NEW YORK -- There are two words that new parents should live by: EASY and SLOW.
Take them literally and remember what they stand for, said Tracy Hogg, author of the new parenting book, "Secrets of the Baby Whisperer" (Ballantine, $22).
EASY is short for "eating," "activity," "sleeping" and "you," the guidelines of a structured yet livable routine.
SLOW is "stop," "listen" and "observe," so moms and dads can figure out "what's up?" It's a technique that enables parents to decipher what their baby is saying and needs, said Hogg, a nurse, lactation educator and newborn consultant.
Her clients gave her the name "Baby Whisperer" because of her ability to calm and soothe babies by respecting, learning, listening and communicating with them.
Hogg, interviewed recently in New York, stresses that it is important for parents to read and listen to their baby, not a baby they read about in a book. Just like any other human being, a baby isn't like any other human being.
"In the first couple of weeks, his personality starts to emerge straight away and it stays that way," says Hogg, who speaks with a thick British accent although she has lived in Los Angeles for the past eight years. "You can't fit a baby into a personality he's not. You have to get to know them for who they are -- it's not a peg you can fit into a square hole."
Hogg knows this from experience. She has two girls of her own, Sophie, 15, and Sara, 18, and has cared for infants for the past 24 years.
"Mums don't resist my advice because they see it works. I haven't had a single parent I've worked with that I haven't helped."
Her approach to parenting is a commonsense model passed on from generation to generation. She credits her own grandmother with influencing both her childhood and mothering skills, and Hogg encourages parents to take advice from their own relatives.
"The trend now is back to the nuclear family, which forces us not to pass down family traditions and advice, and leads to an overload of scientific, medical and technical information."
Parents did just fine before the age of "infotainment" and the Internet, Hogg says. "Most parents want hand-holding, not an injection from a doctor," she adds.
And, what babies want most is structure. They like predictability, Hogg said, and they express confusion by crying.
"Stability grows out of a good foundation."
The most common fear of parents is that they will unwittingly harm the baby -- which is unlikely; and the most common frustration is not knowing what the baby wants -- which can be remedied by learning what the different cries mean.
Understanding and communicating with a baby isn't that hard, she says. Treat a baby with respect, interact with the baby and include the baby in your lives.
"Some parents want to complicate things. They can't believe that it can be so easy."
She was once called to the home of a worried mother who couldn't figure out why her baby slept soundly in the bassinet but would cry at the top of her lungs when in the crib.
The mother insisted something was either wrong with the baby, the crib or how the mother was placing her in it, Hogg said. The problem was not that dramatic. The crib was under an air vent and the baby was cold.
Hogg offers these basic baby guidelines:
-- For expecting parents: Take an infant preparation class, not just Lamaze or Bradley breathing classes.
-- For parents of newborns: Not everything will be perfect. Get comfortable with your baby -- and remember the first six months don't last forever.
-- For parents of 1-year-olds: Take your structure with you wherever you go. A baby whose routine is disrupted by a vacation isn't going to immediately return to that routine when the vacation is over.
And the most important thing for a mother (or father) to do is trust their instincts.
"Mother's intuition does exist. Can't you hear your mum saying to you 'I knew it all along' or 'I told you so?' That's because of her intuition."
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