Parenting | Resources | The Baby Book
Secrets of the Baby Whisperer
One of the books someone recommend for me to read before my baby was born was Secrets of the Baby Whisperer (Secrets) by Tracy Hogg with Melinda Blau. I really enjoyed reading this book as it went along with my parenting philosophy to truly listen to my baby. The following are items discussed in the book.
"What Makes a Good Parent?"
It is impossible to define what it is to be a "good" parent. Although, Hogg lists a few things which I feel will help you bond with your baby:
Are respectful of your baby
Know your baby as a unique individual
Talk with, not at, your baby
Listen and, when asked, meet your baby’s needs
Let your baby know what’s coming next by providing a daily dose of dependability, structure, and predictability (11)
There are some really good tips in the book such as giving your baby a tour of the house when you bring her home from the hospital (19). I think one of the things Hogg strives to convey in the book is to remember to talk to your baby and explain things day in and day out. The baby may not be able to communicate with you in the way you communicate but the baby still understands (at least probably more than you realize.)
When I go to new places with my son (he’s 13 months when I’m writing this) I still give him a tour. I’ll say this is MomMom’s house and we are going to stay here for the weekend. This is the room you are going to be sleeping in, ect. and I truly think this helps him adjust to new surroundings.
Baby Type (Angel, Textbook, Touchy, Spirited, Grumpy)
Hogg also breaks down babies into five different types:
- Angel - "mellow, eternally smiling and consistently undemanding", with "easy cues" to read (29)
- Textbook - "predictable", "fairly easy to handle", "does everything on cue" (30)
- Touchy - "ultrasensitive", "endless array of sensory challenges", generally like structure (30-31)
- Spirited - knows what she wants, can be vocal and aggressive at times (31)
- Grumpy - not happy with the world, grows impatient (31)
Not all babies may be one type exactly but it is important to identify the personality of your baby and remember that all babies are different and that is why something that works for one person may not work for you since your baby may have a different personality type than the other baby. Accept your baby for the person she is.
In addition, I would expect that most babies will be all of the different types at some point in their development.
I kept telling my son while he was still in my belly that he was going to be the “Angel” baby and he was for the most part. My son was actually probably in the middle of Angel and Textbook baby; he would entertain himself in the crib most mornings like the Angel baby but at times he did have some cranky periods and needed an extra cuddle to get to sleep unlike the Angel baby that generally puts herself to sleep.
My son was fairly predictable and easy to handle like the Textbook baby.
Later when my son had feeding issues related to acid reflux, he was like the Touchy baby when it came time to feed him and we had to go to a quiet place with no distractions.
In addition, my son at times can act like the Spirited baby, I joked that when he turned one he started going through the terrible twos (just kidding) he was still a very good baby but if he didn’t get to hold the toy he wanted or have something Mommy or Daddy had you definitely knew he was very upset.
The only type I don’t think my son really has experienced was the Grumpy baby. The only day he came remotely close was when he was exhausted from a long weekend playing with his cousins and came down with a horrible cold and was running a fever. You could tell he was miserable that day and understandably so. The only other instance my son could have these characteristics would be surrounding breastfeeding or bottle feeding; when he did want to eat he wanted to eat immediately and didn't want to wait to get his diaper changed first or wait patiently for the breasts to “let down” the milk.
I would think it is normal for all babies to go through the different types at some point in their development although I also think it is probably easy to tell the dominant type. Remember that there is not one best type; this relates to one of my favorite sayings, “that is why ice cream comes in so many flavors.” Hogg has a “The Know-Your-Baby Quiz” in the book to try to identify your dominant baby type so you can better respond to your baby’s needs.
“E.A.S.Y. (Eat, Activity, Sleep, You)”
Probably one of the biggest things I took away from Secrets was the E.A.S.Y. (Eat, Activity, Sleep, You) schedule as I discussed in the "Schedule Versus Demand" article. The principal behind the eating and then activity and then sleeping is so the baby doesn't associate sleep with eating.
Realistically, this may not always work. In a way it did work very well for us until later when we encountered problems with the “Eat” stage in which we had to put my son to sleep in order to let him to eat (refer to the “Feeding Tricks” article) rather than the more common problem which is to let them fall asleep with a bottle or while breastfeeding.
In general the E.A.S.Y schedule is somewhere in the middle between “On Demand” and the “Schedule” methods which is why it appealed to me as I’m generally a middle ground type person.
An example of the E.A.S.Y. schedule as documented in the book would be:
Eating: 25 to 40 minutes on breast or bottle; a normal baby...can go 2 ½ to 3 hours to the next feed
Activity: 45 minutes (includes diapering, dressing, and, once a day, a nice bath)
Sleep: 15 minutes to fall asleep; naps of half an hour to an hour; will go for progressively longer periods through the night after the first two or three weeks
You: An hour or more for you when the baby is asleep; this time is extended as baby gets older, takes less time to eat, plays independently, and takes longer naps (42)
Some of the reasons Hogg writes about why E.A.S.Y. works are as follows:
- "Babies don’t like surprises… [they] need and prefer routine" (44).
- "E.A.S.Y. gets your baby used to the natural order of things – food, activity, and rest" (44).
- "E.A.S.Y. helps parents interpret their baby" (45).
- Provides "[s]tructure and organization [which] give everyone in family a sense of security" (45).
Learn Baby’s Needs by Documenting
Another key takeaway from the book was to take the time to document your baby’s schedule. I think it is very important to document for several reasons: it helps establish the baby’s routine, when does the baby tend to sleep, eat, and go to the bathroom. This will enable you to determine what is “normal” for your baby and thus if something changes you can analyze to find out what changed and or if something is wrong with your baby. Is the baby sick, teething, upset?
You may think you’ll remember, I know I thought I would remember everything. I thought I would remember exactly how much my son had to drink for the day but then at the end of the day I wasn't quite sure. Going back to my notes was very helpful especially when my son stopped eating. I started to doubt did he really eat 6 ounces every two hours because now he wouldn’t eat more than three ounces at a time. Looking back at my notes, I could confirm, yes he was eating six to eight ounces; so something changed.
Please refer to this template to document a schedule for a baby 0-6 months and this template for a baby 6+ months. Also, please refer to the “Schedule Versus Demand” for more information on starting a schedule.
“S.L.O.W.Down (and Appreciate Your Baby’s Language)”
also promotes to learn “the value of evaluating before rushing in” as described in her acronym "S.L.O.W. Down (and Appreciate Your Baby’s Language)" (66).
- Stop. - "Take three deep breaths to center yourself and improve your own perception" (67).
- Listen - To your baby’s cries (67).
- Observe - What is your baby's "body language telling you?" (67)
- What’s Up? - Analyze the baby’s routine and determine what should be next (67).
The book provides additional information on how to translate they baby’s body language such as if the baby moves head from side to side it may be tired. Refer to below for a brief example of what’s in the book on page 86.
||Other Ways to Evaluate/ Comments
“Tired or overtired”
“Starts as cranky…escalates to overtired cry: first, three short wails followed by a hard cry…”
“Of all cries, the most often misinterpreted for hunger.”
“The E – Whose Mouth Is It Anyway?”
goes into more detail of each letter of the E.A.S.Y. plan. Hogg describes different eating tips related to breastfeeding or bottle feeding and/or combination of both. She discusses pros and cons of breastfeeding compared to bottle feeding and the use of a pacifier.
I liked the fact that like me she promoted what is best for your family and didn’t say there is ONLY one correct way. She gave some tips on what to do if you want to try to do breast and bottle feeding such as trying a Haberman bottle for the first month to assist with feedings; “with all but the Haberman, the formula just falls into the bottle, and gravity, not Baby, determines the flow...” (120). Hogg also briefly discussed introducing baby foods and weaning from the breast. Please refer to the "To or Not To" article, the "About" breastfeeding article, or the "Bottle" article for more information.
“The A – Wake Up and Smell the Nappy”
The book describes the activity stage and how to draw a "circle of respect" for the child (135). Hogg reminds us to explain what is going on to the baby such as at diaper changing time. She also urges to not overwhelm the baby with too many playthings and too much stimulation (143).
Hogg suggests “that parents always stay within their baby’s ‘learning triangle’ – that is, present physical and mental tasks the baby can manipulate and get pleasure from on his own.” For example, “[n]o rattle is appropriate for an infant, because he can’t grab yet” (147).
She describes things to childproof and what areas to leave open for the baby to explore and tips for helping the baby wind down before sleep such as a nightly bath routine. Lastly Hogg provides tips to help the baby feel more relaxed.
“The S – To Sleep, Perchance to Cry”
It is common sense that sleep is a good thing for all humans. “When an infant sleeps, his brain is busy manufacturing new brain cells, which are needed for mental, physical, and emotional development” (168). In this section Hogg describes stages of sleep, different sleep types depending on the type of baby (angel, textbook, touchy, spirited, grumpy), sleepytime signs, and how to help the baby sleep through the night.
The cry it out approach as described by Dr. Ferber is examined and “sensible sleep” is promoted which is a middle ground approach to help the baby learn to sleep on her own but not let the baby cry it out. Refer to the "Nighttime Parenting" article, for more information on things like the cry it out approach and whether it is right for you.
“The Y – It’s Your Turn”
In the "Y - It's Your Turn" section, Hogg reminds you to remember to give yourself a break and remember that “all new mothers need to take time to heal” (197). She also discusses baby blues or real depression as this is something very important to pay attention to and to not be embarrassed if you have postpartum depression.
Hogg discusses the importance of remembering your spouse and keeping that relationship strong and concludes with information if you decide to go back to work after having a baby. If you want to read about outside child care options, please refer to the "Child Care" article.
Special Events and ABC’s of Changing Bad Habits
In the last section Hogg describes “Special Circumstances and Unforeseen Events” related to items such as adoption, surrogacy in addition to going into how to change bad habits that develop.
Read Entire Book or Rent Video
I would highly recommend this book as I thought it was an enjoyable and informative book to read especially before you have your baby. I think some of her ideas were definitely instilled on me and in order to get her full message you’ll need to read the entire book. Hogg also wrote a book called Secrets of the Baby Whisperer for Toddlers which I should probably look into getting as I think you can always learn something from others.
Another option would be to rent an abbreviated video that goes over some of the key topics of the book. I rented the video and watched it with my husband since he didn’t have time to read any parenting books (since he was studying for his Professional Engineering exam before our son was born). The video we saw seemed to be “outdated” in terms of hair styles and clothes that people were wearing but I would think the principles taught in the video are still applicable.
Lastly, if you wanted to read more about the Baby Whisperer you could visit the web site at www.babywhisperer.com.
Hogg, Tracy and Melinda Blau. Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and
Communicate with Your Baby. New York: Ballantine, 2001.
Last updated: March 2010