The Baby Whisperer — such a calming and reassuring title, isn’t?
It’s just one of a large stack of books (among them What to Expect in the First Year, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and the famous tome by Dr. William Sears, The Baby Book) all promising to fix whatever parenting conundrum you’ve stumbled upon.
For many, that conundrum often involves the question, how do I get baby to sleep?
It’s a subject tirelessly researched by overtired parents.
Of all the books in this hugely saturated market, none popped up in conversation quite as frequently as The Baby Whisperer (written by Tracy Hogg) when our crib-resistant son was born eight months ago.
The subtitle says it all, really: Solves All Your Problems (By Teaching You How to Ask the Right Questions).
Yes, all your problems.
Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?
Desperate, sleep-deprived and lugging around under-eye baggage so dark, raccoons could’ve easily mistaken me as one of their own, I dove straight into The Baby Whisperer’s deep pool of promises and took a mental sigh of relief.
Soon all of my troubles would vanish. Looking back, it’s easy to see how foolish this was.
Thing is, our baby slept just fine — as long as I carried him. If I put him in his crib during the day or attempted to transfer him after he’d fallen asleep, he screamed like he’d been set on fire.
Where he craved constant closeness, I craved alone time.
In need of a solution, the E.A.S.Y program — which stands for eat, activity, sleep and you time — held great hope. Sadly, E.A.S.Y proved to be painstakingly hard.
Often, I would just finish changing his diaper when he’d have another bowel movement and I’d have to start all over again. Sometimes he’d need a scrub in the tub, getting us even further behind schedule. And he wanted to nurse around the clock, which is how his nickname became velcro.
When it was time to swaddle him for a nap, he’d wiggle free leaving me to repair his handiwork.
“At this point, it might take baby “15 to 20 minutes to fall asleep,” proclaims The Baby Whisperer.
Now does this mean baby will shriek for 15 to 20 minutes? I wondered. In any case, 15 minutes turned into 20, then 30 and so on, and all the while he was making Janet Leigh’s famous scream in the 1960 film Psycho sound like child’s play.
For a month solid, I stubbornly tried to get our baby to fit into this popular, one-size-fits-all mold. It wasn’t working: I was in tears and so was he.
Finally, we shifted gears. If he wanted to be held, I held him. During yoga, I placed him in a peanut shell carrier or the Baby Bjorn. I made meals this way, washed dishes and visited with friends all while toting him around. Maybe it was body warmth or perhaps he found the sound of my heartbeat soothing but, whatever it was, it was magic.
If he wanted to nurse for short stints or long ones or at weird times, that’s what he got.
Instead of following someone else’s solutions for a baby they’d never met, I allowed him to tell me what he needed. And do you know what we got in return? Arguably one of the happiest babies on the block.
He has since grown into a confident, playful, good-natured and giggly little being.
Oh, and he now takes long, peaceful naps in his crib and is longer referred to as velcro.
Looking back on my mommy-hood beginnings, I think, what a waste of bloody time.
I wish I would’ve taken a deep breath, trusted my instincts (and, more importantly, our baby’s) and learned to ride the unpredictable waves.
For those trying to unlock the mysterious inner workings of your baby, sure, gain all the knowledge you can, but sometimes the best education will simply come from observing the strange new creature in your life.
After all, whether you realize it yet or not, all the authors in the world don’t know what you do — your baby.
Yes mama, you are the expert.
So be kind to yourself, carve your own path and go ahead and be your very own unique, loving, creative and impossibly magical baby whisperer.