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Breakfast With

Tracy Hogg

Monday, March 04, 2002

By Patricia Sheridan, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Tracy Hogg is known as the Baby Whisperer for her uncanny ability to calm crying infants and teach new parents how to communicate with their newborns. Her first book, "Secrets of the Baby Whisperer," a New York Times best-seller, is now available on DVD and VHS. A registered nurse for the mentally handicapped, Hogg came to the United States from England eight years ago.

Q. Aren't babies basically unreasonable?

A. Well, it depends on what you are trying to reason with them about. You are supposed to try to understand what they are communicating to you so you can meet the need. You do that by observing the body language and noting the pitch and tone of the cry. Those signals relate very distinctive things, like I'm overtired, change my diaper, I'm hungry. It is very clear that the pitch and tone changes for different needs -- there is not one cry for all.

Q. How did you become known as the Baby Whisperer?

A. Through several clients in Los Angeles and one in particular who was an equestrian. She had the actual Horse Whisperer to one of her horses and she said, "Now I've had the Baby Whisperer as well." My reputation spread through word of mouth as the Baby Whisperer.

Q. Does the "let them cry" theory ever apply?

A. Never, because you are breaking the trust you are building with the infant. The baby is not being willful or spiteful, it's just that you probably got into what I call accidental parenting. With a baby you get out what you put in. If the baby only knows how to go to sleep by being rocked, then you have to teach her to sleep without being rocked.

Q. Do you think boy babies behave differently than girl babies?

A. I identify five different personalities. One true personality jumps out in all of us from birth. The gender differences are really based on how you deal with a boy vs. a girl. It's our society.

Q. Did you ever meet a baby you couldn't whisper down?

A. Never. And I've been doing this 24 years.

Q. What is the most common mistake parents make with crying babies?

A. Crying is often times the end result of missed cues. So if you are trying to change a baby's diaper and he's obviously hungry, then you're not going to meet his needs. A need met goes away. The other mistake is winding them up even more. From day one, children have all the skills to go to sleep on their own, it's just that we rob them of it.

Q. When did you realize you had the gift?

A. Oh wow, years ago. I've always been a very observant person. I used to recognize and observe things as a child. My grandfather was in a hospital, actually it was called the lunatic asylum, and children from 6 weeks of age were admitted into these big hospitals. I would go down and talk with them. There was one particular little girl that was the same age as I. I was 8 at the time. I'd interpret what she wanted. When I went back as a nursing student, she was still there. But I began to notice when I was working on a ward with a lot of babies, the different pitches to the cries.

Q. Can these techniques it be applied to adults?

A. Yes, the circle of respect, certainly, and accepting people for who they are and communicating. People say my second book on toddlers really applies to everyone. It's about boundaries and knowing when you've overstepped them. And being clear when you are communicating. So many fuzzy lines develop when you are not communicating well. Then you have a tendency to try to be clairvoyant and guess what the other person wants. When you do that, you can get into a lot of trouble . . .

Q. So you helped Calista Flockhart?

A. Yes. Calista adopted a child, and basically every new parent can learn these skills. You don't have to be a mom who has carried a child.

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