Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Review: Secrets of the Baby Whisperer

I have to confess that I didn't have a chance to thoroughly read The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer. I still use two hands to breastfeed, which means I only get to read when Henry is napping. Since I had to return some books to the library, my reading time was only about an hour. So I guess I should call it a "Book Scan" instead of a real "Book Review."

Based on my one-hour glimpse through the book, I would definitely recommend this book to those of you who are trying to learn more about living with newborns. The author takes a very moderate approach between the "cry it out" end of the spectrum and the attachment parenting side.

According to her theories, Matt and I are instilling bad habits in Henry by walking him around in the Moby or the Ergo to get him to sleep and then holding him throughout his entire nap. She argues that we are setting him up to be too dependent on us. Although I agree that at some point we have to wean Henry off this kind of dependence, I just don't think he's developmentally ready yet. I'm thinking the 3-month mark might be the time (since that marks the end of the "fourth trimester"). I have stopped walking Henry around and even swinging on the front porch swing, since the teacher at my Montessori class explained that we shouldn't get him dependent on movement to fall asleep. Instead, I just put him in the Moby and sit down with him, while he sucks on a pacifier. I've also had some success with laying next to him (as if we're breast feeding) and letting him suck on his pacifier. I think this is the strategy I will use to try to transition him to napping on a bed instead of the carrier.

I liked the author's overarching emphasis on meeting both the baby's needs and the family's needs. I think that kind of balance is really important. If Matt and I don't get some of our needs met, then we won't be in the best shape to help Henry get his needs met.

Here were some of the key points from the book:
  • Above all, parents need confidence. They need to see that they can understand and meet their baby's needs.
  • It's important to bring consistency and routine into a baby's life.
  • It takes six weeks of post-partum time to heal fully from birth.
  • In between the "cry it out" end of the spectrum and the "follow the baby" end. She says the former doesn't respect the baby and the latter doesn't respect the rest of the family.
  • E.A.S.Y. Routine: Eat, Activity, Sleep, Time for You
  • From birth to three months: 25-40 minutes of eating; 45 minutes of activity; 15 minutes to fall asleep and a nap of 30-60 minutes.
  • Observation is the key to learning about your infant!
  • There are different categories of babies: Angel, Textbook, Touchy, Spirited, Grumpy.
  • Sleep Routine: Create a consistent routine, such as closing the blinds and saying certain expressions. Start the routine at the first sign of a yawn (definitely by the third). It's okay to rock a baby or snuggle with it during this time, but only as a way to wind down--not to put the baby to sleep.
  • Once you put the baby down, you can pat him/her if s/he is fussing, but stop as soon as the fussing stops.
  • A pacifier can be used to aid sleep during the first three months. When the child spits it out, don't put it back in unless the baby shows sign that s/he really needs it.
  • It can take 20 minutes for a baby to fall asleep--don't rush the process. A loud sound can move the baby more toward awake, and you'll have to start the process all over again.
  • When a baby is six weeks old, cluster feed every two hours before bed (for example, at 6 and 8pm) and then again at 10:30 or 11:00. That way, they have enough calories to sleep longer through the night.
  • Instead of holding a baby endlessly, pick him/her up when s/he starts to cry, but put him/her down as soon as s/he is calm. If the baby cries again, pick it up. When the baby gets quiet, put it down again. You might have to pick up the baby 20 or 30 times, but you're saying, "I'm fine. I'm here. It's okay to be on your own."

I find it very helpful to read a variety of books and pull out the pieces from each book that resonate with me.

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Anonymous said...

"The author takes a very moderate approach between the "cry it out" end of the spectrum and the attachment parenting side."

Except that she doesn't.

I eventually read Ferber and Weissbluth and I was stunned. It's not just Sears who thinks that letting a newborn soothe himself to sleep is harsh, Ferber and Weisbluth do too. The BW isn't in between the CIO books and the AP books. She's the one at the extreme.

Carrie said...

Sounds like the pacifier is helping a bit?

Jessica Reyna Brogan said...

Sara, I really appreciate all your insights into new motherhood. I haven't conceived yet, but I already feel more empowered and knowledgeable from reading your posts, and following your leads about good books and movies to read and watch.

I have a good friend that carried and held her firstborn constantly. Not just to sooth her, but to cuddle her, feed her and just generally hang out. It was partly because the baby wanted/needed the contact and partly because my friend wanted/needed the contact. She said it was a very long process to transition from constant contact to "mommy needs a break it's okay if I put you down for a minute." She's always told new moms to be to teach yourself and your baby that it's okay to have time apart. I'm sure that's much easier said than done in a lot of cases, and it sounds like you're finding a good balance between the two.

Sara E. Cotner said...

@ Jessica: Thank you! I think it's super-important for Henry to learn that he can be by himself. I hold him while I feed him, then he has a period of activity time (during which I usually put him down so he can use his muscles and build his independence), and then I hold him while he sleeps (just for now!).

@ Carrie: The pacifier has definitely helped soothe Henry as he's falling asleep. It's allowed me to just sit with him in the wrap instead of walking him around (which has helped my healing). I think I've stopped bleeding, and I'm going for a long walk today! The pacifier is kind of a pain, though. It falls out a lot, and he starts crying all over again.

Carrie said...

Sara, I know lots of people say those soothies pacifiers are the best, but my son hated them--couldn't keep them in. We switched to Nuk, and he was able to keep those in much easier.

Katie said...

We have a lot of parents really struggle with the last point on that list because it takes most babies 15-20 minutes to get into a deep sleep from a light, easy to wake, sleep state that they start in at each sleep session. A lot of parents (following advice of this book and others) will immediately set their baby down if they fall asleep (like while breastfeeding). If that happens, very often the baby will wake up again right away because they haven't gotten into a deeper sleep and parents often end up thinking that baby woke back up because they were still hungry, etc.

Human babies are evolved to be held a lot...It's hard work to train them to go against that biology.

In terms of baby behavior, I really respect the work that Jane Heinig and the Center for Human Lactation is doing:

They have a lot of really good practical advice about baby behavior, but very breastfeeding friendly and well-researched (they are based out of a university).

Lisa said...

Some babies need to fuss before they sleep, and letting a newborn fuss isn't the same as letting them scream for a hour, for pity's sake. Likewise, putting them down awake and letting them put themselves to sleep works too and is t as bad as the AP crowd makes it sound.

Two to three months is about when most babies make a quantum developmental leap...but i have to admit that babies sleep better on their tummies.

Anonymous said...

All these rules. Don't you get exhausted just trying to follow all of them? Raising my child was a time of self awareness and self learning for me; something I gained from common sense, a few resources, talking with other moms/dads, and making logical adjustments after paying close attention to my baby. I think if was evaluating my baby's moments/actions/faults so "purposefully" (like saying that while he is laying down he is developing motor skills and the like) I would have given up. It's a baby, not a machine with a right/wrong formula. Henry is just trying to adapt, not training to be the next president (not yet anyway). I really think you are a smart and wonderful person--listen to yourself, trust yourself, and yes--gather some data but just LIVE it. The rules are gonna suffocate the experience. And just for the record, this book (in my opinion) is pretty lame. I appreciate that you skimmed it, but maybe actually reading it would have given you a different perspective. And before people tell me I'm being mean to Sara, please understand, I'm being honest and TRYING to help. You have told us all along you would try to listen to your own instinct and use the resources as guide, but I see the opposite. You're following various mantras and rules that may or may not be right for Henry.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I agree. Between what you wrote and the fact that Baby Wise is being promoted and linked here on the regular, I am about done. I find myself cringing and biting my tongue on the regular. I am now rethinking my stance on Montessori. My initial exposure to the philosophy of Montessori in the home was through another teacher, and it seemed pretty awesome. This, however, seems cold and calculated, not "following the child" at all.

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