Read and Reviewed: Secrets of the Baby Whisperer (Tracy Hogg)

Cover of "Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: ...
Cover via Amazon

If you havent read my post on the Babywise book, check it out here.)

I read this book after I saw it recommended frequently on this blog (the same one I mentioned at the end of the Baby Wise post), so  I checked it out from the library. As expected, I found alot of helpful information inside, mixed with alot of things that I wasn’t sure about or didn’t agree with.  And of course, Baby Whisperer is another of those books that alot of people really love or really hate.  Why do baby books always have to be that way? (But that’s for another post)

Anyway.  Baby Whisperer is similar to Baby Wise in the sense that Hogg talks about getting your baby on a flexible routine to help organize his/her eating and sleeping patterns.  She calls her system “E.A.S.Y.” which stands for Eat, Activity, Sleep, You.  However, there are alot of areas where she goes into much more detail than Babywise, which I think is helpful.  She also spends a good deal of time focusing on things such as how parents transition to life with a baby, understanding your baby’s disposition and cues, and troubleshooting common problems.  Hogg has a very nurturing approach to dealing with babies, stating that they are little people whose needs and boundaries should be respected, just like anyone else’s.  Much of the book does focus on establishing a routine and getting helping your baby to sleep well, but her overall theory is that you should learn to understand your baby and his/her cues, which will enable you to respond appropriately.

The Basics:

  • The version of the book that I read was Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate With Your Child, by Tracy Hogg, published by Ballantine Books in 2001. ISBN: 978-0345440754
  • The hardcover version is 304 pages long (I think the paperback is longer).
  • The book is divided into 9 chapters (although she includes an introduction and an epilogue).  The first chapter focuses on initial expectations and transitions into parenthood.  The second chapter explains her E.A.S.Y concept (Eat, Activity, Sleep, You). Chapter 3 focuses on respecting your baby and understanding how he communicates.  Chapters 4-7 elaborate on each step of the E.A.S.Y method. Chapter 8 deals with “special circumstances” like preemies,  multiples, adoption, etc.  And finally, chapter 9 offers a solution to “accidental parenting.”

Pros:

  • She advocates a FLEXIBLE routine, which I agree with, but not clock-watching.  She also helps you figure out how to develop it.
  • Hogg focuses alot on the fact that every baby is different.  She gives 5 general “types” of babies and some basic characteristics of each, and I would think that most babies really do fall into one of those categories or are a combination of two.  She also stresses that different types of babies respond differently to various techniques.  She’ll say something like “if you have a ‘textbook’ baby, he might respond this way. If you have a ‘touchy’ baby, he might respond this way.”  This was particularly helpful to me, because my boys are COMPLETELY different.  Many things that work for one don’t work for the other. Books that say A + B always = C frustrate me because that’s NEVER the case for both boys!  I appreciated that she really allows and accommodates for different temperaments and personalities.
  • She also talks about different temperaments and personalities in parents, which is something that I haven’t seen factored into many other baby books.  She admits that these differences affect how receptive and successful a parent might be in implementing some of the techniques.  It really works well and comes naturally for some, and it is really a struggle for others.
  • Instead of just saying “you should learn how to read your baby,” she offers ALOT of specific examples as to how many babies give signals for hunger, pain, overtiredness or overstimulation, discomfort, etc.   When Barrett was going through all of his issues, learning what his cries and sounds meant saved my (and Nate’s) sanity.
  • When it comes to sleeping, she doesn’t advocate just shutting the door and letting your baby scream, which I appreciate.
  • She often says you should “start as you mean to go on,” which makes alot of sense to me, although I think it’s often misinterpreted.  She is saying that you should strive to parent in a way that won’t make you have to re-parent in the future.  You should not encourage something that you will have to discourage in the future.   Of course, this doesn’t apply to things that are developmental in nature and naturally adjust as the baby gets older.  But you don’t want to teach your baby that something is okay, only to have to teach them later (once they are dependent on it) that it’s not okay.
  • Hogg also warns against “accidental parenting,” which is a trap that alot of parents fall into.  It’s easy to accidentally start teaching your child something without even knowing it.  It’s amazing how much those little guys pick up on EVERYTHING and form habits in no time!   (I have a perfect example of this I’ll have to give sometime… I made a big slip-up at one point and had to start backtracking before things got worse!)
  • Hogg also emphasizes teaching you how to discern what’s going on by asking questions instead of randomly troubleshooting.  I liked this because she helps you to think through everything rather than just acting blindly out of frustration when something doesn’t go as expected (which happens ALOT).
  • For a new mom or dad who needs it, she gives alot of specific, detailed instructions on how to do things like bathing, infant massage, changing diapers, etc.  For a soon-to-be parent who doesn’t know how yet (and might be embarrassed to ask), this might be really helpful.  Although if you already know how, you can just skip it.

Cons:

  • Hogg is VERY English.  Very.  I got sick of being called “luv” and “ducky” every other sentence.  Maybe it was meant to be endearing and genuine, but it felt fake and annoying. She really capitalizes on her role as the “nanny,” and it’s really hard to overlook.
  • She is very convinced that she has all the “secrets” to raising babies…. granted, she does have lots of great tips and helpful information, but authors who make it sound like raising kids is an impossible task without the help of their secret knowledge get on my nerves.
  • She goes a little overboard on all of her talk on respecting your baby.  I agree with her point that your child is a little person (not a pet) and you should treat him/her as such.  But there are alot of things she suggests that I think are a little ridiculous.  Like giving your baby a tour of the house as soon as you get home from the hospital, just as you would do for any other person who was going to permanently move in with you.  Or not using onesies because the way you have to pull it over your child’s head is frustrating to them and disrespectful.  And always telling your baby “okay, I’m about to lift your legs up” when you’re changing a diaper so that they won’t be surprised by it and feel disrespected.  All of that is a little too much for me!
  • She HATES swings, bouncy seats, and anything that vibrates.  I think she goes a little too far with all of that.  Of course it’s not good if your child is so dependent on sleeping in motion that they can’t sleep in their crib, but I don’t think you should go out and burn all of your motion-based baby gear.
  • The biggest problem people have with her book is her advice on breastfeeding.  I am not an expert on the biological intricacies of breastmilk, but alot of people claim that her information is incorrect.  Alot of people say that she is subtly promoting formula OVER breastmilk in this book, but I didn’t necessarily get that from it.  I saw it more as a reassurance that formula is an option if you need it, and although breastmilk is definitely better, you should not feel guilty if it doesn’t work out for you.  She doesn’t really offer much support in the way of breastfeeding, so she might actually talk some mothers out of it, though I don’t think that was her purpose.  But either way, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the scientific information is incorrect, especially after hearing all of the complaints and outcries against this chapter.

Conclusion:

Overall, I liked this book.  I had to get past several things in it (especially the pet names), and there were some suggestions that I read and thought “this woman is crazy.”   But overall, I got alot of good tips from it.  I will also say that when we were in the middle of Barrett’s tummy issues, pain, surgery, etc., this book was really helpful because I felt like I could comfort him better as a result of it.  There were several times when someone would say “where did you learn to do that?” regarding some technique.  I would tell them it was from this book and they would say “that must be a good book, because I never would have thought of that.”  I can’t say I absolutely stand behind 100% of what she writes in it, but it’s worth reading to see if there’s something in it that works for you and your baby.

She also has a second book called The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems (By Teaching You How to Ask the Right Questions). I liked this one as well -she basically goes into more detail on several things and offers more specific techniques and help on various sleep or feeding issues.    I won’t do a full review of that one because its so similar, but I would recommend it.

Once again, you should never just take a book and implement everything in it without question.  If you’re not using common sense and putting everything through a strict filter, you probably shouldn’t read these types of books to begin with (:

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