When my first son popped into the world in 2020, I wanted to take a natural, less prescriptive approach to parenting. I/we felt that his sleep routine would naturally come to him. I believed I would instinctively understand what he needed from us and when. I did not understand, prior to having him, just how sleep-deprived, confused, and overwhelmed I would be within weeks, and how much I needed guidance on how to nurture a baby. Here is what I learnt.
My sister-in-law became a Mum 10 months before I did, and I watched in wonder at her settled, content, sleeping son who rarely cried but smiled a lot. I believed she was just ‘lucky’, until she shared her secret with me - The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg.
Now this book was written in 2004 and while some of the advice in it comes across as a bit Mary Poppins, what drew me in was page 101 which was entirely devoted to different types of cries that a baby makes and what they indicate.
And so, at 3 am on the 10th night of no sleep with a crying, hungry newborn, I was drawn into Tracy's world and like Hogwarts - I was hooked.
The Baby Whisperer was one of the original routines for parents to follow and many routines have since superseded it, however, Tracy Hogg had experience with thousands of babies and from this produced a formula that worked for all three of our kids. Yep - all three of them, without a shadow of a lie.
With my first son, I resisted a full routine and just tested out smaller parts of Tracy’s theory. My son and I both had breastfeeding thrush so I had a lot of other issues going on in his first weeks but when he was 11 weeks old, I committed to the full routine.
The key - consistency. For example, Tracy had a theory about yawns - when it’s nap time, if he yawned once, that’s ok, twice, get him ready to go, three times - straight down for a nap. If you ignore the three yawns - you’re hooped.
We learned to pay attention to what Evan was in need of, to analyze his movements, his cries, his yawns, and how quickly he became overstimulated.
~ By 16 weeks Evan was sleeping through the night.
~ He became settled and happier; he knew what would come next in his day so he didn’t need to cry for food or for sleep.
~ The flexibility of the routine allowed me to build his naps into whatever I was doing - driving in the car, walking with the stroller.
~ He was a joy for other people to look after as he had a routine laid out and he was ready for each step of it. We paid attention to his behavior ~ to watch for signs of what was bugging him which we continue to do even though he is about to turn 11!
~ Our one mistake - we allowed Evan to keep his soother past the 6-month mark (Tracy says not to!) and we didn’t get him off it until he turned 4.
So we learnt from that with sons 2 & 3.
With son number 2 he was in the routine from 2 days old. He was a joyful, smiley baby that charmed the birds out of the trees (and ladies in grocery stores!) and slept through the night (8 pm - 6 am with a dream feed at 11 pm) from 9 weeks old.
I thought maybe I was just lucky that it worked for two of my kids, but no three kids are the same, right? Anyone I spoke to advised me not to expect such an easy ride the third time around but the Baby Whisperer advice is based on defining what ‘type’ your child is and adjusting the routine to their specific needs, so I had a feeling it was going to work!
Still, when my third child flew into the world, I was worried that this would be our wake up call, he would be a ‘poor sleeper’ - and yet, by 9 weeks, he was sleeping through the night as well, and happy as a clam when he was awake.
My boys are now 10, 8, and 5, and all sleep well and sleep through the night; they all napped in the daytime until they were almost four years old and I know that my hubby and I benefitted enormously from having three settled kids and a guided routine that allowed us to be at ease as parents.
I AM NOT SAYING PARENTING IS EASY. But routine helps an absolute ton.
Tracy sadly passed away in 2004 and yet her advice, based on her work with over a thousand babies, is still as valid today as it was when she was alive. If you have time or the inclination, I recommend getting your hands on a copy of the book, which gives advice on so many different newborn issues (colic, multiple births, milk supply, when to take away the pacifier).
And if this routine doesn’t resonate with you, find one that does. I firmly believe that babies need a routine to thrive; knowing what comes next in their day keeps them calm - it’s not prescriptive, it’s nurturing.
Choose a routine
Be consistent with it - babies quickly learn if you are not!
It is never too late to bring a routine into your family's life
And go easy on yourselves; having a baby can be a challenging time but there will be peaceful, sleep-filled days in your future. Believe in that!
Much love, Sinead
A snapshot of my three babies, all-around 9 months old.
Tags: prenatal yoga, newborn, new parents, parenting, the baby whisperer