Why I am mad at Tracy Hogg

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer

When I was pregnant, I really enjoyed reading The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg. (You can read my earlier review here.) I thought she sounded like a very reasonable person. Now, I am mad at her (even though she’s dead).

Not to talk about baby sleep again, but it does consume a lot of my coherent thinking ability these days. The other day, it dawned on me that most of my stress about Lucy’s sleeping comes from Hogg’s writings. She entreats parents to “start as you mean to go on” — sound advice, except when you are talking about newborns. She has so many stories of parents who found themselves entrenched in unhelpful patterns of “accidental parenting,” and I didn’t want to find myself echoing their mistakes.

Her recommendation for newborns is to “shush-pat” them to sleep. This method actually works sometimes if Lucy is already asleep but then wakes up when I put her in her crib. But I just have no idea how it is possible for me to put my baby in a crib in a “sleepy but awake” state and expect her to not start screaming.

Other books seem to recognize that infants younger than three or four months old need lots of help falling asleep. I was comforted by this sound piece of advice from Heading Home with Your Newborn, by Laura A. Jana and Jennifer Shu:

In case you hadn’t noticed, let us point out that most of the “don’t rely on sleep aids to get your baby to sleep” advice is usually meant for babies as they approach 4 months of age. Instead, we suggest you avoid wasting your time worrying about whether you are doing yourself and your newborn a great disservice by occasionally allowing her to fall asleep cradled in your arms, snuggled up on your chest, or in the back of your car secured in her car seat instead of her crib and just do it (“it” being whatever you need to do, within reason, to get you both some rest) (99-100).

It is nice to have a book say what I am thinking already. :)

To be fair, lots of Baby Whisperer tips seem very useful and practical for the future. Even her idea of being on a “flexible routine” seems to be working for us, although Lucy’s napping patterns might not pass Hogg’s test. I’ve always liked her philosophy of looking at things from the baby’s point of view, talking to the baby as if she is a real human, letting her know when you are going to pick her up, etc.

I don’t like to feel like I’m not doing it quite right. So, I’m just a little mad at Tracy Hogg today. I’m sorry she died young, but I’m still mad at her right now.

7 thoughts on “Why I am mad at Tracy Hogg”

  1. Interesting, Ann. I must admit that I didn’t worry about Maddy’s sleep until I started reading your posts and all of the comments people leave. I have read a TON, not to mention the EC classes in college, but I took my mother’s advice: read your child, trust your instincts and ENJOY your baby. I also liked what Brian told me, “the people who write these books are writing from a distence and in hind sight”…that makes their point of view a little less valid to me. Maddy has always had somewhat of a schedule because we have a schedule and we have kept our life trucking as I didn’t have maternity leave and Salvation Army never slows. Maddy now is 4.5 months old, sleeping 12 hours at night and usually around 4 hours of naps during day time. She is a very happy baby. But all babies are different. She is social and wants to know what is going on and to be in the middle of it all.
    When you started posting about sleep a few weeks ago I thought, “hum, I must be missing something if everyone else is worried about this” and I got out the books again and started to feel like a bad parent for not sticking to more of a 2 hour cycle. But I did glean insight about picking up sleep cues better. I have since relaxed back into instincts. I know Maddy needs a 7pm bed time and that she get a nap in the morning and one in the afternoon. I let her signal that the time for nap has come and I don’t watch the clock constantly…I watch her. I make sure I am home for her bed time and one of the naps, other wise I try to keep us in the regular pace of doing what we do. This has helped me not go nuts, plus I found that when we are home all day, Maddy gets bored and cranky. She loves to be out on walks, to be held by others (not mom and dad) and hear new voices and sounds.
    So I guess you really just have to read with an open mind, realize that you are you and Lucy is Lucy. Live your life in a way that is God honoring, He has trusted you with quite a precious gift and expects you to love her, guard her and give her back to him daily.

    Thanks for all of your insights and for allowing all of us to participate and share with each other. I have found that I am blessed by all of the wisdom that mom’s have and especially all of these Christian moms.

  2. The whole point of putting the baby down awake in the crib is so that the baby can learn to put him/herself to sleep. Later in life, when you want them to sleep through the night, this skill is very important as everyone (even adults) wakes up throughout the night – we just don’t remember it because we go right back to sleep. That said, it doesn’t take your baby putting herself to sleep every time she takes a nap to learn this skill. In fact, I would say with Benjamin when he was younger, he only put himself to sleep for maybe 1 or 2 of his sleep cycles during a 24 hour period (the rest of the time he either fell asleep nursing or had to be bounced to sleep). As he got older, this improved and now he sleeps great. So don’t feel bad if you have to help Lucy get some sleep and anytime she puts herself to sleep rejoice that she is beginning to learn this important skill!

  3. I think ‘baby whisperer’ may work for some newborns, though I think you’re right… not most. I’ve heard four months for the age when they start developing patterns and eight to ten months for when ‘you really need to make sure you have some patterns, because this is when kids will learn to cry just to see if you’ll come.’

    But I “failed” with four children. I never got any of them to sleep through the night, or got to sleep on their own, before the age of two or three…

    I think it’s helpful to remember that YOU are forming habits right now of how YOU are going to get Lucy to sleep. She’s flexible, she’s confused, nothing may work for her now… but for me, long before my babies reached four months of age, I was used to nursing them to sleep in my lap or in bed next to me. It was just too easy to continue that pattern, exhausted as I was, then to make steps toward a “saner” lifestyle.

    My own take on the reason sleeping is such a hot button among new parents is this: it isn’t natural for babies to sleep on their own in a crib – they ‘need’ to sleep with someone, they ‘need’ to nurse. BUT it is well nigh impossible to fit into Western culture with babies/toddlers who need mom (and nursing) in order to sleep, who can never be left with daddy or a sitter during naptime or at bedtime.

    Dan and I have had one night out in the last 7-1/2 years. I have slept through the entire night just a handful of times in the last eight. Any Bible study or prayer meeting we participate in has to be at our house, and has to be after 8:30 pm. Are we stupid and unwise? Maybe. Are we letting the children run our lives? In some ways yes. Do we wish our younger kids could go to sleep on their own and sleep through the night every night? Of course we do.

    But when it comes down to it, we just aren’t ready with our smallest to let him cry it out, nor to make him give up nursing at night (he’s in the 1-2 percentile for height and weight… doctor wants growth hormones, we don’t.) Even with our other kids who were not so small, it took us a long time to move toward independent sleep. Independence is an American virtue but I’m not convinced it’s a Christian virtue… however much I crave it.

    Is it worth “meeting their needs” to be sleep deprived and therefore often foggy-headed, disorganized, and crabby? (Or am I choosing crabbiness and that’s a seperate issue?)

    Is it worth “meeting their needs” to have little to no social life, and to feel in some ways like a dying ember that’s been raked out of the fire (most of the other moms up here are working moms, and/or a 10+ minutes drive away.)

    The line between selfishness and sanity is very thin, I think… as is the line between “meeting our children’s needs” and meeting their selfish wants.

    But at four months… those are all needs. It’s ‘easy’ right now, you simply need to do (and to figure out) what makes Lucy happy. One month nearly down and three to go before it gets more complex… and by God’s grace you’ll figure out some healthy patterns.

    And even if you don’t… you’ll survive. And God will keep you. And he’ll meet your needs for sleep somehow, as he’s met mine.

  4. I, too, have been reading these posts wondering if perhaps we are going down the wrong path with Naomi. She will be 4 months on the 29 of May. I have napped with her and she has slept with us since she was a newborn. I nurse her to sleep. With a five year gap between Charles and Naomi I often feel like a new parent. But after seeing that all three boys no longer sleep in our bed, at 9 and 5. I know that ther will come a day when I am sad that Naomi is no longer in bed with with us because she sleeps in her own bed without much trouble. Not that our boy sleep alone. It is common to find all three of them intertwined in one bed. I love it!! Andy and I know that intimacy is not just for the bedroom….some of our best talks have taken place while kids are sleeping in the car. And we have had fun being creative;). We are also a very spontaneous family….often jumping in the car on a Saturday morning and not returning home until evening. I cant imagine having a baby that could only fall asleep in her bed. What we are doing works for us, our family and our children seem to be okay. But I too pray that little Naomi will stay asleep so I can sleep…no, but do laundry, cuddle with one of my boys, finish the dishes I started two hours ago, before we worked on math or hand writing. And then I am realizing that Naomi needs the activity around her. She really is quite the princess. She wants some one to be talking to her, playing with her….whew! She can “play” by herself…..but her entertainment preferance is with somone else. We ask God for GRACE and wisdom in raising these four wonderful gifts. It is all a journey.

    Ann, Jon and little Lucy…..“I am confident in this that He who began a good work in the Boyd family will be faithful to complete it.”

  5. Ann,

    I read the Baby Whisperer when Ben was in the throes of colic and I hadn’t had more than 2 hours of sleep strung together for 4 weeks. I read it incredulously because it was SO not our experience and nothing in there was practical for what we were dealing with. “Sleepy but awake”?? Ha! Yeah right. There was only one piece of wisdom in there that was applicable for us — which was to get Benjamin to sleep on his own without us there.

    It wasn’t until 4 months that I was able to put him down sleepy but awake and he’d fall asleep on his own — and that was only because we had put him on his side and put a lovey in his crib and he’d see it and snuggle up to it and fall asleep on his own.

    Honestly, at the stage you guys are in right now, my motto with Benjamin was “whatever works”. Whatever will afford you guys the most sleep and sanity is what you should do right now, whether that’s letting her sleep on your chest or in the sling or swing, or whatever. You cannot be creating bad habits at this young age.

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