An open letter to The Baby Whisperer

To TBW

When I found out I was expecting my daughter, I bought  two pregnancy guides: a humorous one and a sensible one. I read them both and quickly sold the humorous one to buy the parenting guide that went with the serious one. I’ve always been one for reading up on a subject and being a mum was the perfect thing to get my teeth into. It’s a good job that my daughter actually was a text-book baby; the book covered her every milestone and guided me through every tooth, the surprise bout of chicken-pox and the momentary epsisode of separation anxiety.

When I found out I was expecting the baby, I dug out the same book. And then he happened. All of a sudden, the serious parenting guide which had been indispensable was a useless pile of papers collected together in a cover featuring an impossibly smiling ‘mother’. There were no chapters on how to cope if your baby only slept for twenty minutes at a time and you were a gibbering mess. Where was the section on resenting everyone around you that was unable to breastfeed your baby for ther twelvth time in an evening? Oh, and what happened to the chapter on what to do if you genuinely wanted to run away and leave the whole sorry mess of parenting behind you?

My stepdad ordered your book for me and gave it to me when the baby was one month old. I devoured your every word, initially only because my motto had become ‘anything is worth a try’. I even found old episodes of your programme on Dicovery Health and your forum online. What I didn’t realise at the time was that I had found a way to love my baby.

There is a lot of ‘parent manual bashing’ around these days and I have to say that I agree totally with those that say parenting cannot be taught. But it can be guided. I know that now.

The baby was not- is not- a text-book baby. In fact, I think my daughter was slightly abnormal in her freaky sleeping through at five weeks old and smiling all the time. The baby required new rules, and so did I. I needed to know that it was ok to stay with my baby, stroking his head for hours at a time in an attempt to get him to go to sleep independently. I needed to know that it was ok to be there for him when he cried and to pick him up, cuddle him, love him. I needed to know that I could fall in love with my baby, because that’s what you taught me.

If there is nothing else that I learnt from your book, it’s that my baby is a unique human being who needs me. Needs me. This woman who was broken and bruised and living a life that was never meant to be hers. This woman who wanted to leave her baby at the hospital. This woman who wanted a different baby; one that slept and never cried. A different baby. You helped me realise that I wanted this baby. You helped me.

It may not be cool these days to admit that a ‘celebrity’ parenting expert helped you in any way, but you did. Because all of those long lonely nights that I spent by my baby’s cot, I spent watching him. Listening to him. Touching his face. Learning his every twitch and his every sigh. I spent so long by his side that there was nothing else I could do, but fall in love with him.

So thankyou, BW.

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12 responses to “An open letter to The Baby Whisperer

  • waterbirthplease

    Makes me wish I’d read that one rather than the Gina Ford – who DOES deserve a bashing!!! Interesting stuff x

  • working london mummy

    what a lovely post. She certainly got me through some tough times in the early days!

  • Holly

    Hmm. Slightly confused. The original Baby Whisperer, Tracy Hogg, advocated teaching a child to be independent from day one and featured appalling breastfeeding advice. She passed away some years ago. The new, self proclaimed Baby Whisperer, Tizzy Hall, advocates CIO and dangerously over-heating your baby. I’m not sure either of them would approve of attentive nighttime parenting.

    • ghostwritermummy

      Actually, the original BW, Tracy Hogg advocated teaching a baby to sleep independently by using the shh-pat technique, which you can adapt. My son has reflux so patting was not comfortable for him. I adapted it to stroking his head. Her technique requires you to stay with them until they are completely asleep so that you can learn their sleeping patterns and the length of time it takes for them to get to sleep . As they get older you do the pcik up put down which eventually leads to the baby going to sleep independently the first time you put them in the cot. This is how my son goes to sleep now so in my opinion, her methods work well! Not sure about the breastfeeding advice though. I didn’t read that chapter as intently! Also not sure about the other baby whisperer?

  • Msissa

    Ooh, I loved this book too 🙂 It was so reassuring to see the different ‘baby styles’ and to feel like it was ok to watch him and learn what he needed…he did eventually become textbook, thank the lord!

  • Sandy Sutherland

    I couldn’t agree more! I watched a few of the “Baby Whisperer” episodes on TV whilst pregnant and I have two of her books. Such a big help! Start as you mean to go on was difficult in the beginning but I’m so glad I stuck with it. Learning to watch, understand, and appreciate my little girl was the best part!

  • notsuchayummymummy

    I swear by Tracy Hogg – she really helped me through some tough times when my son was a baby. I’ve since passed it on to a number of new mums and every single one of them has come back to thank me. It’s not a prescriptive set of rules but the guidance is invaluable. My sister in Australia has just had her first baby and I will be taking a copy of the Baby Whisperer out to her next month!

  • bumbling

    Lovely to see how you love your baby now.

    I love parenting textbooks. Even Gina Ford. I didn’t instinctively know what to do with Moo. I needed people to guide me. I’m in no way either a BW or a GF parent, but I read both and took the bits I needed. Gina gave me some idea of the structure of a baby’s day – how often they’d like to eat or sleep, on average for example. This helped me enourmously. Despite me being no fan of 90% of her advice…

    Lovely post. Really lovely.

  • Carmen Shaw

    I have two now older ‘babies’. Both unique, both entirely different now as when they were at my breast. The best advice I would ever give someone is this: YOU are the Mummy, YOUR instinct is ALWAYS right and there is NO right or wrong way. I used a simple routine that worked for me, and stuck to it as best I could. Bathtime around 6ish, placed in cot after bath around 7ish, even if a feed was due soon after. Later on they got used to going down at this time and sleep seemed to figure out ok. If I wanted to spend all night snuggled up with them I did. Babies need love. That is pretty much the crux of it. The beauty of it is they bring with them all the love in the world…

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