I have always been proud of my ability to help parents understand and care for their young children and I feel honored whenever a family asks me into its life. During this time, on my Web site and in my e-mail in-box, I’ve been inundated with requests for help, often on the subject of sleep. Maybe you’re trying to get your baby on a structured routine to teach him to sleep better, or maybe your toddler is beginning to have sleep problems, but you’re not sure what to do or even if the same principles apply to eight-month-olds as to newborns. When parents come to me with a particular challenge, I always ask at least one question, if not a string of them, about both the child and what parents have done so far in response to their situation. Then I can come up with a proper plan of action. My goal is to help you understand my thought process and get you in the habit of asking questions for yourself.
Baby whispering begins by observing, respecting, and communicating with your baby—observing body language, listening to cries, slowing down so that you can really figure out what’s going on. It means that you see your child’s personality and particular quirks—and you tailor your parenting strategies accordingly.
“Why doesn’t it work?” is by far one of the most common questions parents ask. Whether a mom is trying to get her infant to sleep more than two hours at a time or her toddler to nap properly, I often hear the old “yes, but” response: “Yes, I know you told me I have to wake her during the day in order for her to sleep at night, but…” “Yes, I know you told me it will take time, but…”
Granted, I know that some babies are more challenging than others—just like adults—but my baby whispering techniques do work; I’ve used them myself with thousands of babies.
When problems persist, it’s usually because of something the parents have done, so you need to ask yourself if one of the following statements applies to you:
You’re following your child, rather than establishing a routine. I’m a firm believer in a structured routine (see Chapter 1). You start, ideally, from the day you bring your little bundle home from the hospital. You could also introduce a routine later, but the older the baby, the more trouble parents often have.
You’ve been doing accidental parenting. Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment parents sometimes do anything to make their baby stop crying or to get a toddler to calm down. Often, the “anything”—whether walking, rocking, or jiggling—turns into a bad habit that they later have to break—and that’s accidental parenting.
You’re not reading your child’s cues. “He used to be on schedule, and now he’s not. How do I get him back on track?” When I hear any version of that phrase—“used to be” and “now is not”—it usually means they’re paying more attention to the clock (or their own needs) than the baby himself.
You’re not factoring in that young children change constantly. I also hear the “used to be” phrase when parents don’t realize that it’s time to make a shift; the only constant in the job of parenting is change.
You’re looking for an easy fix. The older a child is, the harder it is to break a bad habit caused by accidental parenting. Be patient.
You’re not really committed to change. If you’re trying to solve a problem, you have to want it solved—and have the determination and stamina to see it through to the end. If we stick with it, children do get used to the new way.
Parents sometimes delude themselves. They will insist that they’ve been trying a particular technique for two weeks and say it’s not working. Often they’ve tried for three or four days, and it worked, but a few days later they didn’t follow through with the original plan. The poor child is then confused.
If you’re not going to see something through, don’t do it. If you can’t do it on your own, enlist backup people.
You’re trying something that doesn’t work for your family or your personality. If you’re not comfortable doing a particular technique, either don’t do it or find ways to bolster yourself, by having the stronger parent take over for a bit, or enlisting a relative or a good friend to help.
It ain’t broke—and you don’t really need to fix it. Babies are individuals. Your baby may be sleeping less than another baby or have a smaller-than-average build. If it isn’t a concern to your doctor, just observe your child.
You have unrealistic expectations. Babies do sometimes need to feed in the night. Children require care, constant vigilance, and lots of loving time.
I’m not a big fan of age charts and never have been. Babies’ challenges can’t be sorted into neat piles. Still, I have broken down my advice and tailored various techniques according to age groupings to give you a better understanding of how your child thinks and sees the world. I urge you to read all the stages, because earlier problems can persist, or your child might be more advanced in a particular area.
Where We Go from Here
You can read this book cover to cover, or just look up the problems you’re concerned about and go from there. However, I strongly recommend that you at least read through Chapter 1, which reviews my basic philosophy of a structured routine for your child. Throughout, I’ve tried to zero in on the most common concerns that parents have when it comes to their child and sleep, and then share with you the kinds of questions I typically ask to find out what’s really going on (when I’ve reprinted e-mails and Web site postings, names and identifying details have been changed) and what I would suggest to deal with these concerns. You might be surprised by some of these, but I have lots of examples to demonstrate how successfully they’ve been applied in other families. So why not at least try them with yours?
© 2005 Tracy Hogg