reassuring, and unmistakably British tone, Hogg encourages readers to get to know their baby as an independent person and to respect his or her needs. But she stresses that this doesn't mean the baby's needs should disrupt the family's rhythm. Following the wisdom of the Baby Whisperer will help establish communication between baby and parent and foster a structure that works for everyone, resulting in happier babies and less frenzied parents who are better able to appreciate their new bundle of joy. (Karen Burns)

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Random House Publishing Group
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Chapter One: Loving the Baby You Gave Birth To

I just can't get over how much babies cry. I really had no idea what I was getting into. To tell you the truth, I thought it would be more like getting a cat.
--Anne Lamott in Operating Instructions

Oh My God, We Have a Baby!

No event in an adult's life equals both the joy and the terror of becoming a parent for the first time. Fortunately, it's the joy that carries on. But in the beginning, insecurity and fear often take over. Alan, for example, a thirty-three-year-old graphic designer, vividly remembers the day he picked up his wife, Susan, from the hospital. Coincidentally, it was their fourth anniversary. Susan, a writer, age twenty-seven, had had a fairly easy labor and birth, and their beautiful blue-eyed baby, Aaron, nursed easily and rarely cried. By day two, Mum and Dad were eager to leave the hubbub of the hospital to start life as a family.

"I whistled as I walked down the hall toward her room," Alan recalls. "Everything seemed perfect. Aaron had nursed right before I got there, and now he was sleeping in Susan's arms. It was just as I imagined it would be. We went down in the elevator, and the nurse let me wheel Susan out into the sunlight. When I ran for the car door, I realized I'd forgotten to set up the infant seat. I swear it took me half an hour to get it in right. Finally, I gently slid Aaron in. He was such an angel. I helped Susan into the car, thanked the nurse for her patience, and then climbed into the driver's seat.

"Suddenly, Aaron started making little noises from the backseat--not really crying, but sounds I didn't recall hearing in the hospital or maybe hadn't noticed. Susan looked at me, and I looked at her. 'Oh, Jesus!' I exclaimed. 'What do we do now?'"

Every parent I know has a what-now moment like Alan's. For some it comes in the hospital; for others it arrives on the trip home, or even on the second or third day. There's so much going on--the physical recovery, the emotional impact, the reality of caring for a helpless infant. Few are prepared for the shock. Some new mothers admit, "I read all the books, but nothing prepared me." Others recall, "There was so much to think about. I cried a lot."

The first three to five days are often the most difficult because everything is new and daunting. Typically, I'm bombarded by queries from anxious parents: "How long should a feeding take?" "Why does she pull her legs up like that?" "Is this the right way to change him?" "Why is her poop that color?" And, of course, the most persistent question of all time: "Why is he crying?" Parents, particularly mums, often feel guilty because they think they're supposed to know everything. The mother of a one-month-old said to me, "I was so afraid I'd do something wrong, but at the same time, I didn't want anyone to help me or tell me what to do."

The first thing I tell parents--and keep telling them--is to slooooooow down. It takes time to get to know your baby. It takes patience and a calm environment. It takes strength and stamina. It takes respect and kindness. It takes responsibility and discipline. It takes attention and keen observation. It takes time and practice--a lot of doing it wrong before you get it right. And it takes listening to your own intuition.

Notice how often I repeat "it takes." In the beginning, there's a lot of "take" and very little "give" on your baby's part. The rewards and joys of parenting will be endless, I promise. But they won't happen in a day, darlings; rather, you'll see them over months and years. What's more, everyone's experience is different. As a mother in one of my groups, looking back on her first few days home, observed, "I didn't know if I was doing things right--and, besides, everyone defines 'right' differently."

Also, every baby is different, which is why I tell my mums that their first job is to understand the baby they have, not the one they dreamed about during the past nine months. In this chapter, I'll help you figure out what you can expect from your baby. But first, a quick primer on your first few days at home.

Coming Home

Because I see myself as an advocate for the whole family, not just the new baby, part of my job is to help parents gain perspective. I tell mums and dads right from the start: This won't last forever. You will calm down. You will become more confident. You will be the best parent you can be. And at some point, believe it or not, your baby will sleep through the night. For now, though, you must lower your expectations. You'll have good days and not-so-good days; be prepared for both. Don't strive for perfection.

Homecoming Checklist

One of the reasons my babies do well is that everything is ready for them a month before the due date. The more prepared you are and the quieter it is in the beginning, the more time you'll have to observe your baby and to get to know him as the individual he is.

  • Put sheets on the crib or bassinet.
  • Set up the changing table. Have everything you need--wipes, diapers, cotton swabs, alcohol--in easy reach.
  • Have baby's first wardrobe ready. Take everything out of the packages, remove any tags, and wash in a mild detergent that has no bleach.
  • Stock your refrigerator and freezer. A week or two before you're due, make a lasagna, a shepherd's pie, soups, and other dishes that freeze well. Make sure you have all the staples on hand--milk, butter, eggs, cereal, pet food. You'll eat better and cheaper and avoid frantic trips to the store.
  • Don't take too much to the hospital. Remember, you'll have several extra bags--and the baby--to bring home.
TIP: The more organized you are before you come home, the happier everyone will be afterward. And if you loosen the tops of bottles and tubes, open boxes, and take all new items out of their packages, you won't have to fiddle with such things with your new baby in hand! (See "Homecoming Checklist" at left.)

I usually need to remind mothers, "It's your first day home--the first you're away from the security of the hospital, where you get help, answers, and relief at the push of a button. Now you're on your own." Of course, a mother is often happy to leave the hospital. The nurses may have been brusque or given her conflicting advice. And the frequent interruptions from hospital personnel and visitors probably made it impossible for her to rest. In any case, by the time most mums come home, they are usually either scared, confused, exhausted, or in pain--or maybe all of the above.

Therefore I advise a slow reentry. When you walk through the door, take a deep, centering breath. Keep it simple. (You'll be hearing that a lot from me.) Think of this as the beginning of a new adventure, and you and your partner as explorers. And by all means, be realistic: The postpartum period is difficult--a rocky terrain. All but a rare few stumble along the way. (More about Mum recuperating during the postpartum period in Chapter 7.)

Believe me, I know that the moment you get home, you'll probably feel overwhelmed. But if you follow my simple homecoming ritual, you're less likely to feel frantic. (Remember, though, this is just a quick orientation. Later on, as indicated, I go into greater detail.)

Start the dialogue by giving your baby a tour of the house. That's right, luv, a tour, as if you're the curator of a museum and she's a distinguished visitor. Remember what I told you about respect: You need to treat your little darling like a human being, as someone who can understand and feel. Granted, she speaks a language you may not yet understand, but it's nevertheless important to call her by name and to make every interaction a dialogue, not a lecture.

So walk around with her in your arms and show her where she's going to live. Talk with her. In a soft, gentle voice, explain each room: "Here's the kitchen. It's where Dad and I cook. This is the bathroom, where we take showers." And so on. You might feel silly. Many new parents are shy when they first start to have a dialogue with their baby. That's okay. Practice, and you'll be amazed at how easy it becomes. Just try to remember that this is a little human being in your arms, a person whose senses are alive, a tiny being who already knows your voice and even what you smell like. While you're walking around, have Dad or Grandma make chamomile tea or another calming beverage. Tea, naturally, is my favorite. Where I come from, the moment a mum gets home, Nelly from next door nips over and puts on a kettle. It's a very English, very civilized tradition, which I've introduced to all my families here. After a nice cuppa, as we call it, you'll want to really explore this glorious creature you've given birth to.

Limit Visitors

Convince all but a few very close relatives and friends to stay away for the first few days. If parents are in from out of town, the greatest thing they can do for you is cook, clean, and run errands. Let them know in a kind way that you'll ask for their help with the baby if you need it, but that you'd like to use this time to get to know your little one on your own.

Give your baby a sponge bath and a feed. (Information and advice about feeding is in Chapter 4, sponge bathing on pages 156-157.) Keep in mind that you're not the only one in shock. Your baby has had quite a journey himself. Imagine, if you will, a tiny human being coming into the bright light of a delivery room. Suddenly, with great speed and force, that little body is rubbed, poked, and pricked by strangers whose voices are unfamiliar. After a few days in a nursery, surrounded by other tiny beings, he then has to travel from the hospital to home. If you adopted him, the trip was probably even longer.

TIP: Hospital nurseries are kept quite warm, almost womblike, so make sure the temperature in the baby's new "woom" is around 72 degrees.

This is a perfect opportunity for you to pore over your miracle of nature. It may be the first time you see your baby naked. Get acquainted with his bits and pieces. Explore each tiny finger and toe. Keep talking with him. Bond with him. Nurse him or give him a bottle. Watch him as he gets sleepy. Start him off right, and allow him to fall asleep in his own crib or bassinet. (I have lots of sleeping tips in Chapter 6.)

"But her eyes are open," protested Gail, a hairdresser whose two-day-old daughter seemed to be staring contentedly at a photo of a baby propped up on the crib bumpers. I had suggested that Gail leave the room and get some rest herself, but Gail said, "She's not asleep yet." I've heard the same protest from many new mums. But I'm going to tell you straightaway that your baby doesn't have to be asleep for you to put her down and walk away from the crib. "Look," I said to her, "Lily's hanging out with her boyfriend. Now you go lie down."

Take Small Bites

You've got a lot on your plate; don't heap on any additional pressures. Rather than being angry at yourself because you haven't gotten the announcements addressed or sent thank-you notes, give yourself a manageable daily goal--say, five instead of forty a day. Prioritize your tasks by creating piles marked "urgent," "do later," and "can wait till I feel better." If you're calm and honest when you assess each chore, you'll be surprised at how much goes in that last pile.

Take a nap. Don't unpack the bags, don't make phone calls, and don't look around the house and think of all the things you've got to get done. You're exhausted. When the baby sleeps, luv, take advantage of it. In fact, you've got one of the great miracles of nature on your side. Babies take a few days to recuperate from the shock of birth. It's not unusual for a one- or two-day-old newborn to sleep for six hours at a stretch, which gives you a little time to recuperate from your own trauma. Beware, though: If your baby seems good as gold, this may be the calm before the storm! He may have absorbed drugs from your system or at the very least is probably tired from squeezing his way through the birth canal, even if you had natural childbirth. He's not quite himself yet, but, as you will read in the pages that follow, his real temperament will soon emerge....

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Secrets of the Baby Whisperer 3.8 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 88 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There is a lot to like about this book (even though constantly being called 'luv' did get old by about page 3)... in many parts there *is* very good advice. Tracy Hogg claims a middle-of-the-road approach to parenting a newborn and I agree with many of her ideas. She does not advocate letting babies cry and communicates overall the belief that parents should respect their babies as the tiny people they are. Overall, there is a lot of comforting stuff in here.

But I have issues with some of her specific advice. First, I find that she's judgmental about attachment parenting in general. I'm no die-hard attachment parent, but I'm no rigid-scheduler either and I totally disagree with her belief that demand feeding, cosleeping and the like teaches a baby bad habits or does not effectively meet their needs. She presumes that if AP doesn't work for some, then it will not work for all and is therefore not even worth trying because you'll end up with a baby with bad habits to break down the road. My experiences with flexibility vs. scheduled routine have been quite different. Gentle transitions from three completely attached newborns to independent individuals without parent-imposed schedules (it's been much more symbiotic than the method Hogg proposes) have worked quite well in our household. While my style may not be right for everyone, it certainly *can* work, something that Hogg fails to recognize. (She believes the 'family bed gives parents short-shrift' without acknowledging that it actually *works* for many.)

Then there is the breastfeeding advice. I am disappointed to see someone who calls herself a lactation consultant try to make such a strong case for formula feeding over breastfeeding. As a mom who has both bottlefed and breastfed (and is still breastfeeding), I agree with Hogg that guilt or judgment has NO place in this decision, but I also feel that she has done a great disservice to moms and babies by understating some very important advantages and benefits of breastfeeding. She explains that 'one can make a good case for either formula-feeding or breastfeeding.' Unfortunately, she never does get around to making the case for breastfeeding.

In this same section, entitled 'Making the Choice,' Hogg has a sidebar on Feeding Fashions. In this small box, where I presume she's trying to show that while breastfeeding is currently 'all the rage,' the tide may turn out of its favor in later years as has happened in the past. (It's not clear here whether she's saying therefore don't choose breastfeeding just because it's a modern day 'fad' or that if you decide to formula feed against popular opinion, know that 25 years from now it will probably be 'the thing to do' just like it was 25 years ago? I don't get it.) She also says here, 'As this book is being written, scientists are experimenting with the notion of genetically altering cows to produce human breast milk [yuk]. If that happens, perhaps in the future everyone will tout cow's milk. In fact, a 1999 article in the Journal of Nutrition suggests 'that it may ultimately be possible to design formulas better able to meet the needs of individual infants than the milk available from the mother's breast.''

Okay, that is fascinating information, but how should it impact any mother's decision *today*? Feed your baby formula now because in the future it might actually be the best choice!? (A statement in itself which is worthy of an opposing dissertation - there are more advantages to breastfeeding than the mere composition of the fluid.)

Later, in the breastfeeding section, she specifically discourages demand feeding - advice which is direct opposition to breastfeeding recommendations endorsed by the majority of professional lactation consultants and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Hogg has a schedule all charted out for new parents, beginning with day one, which becomes increasing less flexible over a three day period, until you're stuck on that

Guest More than 1 year ago
How can a woman who claims to be a lactation consultant be so AGAINST breastfeeding. She comes across as arrogant and judgemental towards those of us who choose to breastfeed rather than formula feed. As a physician, I would highly discourage readers in following this author's advice which is mainly geared for 'hollywood' celebrities...not the general public. As a mother, I think her literary advice is 'hoggwash'.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Once you get over the rather patronizing tone of the writing (being called 'ducky' and 'luv' every other page is a little tiresome), there are some gems of insight here, however, I found the EASY method to be completely off.

According to this, your child should Eat, have some Activity, then Sleep, (then it's time for You). However, according to this schedule, your baby's cycle is to sleep, then eat, meaning that the baby is always going to wake up hungry, and you're likely to miss the telltale signs of hunger before the baby cries unless you're standing over the crib watching the baby sleep all the time.

Also, you're putting the baby to sleep on a less-than-full stomach, which doesn't make a lot of sense, considering this is your baby's natural biorhythym, particulary if you're breastfeeding, since the baby will have just received a sleep-inducing dose of oxytocin.

She uses the western cultural model to support this cycle, where adults do not have a rest period after eating, however, in most parts of the world, including southern europe, it is still common to have a nap or significant rest period after lunch, the largest meal of the day.

Also, if you will be sending your child to preschool, keep in mind that most centers follow a model of having naptime right after lunch, so you may be setting your infant up for a pattern of eating and sleeping that will be in conflict with a childcare/preschool setting.

In general, I think this book has a lot to offer, but I would advise parents to investigate other philosophies/methods before adopting all of the advise offered here.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a new and young father, I am very curious about who my baby is and what I am supposed to do to help her. This book was a wonderful read. I appreciate that the author's programs are rooted in fertile reasoning. While this book (along with most parenting books) was written to a maternal audience, as a father, I found the content very informative and effective. I plan on reading the author's other books as a result.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book for new Moms. I do recommend you read it before your baby comes. I also think that a hard copy would be better than the nook version. I have the nook version and it seems to be missing part of the graphs. The advice is great though. It made me feel alot better about the job I am doing.
NewMom2010 More than 1 year ago
I found that this book had some relavent pieces of parenting advice (such as creating a log to track your baby's various activities) but overall the advice felt somewhat rigid. I tried to maintain an open and objective outlook throughout my reading of the book but kept getting the sense that the author was promoting too much of a structured routine for my taste and sometimes came across as a bit overbearing. For me, the book "Happiest Baby on the Block" by Harvey Karp was much more relavent.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A fantastic book, a must for all mothers. Great advice on sleep, lactation, crying etc. Authors are not anti-breast feeding at all. No where in the book is that implied. They do empasize that bottle feeding moms should not be ashamed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bought the book when my dear son was 7.5 months old and still woke up 3-4 times a night. After applying her bizarre sounding 'pick up/put down' technique for about 2 weeks--baby has slept through the night ever since! he just turned 9 months. Yay! She's a little condescending at times, particularly toward American mothers, but it worked!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed reading this book, so many insights and helpful to relate to our bundle of joy. Respect and listening then responding are key points. Have had no luck finding the cassettes or CD recommended, A Child's Gift of Lullabies. Are they available in the northwest.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Good book with lots of good information. I recommend the book to new moms. But if you're looking for help solving sleep problems, I suggest 'Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
OK, OK, there, I said it. I hated nursing. My son was miserable and starving all of the time and would only fall asleep while nursing. So he was tired all of the time too. And so was I. Tracy Hogg's book was the only one out there which didn't make me feel like a horrible parent for switching him to formula at 3 weeks old. The last thing a new mother needs is more guilt. Reading Dr Sears' book, which told me I should breastfeed my son until he goes to college, have him sleep in my bed until he asks for his own (uh, hello, I know of NO child who 'asks' for his own bed) and carrying my 25 lb son around in a sling until he is old enough to walk did nothing but make me feel like the decisions I had made were wrong. I bottle fed my son and he sleeps in his own crib. I have a very happy little boy and I am loving being a mom. And it was Tracy Hogg's book that helped along the way. This is a must read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
As Americans, we will buy anything that promises a good night's sleep - especially for a new mom and dad. Don't read to much into the advice of the book or you will consider everything else you've read not worth a cent. I too agree, the breast feeding info is not up to snuff. Many working moms breast feed - pumping and freezing ahead of time is the key.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is bascially a no-go book for my family of 6 children including new twins. It's simply goofy as my kids would say - to believe that seasoned parents would take this book seriously. The breastfeeding advice is off the wall in telling us not to switch breast and other such nonsense. My size and quanity of breast and milk just about put me in the hospital for clogged milk ducts by not switching often enough. The book has to be read by a watchful eye in regards to a new parent and mom. The critics who have such wonderful reviews are full of cow patties and should be ashamed of the publicity it has received. 'Your Baby and Child' gives much better workable solutions for baby and mother.
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One of the best baby books I've read! Helped me better understand my baby.
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I have read this book a few times and have used Tracy's methods with all four of my children. My oldest is 6 and my youngest is 4 months old. Her method of eating, playing, and sleeping is fantastic. My oldest has always done this and continued in pre-school and kindergarten with the same method that both a private and public school use in my area. I did not read this book for lactation advice or to decide between nursing and bottle feeding. I used an actual lactation consultant or on-line advice from the la leche league especially since this book was published in 2002- much has changed from then even. I took this book as a guideline to help my children get on a schedule, sleep through the night and allow for me time. The silent night feeding she suggests is great- it has allowed me to get 4 hours of solid sleep which has been super valuable to me. I think the key is that this is a guideline and she has experience which has worked for many families. Every child is different and being flexible is also key, but I have learned that following her tips has been great for all my children.
LucyBH More than 1 year ago
Very sound and wise advise for some of very complicated issues. My issue was sleeping and it gave step by step instructions of how to get child accustomed to his room and his bed.
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