In this groundbreaking book, Tracy Hogg concentrates her vast knowledge (and huge dose of common sense) into simple, accessible programs that parents can begin as early as the first few weeks of a baby’s life.
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.
Excerpt: Preparing Your Home for a Newborn
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
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, and 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.
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
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 and 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.)
Excerpted from Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg with Melinda Blau.
Excerpted by permission of Ballantine, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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