I just finished reading Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and I’m confused. Part of me thinks her ideas are totally genius, and part of me thinks it’s complete crap. Here’s the basic idea:
All babies give visual and verbal cues as to how they’re feeling and what they need – when they’re hungry, gassy, tired, overtired, etc.. You learn to read these signs and then give your baby what he/she needs at the appropriate time. Genius! I’ve found that the cues are right on, and being aware of them has made me feel more attuned to what Zekey needs and when. For example, what we’ve been referring to as “crazy eyes” actually means “I’m over-stimulated” which explains why crazy eyes generally leads to hysterical crying. So she suggests heading off the crying by responding to crazy eyes early and bringing him to a darkened room and putting him down for a nap. Fine. Good.
Except that Zekey doesn’t like to be put down for a nap. With all the guests in town, Z has been held and rocked to sleep for more than half his young life, and according to the Baby Whisperer, we’ve already trained him to not be able to sleep any other way. And it’s true, getting him into his co-sleeper has been a major challenge recently. The author says these bad habits start now (in early infancy) and continue for months and months, and that the way to create good habits is to put them on a three hour routine she calls E.A.S.Y. – Eat. Activity. Sleep. You. (The You part is baffling to me I’ve been miserable since trying to get into this routine. Or it might just be the lack of sleep finally catching up with me.)
I actually really like the Eat followed by Activity part. According to the book (and other sources) babies generally need to eat about every 2.5 to 3 hours (unless they’re going through a growth spurt or other developmental milestone (teething, etc.)). So if they’re acting fussy and you know you just fed them an hour earlier, you can be pretty sure they’re not hungry again. More likely they’re tired or over-stimulated and you can act accordingly. Also, if you always follow Eating with a period of Activity, you separate eating from sleeping so your baby doesn’t learn to depend on nursing to fall asleep.
In my two days of experimenting with this, I’ve found that Zeke eats really well on a 2.5 to 3 hours routine. He doesn’t fall asleep on the boob since he’s generally slept before he eats, and he has a good 15-2o minutes of very happy and alert “play time” after his meal. But once he starts showing signs of tired or over-stimulated, everything falls apart. If I follow the book’s recommendation and try to head off the crying by putting him to sleep in his co-sleeper, he goes nuts. If someone holds him and rocks him and cuddles him, he happily drifts right off, but the second you put him down, he wakes up. This is totally fine when there are at least 3 other people here to hold him for an hour or more while he naps, but this is not going to work when it’s just me. The book says if you have your baby nap in a sling or other carrier, he will develop similar bad sleep habits and months from now you’ll find yourself carrying around a 15-20 pound baby. Great.
I like when he sleeps on me or next to me in the moby, and it seems sad (and impractical) to give that up. It’s ridiculous to me that a one month old baby could have a bad habit already, but the Baby Whisperer makes pretty good argument for “starting the way you intend to go on” – meaning if you want to have baby nap time to yourself in the long run, teach baby to sleep on his own NOW. Which brings us back to hours of crying while we try to get Z to sleep. (Note – we are not letting him cry it out. According to the book you pick him up every time he starts to cry and put him down as soon as he’s calm again. You do this over and over and over again until he finally falls asleep. It’s exhausting.)
So here’s what I’m thinking. Screw the Baby Whisperer for daytime naps. Keep with the basic Eat Activity Sleep routine, but let him sleep wherever is comfortable and practical for both of us. Night time is a completely different story which I’ll save for another post. Suffice to say I’m handling the late night feedings and general lack of sleep much better than I’m handling the hours from 6-10pm when the screaming happens. Wow.
PS: We just got the Happiest Baby on the Block DVD which will likely make me completely forget about the Baby Whisperer.
PPS: Is it really true that this gets easier after 3 months? Really?
Two quick things (that are just my humble opinion, of course). One is that, looking back, I have ahard time believing you can inculcate bad habits when they’re that young. I know that’s what the books say, and I was really haunted by that notion, too. But, in retrospect, I don’t accept it. We’ve gotten Daisy into bad habits, and we’ve gotten her out of them. It hasn’t been easy all the time, but all is definitely not lost if you encourage some “bad” habits and this age. I think I stressed myself out too much worrying about that.
And number two: though I can’t swear by the exact number “three months,” I promise and swear that one day in a future, this period is going to seem like a distant memory, for better and worse! You will be desperately trying to retrieve vivid memories of what this time was like. It is totally impossible to believe from where you are now, but it’s true, I swear! (So it’s great that you’re recording all the details.)
Wow, could there be a few more typos in that last comment? No. I don’t think so.
I agree with Sarah – babies can get into and out of bad habits. One of the main comments the new mamas in my groups made when we were all going through this several months ago was that they were babies!
I worried way too much about what the experts said in the beginning and really drove myself and Peter absolutely nuts. It’s so easy to do because the “experts” make new moms feel like their babies are damaged forever if we do the wrong thing. Well, babies are resilient and manage to survive whatever their parents do to them.
And yes, it really, really does get better after 3 months. There is this miraculous process the babies go through where they wake up to their world and really start to interact. It’s only been several months but it feels like forever ago.
In a few months, when Zekey regularly gives you these really tight, warm hugs and sits on Dave’s shoulders and giggles, you two really won’t care much about this phase at all. 😉