An Open Letter to Gina Ford – Author of The Contented Little Baby Book

Dear Gina,

I was interested to learn of your latest book “The Contented Mother’s Guide” (via this Daily Mail article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2110738/Don-t-say-sex-ready-childcare-guru-Gina-Ford-tells-new-mothers.html). I haven’t read your book yet so am only commenting on what appears to be the press releases sent out by your publishers and the resulting interpretations of the media, but I do plan to read your book in full as soon as possible as I like to keep in touch with what is happening in the world of popular parenting literature.

For now though what I have read – what I believe may be comments from mothers in your book rather than yourself – has left that same sinking feeling in my heart that I was left with when I read your Contented Little Baby Book almost ten years ago as a nervous and naive new first time mother. Back then I wasn’t sure why your book made me feel so uncomfortable, particularly as all my other new mummy friends were raving about it, I did try your routines and your approaches to sleep, but I cried as much – if not more – than my baby did. In the end I think, after a wretched time that truly spoilt my enjoyment of my baby, I donated your book  to the local NCT branch’s library, something I regret regularly.

I know now of course why your first book made me so uncomfortable, it was because my maternal instinct was screaming at me to ignore your advice. I’m just so sorry I listened to the hype and not my inner voice. Now though I am older, stronger and wiser, I’m a seasoned mother of four and that same sinking feeling is no longer for me or my baby, now it is for the thousands (millions?) of new mothers who will read your newest book  and may feel as I did when I read your first. A lot has changed in ten years, it seems however the burden of expectation modern parenting manuals place on new parents has not.

I know you have not had children yourself, so including advice in your book from mothers to suggest resuming a sexual relationship as soon as possible after the birth (as per the Daily Mail article suggesting one mother advises in your book to “grin and bear it”) might not seem upsetting to you. Neither I suppose would you allowing the addition of a suggestion from a mother to your book who advises leaving a newborn with babysitters whilst the new parents enjoy a “date night.” I appreciate that for parenting experts who have not walked in the shoes of a new mother it must be hard to really understand what we go through and thus it must be incredibly hard to know what comments to include in your book in order to present a representative view of mothers. It saddens me that this advice made it in though, I remember how vulnerable and naive I was as a new mother and I think I would have worried about having to “grin and bear it” by having sex as soon as possible.

In my opinion, the reality of new motherhood is incredibly different and the advice in your book, however well meant or jovial – and whoever it comes from, I fear will do nothing more than make new mothers feel even more pressurised to be ‘perfect’ and make them doubt themselves and fuel the fires of guilt even more than your Contented Little Baby book made me feel (and actually ten years on STILL makes me feel a little). For me reading both in tandem I’m sure would have pushed me over the edge of the cliff into the cold and lonely waters of postnatal depression.

When you have just had a baby you experience so many unbelievable emotions, some wonderful, some less so as your body and your mind struggles to adapt to the change. Even if your birth has gone smoothly your vagina and perineum still feels as if it has done ten rounds with Mike Tyson for days, often weeks  after the pain of the contractions have been long forgotten. You bleed for weeks after the birth too. I have personally had three 2nd degree tears, each one obviously needing suturing.  Having stitches in perhaps your most intimate and sensitive body parts is not an experience to forget quickly. At first you are unable to sit down for any length of time, then comes the intense fear of the first poo, no matter how much lactulose you consume it is always far more terrifyng than birthing a baby – have you ever feared splitting in two – literally? and then the weeks it takes to recover from the indignity of having a stranger examine and insert their fingers into your private parts over and over again?

Then when you survive the first postnatal poo you have to endure days of said stitches itching and pulling as the skin heals and the stiches begin to break down – this remember is after a straightforward vaginal birth with a natural, fairly minor tear. For those women who suffer major tears or episiotomies their vaginas can feel bruised and  battered for months – even years and I haven’t even begun to think about what postnatal healing must

be like for those women who birthed by C-Section, major abdominal surgery that takes months to recover  from fully!

Then there is the all too constant reminder that we are “too attached” to our babies, for although we – as new mothers – feel they are the most important beings in the world, we are told we must not smother them, we must let them self settle in their own cot and now we are told we must go out without them. Not only that the suggestion, from another mother, published in your book that we must tear ourselves away from our newborns (we may as well be told to cut off a limb – such is the bereft feeling of emptiness when away from them) and “date” our partners, we must not talk of our baby – when that is the only thing in the world we want to talk about. We are boring and risking our relationship if we do otherwise though. Heaven forbid how did our species survive without these parenting tomes and advice?

Then there are the breasts that leak – or perhaps more embarrassingly squirt – milk whenever anybody comes near them,  the saggy crepe papery postnatal belly, the hair loss, the night sweats and the new levels of exhaustion you experience each day, just when you think the tiredness cannot get any worse and the sleep deprivation must surely reach a turning point soon. No amount of alcohol, massage oil, lubricant or dressing up helps your libido when you are an aching, tearful bundle of hormones who quite frankly could never possibly envision sex again (I was always amazed at my GPs responses at my 6wk checks when they asked me what contraception I was using? I always replied “abstinence – I’ve just had a baby” – as they discussed the merits of implants, pills and condoms with me).

….And then there  are the fathers. Are we partnered with such sexist primal cave men that unless we fulfil their carnal desires they will up and leave us for another? are they so shallow that they cannot possibly wait until we are physically and emotionally ready for sex again? must  we lie back and think of England? perhaps I should comb my hair, fix in a ribboned bow, clean the house from top to bottom and have his favourite three course meal prepared for his arrival home too? Do their babies mean so little to them that they want to return to normality and enjoy a social life as they did before – when they were free of the burdens of fatherhood? Really? Perhaps my husband is one of a kind then? because he fell head over heels as much as I did, I only feel guillty that he only had 2weeks paternity leave with each of our babies when I know he would have liked much longer. It is important that we do not undervalue new fathers.

kind regards

Sarah

About SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.
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67 Responses to An Open Letter to Gina Ford – Author of The Contented Little Baby Book

  1. Thank you Sarah for taking the pressure off of being the ‘perfect’ parent. I’d love to hear Gina’s response.

  2. Sandy NZ says:

    There are too many such books out there. I’ve just gone through the same as a first time Mum and after 4 months of fighting my maternal instincts and doing what the books say is “right” I’ve learnt to trust myself – but that only came once the hormones and sleep deprivation settled. It’s sad that all these so called experts are capitalising on techniques that are neither scientifically sound nor respect the individuality of each child and mother/father. So good to find people like you on the net Sarah. Keep up the good work.

  3. Nan says:

    I’m a first time older Mum and got this book as a gift for my baby shower. I read through and immediately decided I didn’t like it. I have a rather relaxed approach to parenting, maybe because I’m an older Mum, maybe because that’s just who I am. Sure I wasn’t confident about certain things, but bubs and I (and hubby) have found our groove, we don’t need any of the ‘schedules’ we work our own from our heart.

  4. Great letter Sarah. I didn’t know Gina wasn’t even a mother – it’s like taking advice from certain celibate clerics on family planning!
    My partner has bought his own copy of your book to read and we are both regretting that when baby is born, he will only have 2 weeks too. Date night, sex etc, we never discuss seriously because we know we have no idea, and having been ‘allowed’ by your book as opposed to others to follow our instincts, we know that we will get to those things when they come. Date night will consist of taking baby with us if we want, or leaving him with his close aunt who he’ll already see every day, if we’re all happy to do so. We already can’t stop talking about him and know life will never be the same again.
    I’m dumbfounded that people are promoting the mentality of acting like you don’t have a baby!
    Our baby’s head-wetting celebration will of course involve him taking pride of place at the meal with the people who are celebrating his arrival. We can’t have it any other way.

  5. Tui says:

    I read The Contented Little Baby book and immediately disregarded it. It was far too rigid for me, had such high expectations of mothers, and it seemed clear it would set me up for failure. Our mothers never had access to (nor needed!) parenting books so why do we? And how on earth can someone write such a book without having the experience of being a mother!? I was fully baby led together with my instincts for my first baby, who was and still is incredibly contented. I’m using the same approach with my new 3 week old.

  6. Dawn says:

    I totally agree with you Sarah. I’ve always had trouble following baby advice from someone who hasn’t actually been through it themselves. Every time I read about crying it out I can’t help but wonder, if we’re really supposed to let them cry – then what is the point of babies crying? And why do we feel the need to pick them up? Our instincts are there for a reason. Suggesting that any woman forces themselves to be intimate again with their husband is just a recipe for disaster. The journey a couple makes after they become parents can be rocky enough without adding guilt and obligation into the mix. It’s a strange time just after you’ve had a baby, but it’s also a short time and any man who would be unhappy to wait until their partner is ready, really isn’t a proper partner x

  7. Emily says:

    my gut wrenches a little every time on parenting forums I hear new mums talking about moving their 3 month old into their own room, controlled crying, getting their lives back etc etc… but I dont feel its their fault but the expectations society, fueled by so called baby experts, places upon mothers. We are a ‘good’ parent if our baby is ‘trained’ and lets our lives return to normal immediately. I wish as a society we would value and respect both motherhood and childhood again, instead of these silly Victorian style values. Before I had a child I had many misconceptions about parenthood and evidently so do the likes of Gina Ford and Jo Frost. It makes me very sad.

  8. Rachel says:

    This is fabulous. It is only now on baby no 3 ( + 3 rounds of PND) that I am listening to me, my body and my heart. My baby is the most content of all because I am.

  9. Marilu says:

    I’m most amazed by your calm tone Sarah and congratulate you for it. Gina Ford makes me seeth with the pressure she puts on new parents. I am also a mother of four and ex-chair of a local NCT group. The expectation that babies should “behave” and fit in round us is absurd, it’s such a huge learning curve for a new mother, one that is best journeyed with loving support and understanding from her partner, family and friends and most importantly plenty of time spent bonding with the baby. This bonding can only be through feeding on demand, holding, stroking and actually spending proper time with your perfect bundle. Your life is turned upside down when you add a newborn to the mix and personally I think it’s futile and stressful trying to get your “old” life back when you’ve had children. Embrace your new family, trust your instincts and give it time, as they say it’s a greater healer, for both perineums, strained sleep deprived relationships and feelings of “new mother” inadequacy.

  10. Claire Surman says:

    I read the first paragraph of Contented Baby and then threw it away. Anything that is going to make me feel like a failure before I’ve turned the first page (or really begun to get to know my baby) is of no help or use. The baby whisperer, however was fantastic.

  11. Gillian says:

    Thanks so much for such a measured and calm response to someone who makes me want to shout a lot of very. bad. words. I was lucky enough to have the confidence (most of the time) to go with the flow, and had a very supportive husband who enabled that. I tried controlled crying for one night when my LO was 9 months, and cried much harder than my son did. It still makes me feel awful, even 7 years later, I feel like I betrayed his unconditional trust in me. Very interested to hear if you get a response. Thanks again, Gillian

  12. Mel says:

    Love your letter Sarah! I have 3 children of 14, 9 and 4….oh how different they are! My first, a son, was such a needy baby and I’d decided that he would NOT sleep in my bed after seeing both my nephews reluctant to leave my sister’s bedroom til age 12! How I missed out on all those cuddles that my baby had needed as I’d listened to how I’d only be “making a rod for my back”!

    My second, a daughter, was so different…dream baby who just wanted her own space. No issues there.

    Number 3 came along, another needy one…she slept on my chest for over a month and gradually by 3 months old was happy in her crib. Incredibly content and I felt much better than I did with my son. This way seemed more natural than the rigid stance I’d chosen then….and ended up with PND, not surprisingly!

    No one knows better than a mother does of her baby’s needs. No 2 children from the same family are the same, so go with instinct.

    Thank you Sarah for standing up for natures norm!!

  13. James says:

    So one parenting author is criticising another parenting author. How very surprising!
    For the record we found The Baby Whisper very helpful.

    • Easy to be critical says:

      I agree James – what a surprise!

      I did not find the baby whisperer useful at all. But that’s ok. WHat works for some doesnt work for others. It doesn’t matter to me that Gina Ford wasn’t a parent, she gives good logical advise which was not ‘fluffy’ as others were to me. But I’m not here to criticise the alternatives.

      I read a lot of Gina Ford and practiced controlled crying – which worked in 1 week and have had a happy, very connected, sleeper ever since.

      What I had the most problems with, was bitchy women indirectly snubbing me for my method which worked for me. Funny how these ‘earthy’ women are often the most bitchy. Live and let live.

  14. Keaniebaby says:

    I just say ignore books and completely follow your instincts and your babies lead. They’re quite clever little things at letting you now what they need. If I had another baby now (highly unlikely!), I really would go with the flow. Your baby, your choice.

  15. Natalie says:

    As a clinical psychologist I always find it interesting how little parenting advice is based upon attachment theory. Attachment research shows that children who are securely attached are happier and form ‘better’ relationships later in life. Secure attachment is when your parents are tuned in to you and you are able to trust them to provide for your needs e.g. feeding you in the night etc etc. Attunement is easier the closer you are to your baby, physically and emotionally. (Clearly this is harder with PND, but if you saw a psychologist about PND one of the things they would advise is to spend time paying attention to your baby through baby massage or just looking and touching them).

    It is interesting that most of the child clinical psychologists I know have parented their children by using slings, co-sleeping, and similar attachment parenting techniques rather than expecting their babies or children to act like miniature adults and allow them to carry on as though they weren’t parents.

  16. Caroline trembath says:

    I have just read your insulting letter to gina and it has bought back feelings of guilt I had with my first baby for using the book. Both of my babies have needed a roitine and as a consequence of using the routine times in ginas book I have had two babieswho are so happy content well fed and who as a consequence sleep through the night. Why cant people be left to make their own decisions as to what advice they follow. No one is perfect and if you are stupid enough to follow only one persons advice then that is your own fault. After readong your postI have decided not to feel guilty any more. I would not shovel her advice down anyone elses throat but I would recommend her.

  17. Hannah says:

    I think this is an interesting topic.. The Gina Ford, you either love or hate the books. I saw some people before I had had kids, use the contented baby books and seen how calm and relaxed the kids and parents were. My husband and I decided to read it, but only as a rough guide ( we hadn’t been parents before and didn’t have a clue) we picked and chose what we wanted to try out. The more we did the more we found that what she was suggesting was really helpful. A few years on, we have come to the conclusion that the book is ideally for the perfec baby/parents, well that’s never going to happen! By actually to have some point of reference is so helpful. So I don’t think it’s a matter of whether she’s a parent or not, at the end of the day she gives some really helpful advice. Just like everything else, we are all different and have our own ways of parenting, working in our jobs, how we live in our marriage etc. so lets just be the best parents we can for our children and be the best role mode
    S for them.

  18. Marina says:

    This is such an amazing article! I hope more new mums read this rather than Gina Ford nonsense.

  19. Lydia says:

    I am a very relaxed first time mum never let my baby cry it out, always fed her when she wanted and she got herself in a routine and started sleeping through night at 10 weeks a very happy baby. I trusted my maternal instincts and never forced a rigid routine on her. I did have a quick read of the book and thought what a load of rubbish coming from a women who has never had children. You can’t possibly imagine what it is like untill you have kids of your own! Mothers should trust themselves as they know what’s best for their baby.

  20. Laura says:

    Gina didn’t work for me, but that isn’t to say she deserves a public slamming. And your attachment parenting didn’t work either. Does that make you both wrong and bad people – NO.
    I find your “Open” (read “Patronising” or “Condescending” or just “Plain Mean”) letter quite awful actually.
    Have you considered that the example you are setting to your children is that it’s ok to openly judge and criticise others, just because they do things differently to you?
    Not cool Sarah Ockwell-Smith, not cool at all. Fair enough, have your own opinion, but don’t try to cast others as bad people just because they are different to you.

  21. steph says:

    Excellent letter. Gina’s approach to post birth mothers is laughable. Reason being she has absolutely no idea what she is talking about. It would be like me instructing Astonauts what do do on the moon. Never been, no idea. Go and take up dog training, Gina.

  22. Melanie says:

    In contrast to the others commenting I followed the concept of the Gina Ford New contented baby book with both of my children and found it very good(As did many of my friends) They were very contented babies who slept through at 9 weeks, laughed a lot and now at 10 and 7 are gorgeous loving children. Without Gina’s routines I think I would have been driven mad with lack of sleep and that wouldn’t have made me or my children happy. There are always 2 sides to every story!!

  23. rosewell says:

    an utterly perfect letter from a person who has actually experienced childbirth and becoming a mother — I can’t believe so many people follow this person’s advice and Gina Ford has never ever gone thro having a baby! Utterly priceless!

  24. Anonymous wisdom says:

    The rule of thumb here is: you dont have to have a baby to write a book.. & you dont have to read a book to have a baby.. 😉

    “have a cup of cement & harden the fu%k up!”

    • Louise says:

      Perfect response. I wouldn’t follow her to the letter but my life is now so much better than the over sensitive mummies whose babies won’t sleep without rocking shushing breast etc etc. she sorted us out and my son is a much happier baby with his routine in place. Video cameras, not allowing a whimper, it’s ridiculous, parenting isn’t about being constantly popular it’s about doing the right thing and raising a secure and confident child who can make their own confident decisions and become independent. Now obviously a tiny baby isn’t going to be Independent and shouldn’t be but it all starts here, perhaps our society wouldn’t be heading so far down the toilet if we weren’t so ridiculous with our precious bundles…

  25. sossypops says:

    I always think journalism is done best when the writer bothers to actually read the book before writing the article.

    I think what you describe re the feelings of guilt are far more to do with the personality of the mother and the way they have interpreted the book rather than anything Gina has written that is fundamentally wrong.

    I also dislike the way that by being so overly critical of the Gina Ford routines, you are in fact implying that a mother who follows them is wrong, weak, guilty or not following her ‘natural instincts’. I know many extremely confident, well informed and capable mothers who have found Gina Ford to be a godsend. It was certainly my ‘natural instinct’ to use The Contented Little Baby.

    I would never dream of writing an article judging a person who advocated a lack of routine or structure. Or by doing this imply that a mother who follows this path is doing something wrong.

    We are all mothers trying our best. Let’s not lose sight of that please.

  26. vicky martin says:

    Well said Melanie and Sossypops.

    I tried being “baby led” with my daughter for the first year of her life, she was miserable, I was miserable, I just didn’t recognise her tired cues etc and she got into a horrible, over tired mess more times than not. For us personally, things like the no-cry sleep solution were as useful as a wet blanket

    However, that doesn’t mean I am shouting “down with Dr Sears” or “down with Elizabeth Pantley” from the roof tops. I , personally, choose to recognise what may not be right for one, can be right for another. It seems to be an inbuilt fault that a lot of people who dislike routine themselves don’t offer the same balanced view, and instead treat anyone following a routine such as this as a lepper or someone who is weak and damaging their child

    • clarefineart says:

      Yes! It is sadly all too common for parents on the ‘baby-led’ side of the camp who tend to be the more critical of others. Rather than just get on with it and let others do the same they seem to justify their own methods by disparaging others. I am not going to sit and judge others for their parenting. Most of these comments are just bitchy unfortunately.

      I don’t see myself as a “gina’ follower, just common-sense and instinct led but I am definitely 100% not a bitchy Mum who tries to put other women off reading books that they may feel work for the,

      This is just a distasteful publicity stunt. Fortunately it will probably work well for them both and will get some sales out of it. It definitely made me want to see if there are any more Gina books to read – as a midwife she knew her stuff.

  27. Pamela Tasker says:

    Such a wonderful letter! Everything in here about motherhood is true! Unless you go through it yourself it is very difficult to advise those who are starting out! The advice about ‘not smothering my baby’ with too much affection is still awful advice I am getting now and my son has just turned two! Listening to your own maternal instinct is the most important thing you can do as a mum.

  28. Millie says:

    I would like to know how many of Gina Ford’s critics themselves went on to abandon their precious little ones at a year old or less by going back to work.

    Keep your hang-ups to yourselves and stop deluding yourselves that you know better. People do what works for them, as you yourselves are only too aware since you chose money ahead of bringing up your babies.

    • June says:

      this is a ridiculous comment. To suggest that people choose money over bringing up their babies? And that if they go back to work they are ‘abandoning’ their children? I question Gina Ford’s credentials, and am an advocate of mothers finding their own way and doing what is right for them and their babies, but sadly for MOST families, earning money is not a choice, it is a necessity. And I have the utmost respect for those women who drag themselves away from their beautiful babies, because they know that being able to provide for them is a priority.

  29. Lucy says:

    Yes Sarah yes! The pain to even just sit in those first weeks sends shivers down my spine when I think of it now.

    My partner and those of my friends were so attached to the newborn too. The baby isn’t the mother’s selfish indulgence that the father must bear. The baby is the privelage and responsibility of both parents.

    Quite frankly any person pressuring a woman still bleeding for sex needs kicking to the curb not date nights and grin and bear it sex. Urgh I’m glad my partner isn’t such an uncaring dick that he’d put his sexual gratification above all else!

  30. Jo says:

    When my daughter was born I was a long way from family and my husband worked away. I could not physically put my daughter down at all without her crying during the first 3 weeks of her life, every night was sat on the sofa holding her while she slept and I did nothing more than nod for 5 to 10 mins at a time and the days were very similar. I became very ill very quickly and was admitted to hospital with a bleed on the brain due to exhaustion and dehydration. I was in hospital for 2 weeks where apparently I came quite close to dying. On coming out I was terrified of going back to the same routine and out of desperation my husband bought every baby book he could get his hands on – prior to my daughter’s birth I’d refused to read anything. Gina Ford’s advice was the only one that made a difference and the first night I could put my daughter to bed at 7 and she slept through I cried all night. She is now 3 and is the happiest child I know – everyone comments with no signs of lasting damage or insecurity and it annoys the hell out of me when people like you try to make other mothers feel guilty for just doing their best. Leave me and people like me alone and keep your condescension and mis-placed piousness to yourself.

  31. Sandra Jones says:

    Dear Sarah – wonderful letter. As a first time mother I was bought Gina’s book and “Secrets of the Baby Whisperer” by Tracy Hogg. Within a few pages I knew that I could not follow Gina’s ‘advice’ and became worried that I wasn’t doing what I was “supposed” to…but then I read Tracy’s book and everything changed. I realised that it is about natural instinct and listening to those you know and trust and so Gina’s book went in the bin and Tracy’s book was used as a back-up when I couldn’t get advice from a friend or family member! By the time I had my second child (who was harder work than the first) I was much more relaxed and new that my heart would tell me what the right thing to do was. I hope all new mum’s read your letter and know that it is ok to take whatever approach suits them best and to take a little pressure off themselves – they’ve just done the MOST amazing thing on this planet – they’ve just created new life!!

  32. Excellent blog – totally agree. Although I see you are on MN blog network too…I share similar views to you!!

  33. joops says:

    I’ve always believed that loving your baby doesn’t need an instruction manual. The tragedy is that not all parents have the self-belief and courage to trust their instincts. Gina Ford has made a fortune out of exploiting this.

  34. sam says:

    It sounds like you had a terrible lack of support. I’m shocked that you were failed so badly you almost died! Spending nights on the sofa trying to stay awake is terribly dangerous. You are fortunate that you didn’t fall asleep and smother your baby 😦 It would have been safer to make your own bed safe for your baby so you could bedshare and get some sleep that way.

  35. Natalie says:

    Interesting article and equally interesting comments. I read the Contented Baby book when I had my second child. I didn’t read it when I had my first child 8 years earlier and felt almost obliged to read it second time round as all of my (first time mum) NCT friends were raving about it as was my best friend who had her child 5 weeks before. With the perpetual guilt that being a working mum brings (I had to go back to work when my first born was 6 weeks old because we were not in the financial position for me to be able to stay at home), I felt that I should do things differently with my second child. Having read the book, I decided that actually, it was not for me. It did not fit with my nature or my instinct in any way. That’s not to say it doesn’t work for some – my NCT friends raved about it – for me though, it was not the way forward and perhaps, just perhaps, I didn’t do such a bad job first time round after all… My son is now 20, my daughter is 12. Both are lovely, well adjusted, loving, intelligent and settled kids. I’m sure I’ve made mistakes, and I’m sure I could have done some things differently, but overall, they’re happy which makes me happy.

    On an aside, comments like “People do what works for them, as you yourselves are only too aware since you chose money ahead of bringing up your babies.” is pretty poor form in my opinion. There will always be a debate (perhaps for another day) between women that choose to stay at home and bring up their kids (a full time job in itself and I commend those that choose this) and women who whether by financial requirement or otherwise choose to return to their job (again, I commend those who do this, it’s not easy!), but please don’t bring ‘choosing money ahead of bringing up your babies’ into the equation. I suspect that most women who return to work choose to do so because of financial necessity – as in paying mortgages and bills – not because they value money ahead of being able to be with their child. The constant guilt you subject yourself to as a working mum is enough – judgemental and ill-informed comments like the above do nothing but show an abject lack of understanding or compassion for those that may not be in the lucky position of being able to choose whether they return to work or stay at home.

  36. Alice says:

    What a stupid woman – she should have a baby then rewrite her book, or put the book where it belongs – in the Victorian history section – from a very experienced midwife/mother and grandmother.

  37. Helen Van Greuning says:

    As a 62 year old Mother of a 27 yr old son and 29 yr old daughter all I can say is each generation has its “guru” mine was Penelope Leach who instilled in me the same sense of failure Gina Ford does in some of the current generation of Mothers. what I have learnt is that your children survive and thrive despite rather than because of our parenting skills. If they grow to become good, kind adults you have succeeded. Be kind to other parents not judgemental whatever choices they make about staying at home or returning to work.

  38. Kelly powell says:

    Wow … some sense at last!!
    I had my first baby at 23 and I was amazed that so many people had this lady’s books, mainly older mums if I am honest but still new mums nevertheless.

    What happened to the time that we went to our own mothers for advice??
    I for one hate these books of “how to be a good parent” being a mother is the most precious job in the world, do what feels right when it feels right NOT whrn someone who has never gone through the emotional journey of birth and lets not forget pregnancy itself!!!

    I laughed at some of your references Sarah as they were spot on!
    Date night … do me a favour, a woman that has just given birth would rather have a lovely long soak in a bath and go to bed and wake when ready not when woken!
    A man … real man will wait any amount of time to have sex again, they will understand having seen the pain their partner went through during labour that squeezing a person out of your most delicate place is not easily forgotten.

    I had to have a forceps delivery with my first and I had to have two blood transfusions and I was in NO fit state to go on date night or have sex.
    My husband waited for me to say when I was ready to go out or have sex again which by the way was FOUR MONTHS!!!!

    My only advice to new mothers is Don’t read books telling you how to be a mum, you are a mum and do what feels right for you! – we are all wonderfully different 🙂
    Wow how did our mums, nans and great grandparents ever survive without these how to books!!

    Just to touch on some comments left by others …

    I am a stay at home mum until my youngest goes to school next year as we accounted for my loss of earnings when planning to have children and I am self employed too!
    My children both slept from 4 and 8 weeks old all night till 7:30am I didn’t need a book to tell me how to do this it’s common sense!
    Baby cries it needs something, fix that then put then back again – cuddles and wanting you is something a baby NEEDS not to be put in a different room or left to cry until they cry themselves to sleep… babies will sleep when they feel happy and safe, normally next to mum!!

  39. Lou says:

    Well done for jumping on the anti-Gina bandwagon and using it as a platform to shout about yourself. Much of what you say is true, about parenthood that is, but how dare you be so utterly dismissive and rude about another “parenting expert” just because her way doesn’t work for you? This is isn’t an open letter, it is a very open way of talking about some of the issues facing new parents. I hadn’t heard of you before, but I am very very grateful to the experts I have heard of and whose books I read with an open mind. Yes, as a mother, I feel guilty sometimes. That’s not because I read a couple of books. I also have a pretty good idea of what my babies need and am able to spend time with my husband because I have had so much advice and support. Us parents should support each other in our parenting and in the choices we make, not criticise and undermine. It is perfectly possible to give positive advice without being rude to others.

  40. Martha says:

    All you are doing is promoting your own book of course.

  41. Debbie says:

    Here here, well done Sarah….I was a mother who resisted the temptation to have a Gina ford book to enter my house, although I’ve listened to endless discussions from those who did…..I feel sorry for there missed enjoyment thanks to “Gina’s rules”.
    I had a hard enough time without being bullied by “that evil witch Gina Ford” as she’s referred to by my brother in law!
    Congrats for taking a stand for ‘normal’ mothers everywhere xx

  42. Cath says:

    I suffered from PND and I wish I hadn’t looked at ANY parenting books, but especially not Gina Fords. You don’t have babies and then expect to fit them in to your current lifestyle. You fundamentally change when you become a parent, and your whole life changes. Instinct is the way forward, and Gina tries to draw mothers away from their instincts. It leads to more guilt and hardship on the mothers part when the ‘routines’ don’t work.
    To any new Mums out there: follow your instincts, do what feels right, you know best, throw all the books out, remember that every baby is different and have faith in yourself, it’s hard, but you ARE doing a brilliant job.
    Fabulous letter Sarah.

  43. catrisit neo says:

    great that you have shared this and understand natural parenting.. but i gotta say – you know when i see pictures of crying babies i can’t help but think how they had to be photographed screaming whilst the mama let them… for how long? photos like that really make me feel sad!

  44. Sarah, what an incredible and frank letter, even for Gina as a non parent that must sink in somewhere and pull at her emotions…. Or maybe emotions that only a parent would understand? It is a shame that it has so much exposure when quite rightly it is often a vulnerable time for women from all walks of life. I remember researching Harvey Karp the fourth trimester and other various new born parenting tools and one thing that made me think my instincts were correct (after all instincts are an innate, typically fixed pattern of behaviour in animals in response to certain stimuli) was a simple statement about new borns. The womb is a symphony of sensations – jiggling motion, constant sound and constant touch – then you understand how bizarre it is to take a new born baby and place them on a flat bed in a totally quiet space without contact. Thankfully, most of my fellow mummies follow more subtle parenting techniques and as she has no children of her own are reluctant to follow any of her advice as she hasn’t entered the secret sanctum of parenthood therefore how can she even touch the surface of our emotions!!! I hope that in particularly the first time mums that have read the article also review other sources and follow their own parental instants xx

  45. Claire says:

    Here here Sarah – well said!-) I love being a mum but was regularly frowned upon by ‘Gina mums’ as our little lady was in our room for a year and I took every chance of a cuddle I could (oh and I made eye contact too – god forbid!).
    Great article
    C x

  46. Rachel Laver says:

    Think the whole new parenting thing is very emotive. I’m not a fan of Gina Ford. I’m not totally attachment theory either. Do think there is far too much pressure on first time mums. Some of the comments rightly state that all children are different. Crying it out would not have worked for my 2 year old. I really just followed my own instincts in the end, I really don’t care what other people do, but I care about what I do. My little 2 year old is very happy, adjusted and a pure delight. I waited 3 years for her. She is a frozen embroyo. I truly believe when you have a child you have to sacrifice alot, otherwise what’s the point. I hate all this ‘rod for own back’ business. I’ve spent years having date nights with husband, so not bothered at all. I think you tend to bring children up as you were. My mum was very laid back and I’m afraid to say I snuggled up in bed with her alot, and dad slept in my bed. I grew up and became independent and got a good job!! Also have a very close relationship with my mum….and have lovely memories of being all snuggled up and blissfully happy!!!

    I don’t think Sarah was insulting at all about GinaFord. Thought she was totally right about alot. That’s in my opinion, but if people found it helpful then good for them. I’m never going to be one of those mums that conforms to such literature anyway. I have a wonderfully supportive husband who helps me alot and that makes a difference. Having baby number 2 in 4 days so see how this one is.

  47. Rebecca says:

    I read Gina Ford, thinking it would be for me, I have never been broody or one to coo over babies. It was my ideal scenario, my baby would fit in with my life, follow routines I set etc. How wrong I was! I fell in love when I first saw my daughter and just didn’t have it in me to be a “contented baby” parent. My little girl is now a polite, well rounded three year old who sleeps (dry) all night in her own bed.
    I did feel guilty and incapable when I was unable to get her to sleep in a moses basket (she spent the first year of her life co-sleeping with me), when she refused to take expressed milk from a bottle, when she was physically sick when I tried to move her into her cot, when she gave up afternoon naps at the age of 1 but we got there. You will find your own way and as many have already commented… trust your instincts!

  48. lis says:

    Gina’s book is a load of rubbish, I read it in 2007, really wish I hadn’t as when my bundle of joy arrived I couldn’t adhere to any of the guide lines and suggestions, I really struggled as nothing was going the way it said in the book. I urge all new mummies and daddies NOT to read, it made me feel like a failure and a crap mom and i really gave myself a hard time. Since then I’ve had another child and we did it our way which has turned out the easiest way. Go with the flow and remaining calm is key advice I can offer to new parents. Don’t listen to criticism and do what’s best for you and your baby

  49. Penny says:

    There are some amazing comments on here for both sides. The only thing I’d like to add is that for all the mums who proudly declare that they followed their ‘instinct’ should indeed be proud. But what if you didn’t have any instinct, or you lacked confidence to know how you truly felt one way or the other? Or in my case were so paralysed with tiredness you didn’t have a clue which way to turn!
    We read Gina Ford and had a jolly good laugh over it, tried it for a week or two and of course no baby could slot neatly into such a rigid routine, but Gina openly acknowledges that this will likely be the case. She offers a framework, a guide, that’s all. And no, she has no children, but I would feel pretty confident to offer an opinion after working with thousands of mums. I am a mum, she is not, but her experience of the million and one things to have a go at when you are struggling is far, far greater than mine. I feel that a lot of unfair characteristics are placed on her and a lot of criticism that isn’t really justified. She has provided a book to help parents who may like to try a certain way. We did, we worked hard at letting our kids go to sleep alone (yes crying – who wouldn’t prefer a warm cuddle?) and all were sleeping through by ten weeks. What’s more, we have countless friends whose children were rocked,driven, stroked or sung to sleep and still have erratic sleep patterns that have the parents up at all hours some 4 years on…4 YEARS!! I’d be on my knees!
    So yes, we are all different, but I will always be grateful for that book offering me a suggested routine when my head was a blank, swimming mush of utter confusion!

  50. Sara Madsen says:

    I read a pregnancy book but not a new baby book. I loved knowing what was happening in my tummy when I was carrying her but knew that when our first daughter arrived she would tell me what I needed to know about her routines. She fed when she wanted, we slept when she wanted and she made it through the night for the first time at 6 weeks, a very contented and happy girl! My second was slightly different as I had a toddler to care for too this time around but with the help of my husband and mother caring for my eldest she also settled into her own routine and slept through at 6 weeks.
    I should also mention that I had a terrible birth with my first, we both ended up in hospital for a week and I was in pain for 4 months, followed by surgery at 6 months so no sex for AGES. Hubby glad to wait and was totally worth it to be ready and comfortable before moving back into that part of our relationship again!

  51. Hi Sarah,
    I think you are so brave and I admire you for getting to the naked truth of being a new mother. Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong with my first born. She screamed non-stop, wouldn’t feed and had acute baby acne!!! She was a baptism of fire. She then turned into the most gruesome toddler on the planet. Then the teen years kicked in, and guess what? She’s great! She is a beautiful and very confident girl approaching her sixteenth birthday. She has just won an academic scholarship and belongs to MENSA. She makes me laugh and is turning into my greatest friend.

    I struggled with motherhood from the moment I had my daughter. I never read a single book; I was too exhausted!

    Forget all the advice on the bookshelves and just trust your instincts.

    My only regret is that I allowed so called ‘professionals’ to bully me and make me feel inadequate. The proof is in the pudding; I got it right!

  52. Ellabella28@yahoo.com says:

    Absolutely hit the nail on the head, out dated, antiquated cods wallop from a childless woman should not even be on the shelves! Totally agree, there must be something in the air because I literally wrote something down yesterday about the pressures of having to go back to work and leave babies who’ve just come out of our bodies…we need to stop worrying and just nurture more!

  53. Jess says:

    This article made me sad to read it. I am a huge fab of Giba Ford and truly believe she had helped my daughter ( and two neices) become the calm, happy, good eating,excellent sleeping babies and children they are.
    Being a new mum is daunting and I found a guide very helpful especially as my husband had no paternity leave, was straight back to working away and I was doing a lot of this alone!
    Like any parenting techniques, they are not hard and fast rules that must be obeyed. They are guides to help you and baby through baring in mind that every family is different.
    I follow baby lead weaning but spoon feed too. I’m not hard and fast to any one technique.
    I do know however that we have had no problems with weaning into solids, no problem with baby learning to drink from a bottle or sippy cup, no problems with sleep (neither I nor baby have every had to endure controlled crying) and very noneventful teething ( number 8 is on it’s way and we are only 71/2 months!)
    Gina isn’t telling us to leave our babies but reminding us that we were a loving couple before our baumdle if joy arrived and not to forget that. We all need time away sometimes but I think, are often to scared to admit it. I had a dinner out with hubby with my sister babysitting around the 2-3 month mark. I was still very tired so we weren’t out long but it was lovely to do that and have a conversation with hubby with no interruptions and not about baby ( for a little while at least!)
    Not all mums (me included) are able to take a fill year off work. It would have been amazing but work and finances would not allow it. That’s the way of life these days unfortunately. Again it’s not a failing on TFT parents part.
    Too much is put on the way parents do things – i.e,. Which method they follow. As long as you parent up the best of your ability and bring you child or children up in a loving and caring environment it doesn’t matter. There is a lot of good (and bad ) advise out there. Listen to it. See what has worked for friends and family. See what sort of children they have and use it to make your parenting decisions. Just remember that babies are born as blank canvases. They learn everything from us. Teach them what you want them to know. Not just manners and education when they are older. This starts fro. The beginning. From day one. That is the most important thing I believe in. We teach our children everything they rely on us solely. It is out duty to care for them and teach them the best way possible.
    There are no words to fully describe how how feel about my little one. She is a miracle. But parenting has sadly taught me just how many judgemental people there are out there.

  54. Hattie says:

    Hahaha! I thought I would be a Gina mum (some trusted friends advised it), and consumed it, along with the Baby Whisperer BEFORE I had my daughter, but afterwards, with a real living breathing, screaming baby, they all got chucked out – totally unhelpful!! It’s an industry, along with so much else, that preys on women’s uncertainty and insecurity in certain situations and the way many of us are anxiously trying to be ‘perfect’.

    My instincts took over, and against many people’s advice I did (what turned out to be, although I hadn’t heard of the phrase then) 100% attachment parenting. My six year old daughter is very secure, well behaved and calm – in fact I’m very proud of her!

    What we don’t have is a community of women sitting us down and helping us through, so we turn to books, and in fact the group of mums I got to know was a much bigger support in the end.

    It’s pretty stupid to be bickering about this, and I hate the different camps (though I’m 100% certain of my own rightness ; )) ; )) but like many things, women are competitive and give each other and ourselves a hard time!! Peace and love (and slings and breast milk) to you all XXX

  55. Lynn Ezis says:

    With my second child i used the Gina Ford book. It sent me into a spiraling journey of uncertainty and guilt. Why did my baby not sleep when she was meant to? It must be my fault! I went a bit crazy with the sleep deprivation and the pressure when really all i wanted was to get her in bed with me and cuddle! Follow our motherly instincts!

  56. Audrey says:

    Hello !
    I don’t understand why Gina Ford is so diabolise. She wrote a book about how to take care of your new born for them to end up sleeping well and feeding well and so what ?
    She’s not puting a knife on your throat for you to follow it ?
    You make your own choice and that’s it. If you think than as a new mum you know better than someone who looked after so many newborn, good for you.
    Gina Ford books works well for mums who are consistant and want their Children to sleep well so they can also sleep well and be rested enough to look after their babies during the day.
    A happy mum makes a happy baby.
    I put my child in Gina Ford’s routine from almost day one and she slept through the night at 1 month old. I never had too let her cry for more than 2 minutes…

  57. Pete says:

    Hi Sarah, and all the other concerned moms out these. I have read your letter as well as a couple of comments. I am wondering whether you all read the same contented little baby book that we did? Someone recommended the book two us during our first pregnancy and we took on their advice, and also based on the fact that we witnessed them parenting what appeared to be happy confident children that there must be some sense to what the book is saying.

    My eldest daughter followed the routines in the book to the ‘t’, and she was truly a happy and contented baby. My second child who is currently still a baby (3 months) has not followed the routines perfectly but has done quite well and also been a happy baby. People seem to make out that following the advice in the book makes you a terrible parent and people have somehow read into the book that you should forsake your love for your child to satisfy your own needs. I did not receive that message at all. I am the most caring and loving father and I’m nuts about my girls and only want what’s best for them. As far as I can tell using Ginas advice has helped my daughters to be more happy and contented as well as us as a family to cope as parents and in fact be excellent parents while meeting the demands of life. Did you all read the same book that we did?

  58. MW says:

    Sooooo glad I listened to the Health Visitors advice and ignorned these books!!

  59. Emily says:

    Thank you for such a well-written letter. I hope she reads it. More importantly, I hope thousands of new parents read it and are encouraged to follow their instincts with their baby.

  60. SG says:

    My oldest son is 12 and to this day I feel so guilty about following Gina Ford. Sure she helped with routines and let me keep breastfeeding going for over a year but the trauma I felt while following her advice was unacceptable. As a new mum (and unfortunately a perfectionist) I literally forced my baby and then toddler to fall asleep when I was told to in order not to screw up the schedule. I’ll never forget screaming at my then almost 2 year-old to get back to bed for his nap. I’m sick thinking about it and would never recommend this book to any new mum as it just made me not trust myself and more importantly my son. He is fine now but out of habit I still have a hard time trusting what he needs just like I did when he was a baby. Obviously, I’m not blaming my trust issues solely on following some book but it did contribute to it however small. My recommendation for new mums: take some of the advice and try out what works for you but under no circumstances beat yourself up or get stressed if it doesn’t go to plan. Spend as much time understanding YOUR baby not what someone else thinks you should do regardless. I wish I did.

  61. nicole says:

    THANK YOU! to be honest when i have been told that on top of all this she writes not to feed babies at night i personally wish the lady to get a bit of her own medicine.

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