Shouting for Baby
By Lauren Porter
I have endured a great deal. A year's work in a rat-infested pediatric emergency room. A hurricane on my wedding day. More than eight years of Barney. I made it through all of that without a peep. But this is too much. I can't take it anymore. It's time to set the record straight.
It's these baby whisperers. They're fakes. Charlatans. Liars. They may have strategies you like or handy hints that sound useful, but they're no whisperers. They're quite the opposite and I'm here to tell you why.
The baby whisperers get their name from the horse whisperers. The original horse whisperer, on whom the famous book was based, is a man named Monty Roberts. He is 70 years old, American and the founder of an organization called Join-Up based on his philosophy. Monty is the son of a horse trainer who broke horses in the traditional way, with force. Before Monty came along, the only way people knew to get a saddle and rider on a horse was to 'break' the horse via fear, coercion and control. When Monty was a child he quietly observed countless horses and realized they used a discernable and predictable body language to communicate, set boundaries, and show fear, relaxation and affection. He tested his knowledge and found that he could achieve 'join up,' the moment of partnership with a horse, by allowing the horse to communicate in his own time and by responding to those signals. He understands horses to be exquisitely sensitive to tone of voice and touch. His methods rely on cooperation, listening and trust.
Monty's goal today is to make the world a better place for horses and people. He is consultant to many Fortune 500 companies, schools and agencies who are all using his principles of cooperation, mutual respect and compassion to better their organizations. He is often quoted as saying, "There is no such thing as teaching - only learning." His philosophy, as he describes it, is about balanced existence, true partnership and encouraging trust, reliability and comfort from others. With humans, as with horses, real communication achieves this.
So, what about those baby whisperers? They claim to have a special gift for understanding a baby's many cries, able to distinguish between the tired cry and the hungry cry, for example. Naturally, they claim to be able to teach you how to do this, too. Yet are they really whisperers or have they stolen a name that doesn't fit? Are they encouraging genuine communication where they don't teach and only listen? Are they creating an environment of trust and reliability? Are they using their knowledge and instincts to follow baby's lead, respecting that each baby is unique and equally valuable? Absolutely not.
The baby whisperers may indeed be able to distinguish different types of cries. But they way they respond to them and to all of baby's other communications is far from the true whispering tradition. Take Tracy Hogg's Secrets of the Baby Whisperer for example. If you read it you will see she believes babies must always be put down to sleep while they are still awake. From day one a baby must be left to fall asleep on her own. Yes, she may cry, but it is a 'tired cry' and should be ignored. How is this tuning into baby's need? It isn't. Babies, like horses, are exquisitely sensitive. They rely on caring adults to meet their needs. They attempt to communicate their needs and, if we miss the subtle signals, they'll cry. Could a baby cry when she's tired? Sure. But does that mean she needs to be left alone, at 48 hours old? Hardly. This is a relationship based on authority and dominance, on achieving rigid schedules and timetables that suit an adult lifestyle but having nothing to do with the baby in question.
If you wish to follow the advice of the many baby whisperers out there, go ahead. But know you're chasing lie. They're not whispering. What they advocate could deafen anyone.