During my quiet moments in the past week, I finished reading "Secrets of the Baby Whisperer" by Tracy Hogg. I'll tell you this: I'm endlessly grateful that I've read this book now, when the blur of those first weeks as a new parent is over, and not before Shira was born or in the first few days with her
Tracy Hogg is a strong advocate of scheduling from the earliest days, and her manner of writing is so authoritative that it actually borders on unpleasantness at some points. There is, however, some useful advice in the book, specifically about baby body language and interpreting signals such as different types of crying. After reading and observing Shira, I realized that many times, I miss early signs of tiredness, which eventually makes going to sleep more difficult. If only for this, it was worth reading. As for scheduling, we have a very simple, loose daily rhythm which works for our family. Since each baby is an individual, I cannot agree that a three-hour schedule will work for each and every baby, even if they are in the same age and weight category.
What I do take a strong point against, is Mrs. Hogg's attitude about breastfeeding. These days, no health professional can be openly anti-breastfeeding - not when the World Health Organization states that "Breastfeeding is the ideal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development". But Mrs. Hogg is obviously not pro-breastfeeding, and the advice she gives in her book might in fact be dangerously disruptive to establishing a successful nursing relationship.
Disclaimer: I have no intention to start a breast milk vs. formula debate. I'm not saying there is never a time and place for formula. I realize that in some cases, women are indeed unable to breastfeed. In other cases, breastfeeding is not recommended for medical reasons. Finally, it's really none of my business how each mother feeds her baby, and the last thing I'm interested in would be to make anyone feel guilty.
However, I believe that someone who calls herself a lactation consultant is supposed to be more, let's say, enthusiastic about breastfeeding. Yes, formula - when made and used properly - will provide the necessary nutrients for normal development, but breast milk is significantly superior. Tracy Hogg implies that there is only a slight advantage to breast milk over formula, and talks a lot about the difficulties of breastfeeding - this alone might be enough to create a very skewed view for a new mother.
Tracy Hogg actually believes that breastfeeding is no more than "the latest trend"; this is, of course, absolutely laughable - there is a reason why the Almighty created women with two breasts. Women have been breastfeeding since the beginning of time. To support this ridiculous statement, Mrs. Hogg mentions that after World War 2, almost an entire generation of mothers chose not to breastfeed. Are we supposed to believe that God's gift of breast milk is somehow less valuable, because a generation was fooled into making a short-sighted choice?
Her section about breastfeeding is literally bursting with examples of women who, for various reasons, couldn't or shouldn't breastfeed. From reading Mrs. Hogg's book, you'd think that inadequate milk supply is a very common problem, while actually, in many cases what is mistaken for "low supply" is no more than unsuccessful attachment to the nipple or slow flow of milk. Mrs. Hogg suggests pumping as a way to make sure a woman's breast milk supply is adequate, while for many women, pumping might be very ineffective, thus creating an unjust sense of insecurity about "inadequate" milk supply. Isn't there more common sense in observing weight gain and especially satiety signals - which is supposed to be Mrs. Hogg's specialty?
My impression is that Tracy Hogg's attitude about breastfeeding is that it's nice, but not important enough to work hard for. Again, whether to breastfeed or not is every mother's individual choice and no one else's business. But a lactation consultant, in my opinion, is not supposed to hint that almost any and every reason - from sore nipples to body image or simply convenience - can and should override the enormous benefits of breastfeeding. She goes as far as suggesting that breastfeeding your baby can make the older siblings jealous, and this, too, is a point against breastfeeding - as if a baby who is not breastfed will not demand the same amount of attention!
Tracy Hogg discards the "myth" of nipple confusion, and strongly promotes the use of pacifiers from the first weeks of the baby's life. She also supports introducing a bottle in the first two or three weeks of the baby's life, to make sure that the baby won't refuse a bottle later on. She strongly discourages non-nutritional suckling which many babies do at the end of a feeding. Now, I don't believe that the mother is supposed to constantly have her breast out and in the baby's mouth, but Mrs. Hogg fails to mention that additional breast stimulation is important to maintain an adequate milk supply.
Much of Mrs. Hogg's advice is clearly more compatible with formula feeding. For example, if it seems that the baby needs more nutrition during the day, Mrs. Hogg might suggest, "add 30 ml to each feeding. Of course, it's more difficult if you're breastfeeding..." - why not suggest an appropriate solution for a breastfeeding mother, such as feeding on both sides (if you're feeding normally on one side each time), feeding for a longer time, or even feeding more frequently?
The fact is, breastfeeding isn't always easy. For some women, it might involve an entire range of challenges, from sore nipples and mastitis, to worrying because your baby isn't growing as fast as your friends' babies who are given formula. Most breastfeeding problems can be solved. Much can be done to boost a mother's milk supply. Perhaps her nutrition isn't adequate - this can be easily corrected. Perhaps she will have to express the milk left after each feeding - my mother did this, and ended up with enough milk for two babies. It will, however, take commitment and hard work. It's a matter of attitude: do we see formula as a last resort, or as a convenient solution of any and all breastfeeding problems?
Also, Mrs. Hogg believes that babies should be weaned by the time they are one year old. She describes a case when a mother was still breastfeeding her two-year-old - in her interpretation, it sounded almost like a tragedy. Of course, a two-year-old is usually exposed to a wide range of foods, but why automatically exclude breastfeeding from the equation?
As a conclusion, some sections of this book are helpful, but you really need to be careful about what you read, and not take anything for granted. Eat the fish and spit out the bones.