nikki mather doula
nikki mather doula

The Curse of the Baby Whisperers

Nikki Mather IBCLC, Doula and Lactation Consultant talks about sleep and feeding “training”, and how strict routines are not biologically aligned with infant care.

In society today there is such a huge difference when it comes to parenting styles in a variety of different communities. Should we be falling into the commercial world of prams, bottles, formula, baby food jars, bouncers-as society we seem to do as others do, or should we be nurturing our offspring by moving away from what is considered ‘normal’ and prepare our children for adulthood on a biologically normal pathway; listening to our own bodies and the needs of our babies.

Babies, toddlers, children; no manual!! Why no instructions?

Gina Ford’s ‘Contented Little Baby Book’ tells us she can fix all the problems which stem from Mother Nature’s omission of an instruction book by supplying us with her self devised code, a manual in order to complete the ritual of parenthood and survive that first year, without every experiencing parenthood herself. Working with 12 hour time periods, 7am-7pm, Gina Ford tells us that strict feeding regimes and sleeping patterns are the only way our babies should be nurtured-leaving babies to cry for periods of time so they can ‘adapt’ into self-settling techniques by being ‘taught how to sleep’.
The issue with this is that babies, quickly become despondent, amd as clever as they are, realise that crying is actually a waste of time and energy. In order to conserve energy, they tend to then fall asleep exhausted from the crying and screaming, with the harsh reality that their caregiver will not be there for them in times of distress. Recent studies over the past few years show that ‘controlled crying’ or ‘crying it out’ can be damaging to neurological connections and the continually rapid development of the newborn brain. Sleeping with our babies, whether co-sleeping in the right conditions or sharing the room with baby not only ensures baby’s needs are immediately met but it cannot be ignored that this practice, which is the norm in large communities across the world, reduces the risk of SIDS-Sudden
Infant Death Syndrome – no mention of that though as co-sleeping would go against the grain of and follow the trend of the abundant non – evidence based ‘advice’ of the Gina Ford Philosophy.

Feeding babies on a schedule, instead of feeding on on baby’s cues can be just as damaging, irrespective of whether baby is receiving breastmilk or formula. Gina tells us that feeding 4 hourly is the norm and must be regulated. Feeds must be at 7am, 11am and not a second earlier, and do not dare to enter the separate-room-on-the-other-side-of-the-house your baby is crying in, should they dare to awaken before Gina says they should. Picking your child up at that point-your child has won, according to Miss Ford. Evil, coercing, manipulative babies! *tongue firmly in cheek*.

Brought into the brightness of day, is the Gina Ford assumption that you have birthed a milk-guzzling, sleep depriving, screaming human into the universe to disrupt your life for the rest of eternity! Unfortunately, what could have been a great book *cough* ended up telling mums that baby was broken or their parents were inadequate-6 feeds in a 24 hour period, especially in a breastfed baby, will most likely be detrimental to the breastfeeding dyads relationship; regular feeds are needed to ensure your supply is sufficient and your babies needs are met when you parent in a child-led environment.

The Gina Ford suggestion of expressing milk to ‘see how much baby gets at a feed’ is irresponsible and inaccurate, and is just one more way for a mum to doubt her body and the skills evolution has supplied her with.
Gina Ford’s way of making a living is to force new parents into feeling inadequate and unable to cope, using her regimented, prescriptive regimes and schedules. She disappointingly underpins the societal belief that babies should sleep through the night from day 6, should take 6oz on week 6 and will not settle unless they are left alone and cry themselves to sleep six times every day. When these ridiculous and somewhat dangerous routines fail, parents feel they have failed themselves, their families and their babies.

What happened? What happened to nurturing our young? Biologically caring for our young, keeping them close, sleeping, eating and drinking with them, comforting them. It all came to a stand still when society started to get busy and began to use the tips, tricks and commercialised baby rearing objects of a ‘let-somebody-else-mind-the-baby’ ideology; prams and cots, separate rooms and bouncers-anything to avoid picking your baby up and giving them the love and security needed. Arms to hold, hands to caress soft faces, breasts to comfort and feed and nurture.

Instead, the likes of Gina Ford have stepped into the long line of other ‘experts’, existing only to berate and ridicule biological nurturing of the newborn. Cuddle, pick up, feed, kiss, cuddle again; listen to your instincts, and follow what you feel is right for you and your baby. One day, humans everywhere will accept biological norms. Time for a change; EDUCATE.