Monday, 11 January 2010

Gina's on the naughty step again

Clean cut Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has got the knives out for Gina Ford in his bid to secure a few more votes in the upcoming election.

Now Clegg is a man who I admire for trying to promote the much maligned concept of paternity leave, a subject close to my own heart as my husband always struggled to get support for the time he took off when we had our sons. When baby number two was born he was called back into the office when he was less than a week old. In protest I tagged along too and proceeded to breastfeed my newborn in the upstairs office - that'll teach 'em.

But on this issue I must beg to differ. Perhaps I am not a full Ford convert - I never put my lipstick on or ate a piece of toast at the decreed time, and I also never stuck so rigidly to the routines that I was afraid to leave the house at nap time. However I found that routine was the only thing that got me through rearing four babies. Knowing when they would eat, when they needed to sleep and how to get them to go to sleep enabled both me, and my baby boys, to get through those early months with a minimum of tears and sleepless nights.

A lot of my fellow mums have marvelled at how I have managed to bring up four children all of whom sleep through the night, and all of whom have done so since 12 weeks at the latest - the twins were sleeping through by nine weeks - well my answer is twofold. Firstly all my boys were bottle fed from quite an early stage, which I do think helps with sleeping as formula, whatever else its pros and cons may be, does seem to fill up baby tummies faster than breast milk. Secondly, I stuck to a daytime nap and bedtime routine right from the early weeks.

Every day my babies were put down for regular naps in a darkened room, though they would occasionally take a shorter nap in a car seat or pushchair and every night they had a bath, story and bed. I will admit that I haven't been quite so regimented with the twins, but I've tried to put them to bed at the same time most nights and it seems to have worked so far.

That said I am the last person to dish out advice on what will work for other mums. I'm just sick of being preached at by politicians and other assorted experts as to the rights and wrongs of how to bring up my own children. Clegg may well feel that following Ford's strictures is like shutting a baby in cupboard, but my view is that if it works for you and your child then go for it. Just as not everyone is suited to strict routines, equally not every family or every baby is suited to the type of laissez faire parenting Clegg appears to be promoting.

As long as you bring up a happy, healthy family there is no 'right' way to parent, only the best way for you and your children. It's different for mothers who work than for those who can stay at home with their children, different for mums who can cope with sleep deprivation and those who can't function without their seven hours a night minimum and babies are different. Some are easy going and don't need too much routine to keep them happy, others are fractious and need a sense of structure in their day.

I think that perhaps if we all trusted our instincts as to what works best with our own babies and stopped relying on books, or politicians to tell us what to do our families might function a whole lot better. Perhaps I am preaching just as much as Clegg, but I would love it if mothers felt confident enough to hoe their own row when it came to raising their own children, rather than constantly having their instincts undermined by so called experts who are vying with each other to offer their own, often conflicting views, on how it must be done.

I shall now gently step down from my pulpit and leave you all to drag up your own kids in whatever way you see fit. If only the politicians would do the same.


  1. I hope you've been commissioned for this one!

  2. Nah, I am sure Lucy Cavendish will already be writing this one!

  3. hear, hear 4DMTG
    Who cares how anyone brings up there children? As long as they are hauled up with love then each to their own I say.

  4. Whatever gets you through, that's what I say. I never did Gina Ford, but I know plenty of people who did and it worked for them.

  5. I'm with you on this....who has a right to preach how we should bring up our children. I loosely followed Gina Ford as well just to get into some sort of routine.

  6. *cheers, applause*

    I too have raised four (though admittedly not two at once...), and three of them desperately needed the structire and rigidty of a good loose-GF routine. The fourth - I went the other way entirely, and was baby led all the way. Each time the babies have been happy, healthy, slept well, and developed into beautiful small people.
    Coincidence that I was at home with no.4, and not dealing with other under-5's too? Maybe, maybe not.
    But judging anyone for their parenting style when they're raising hapy healthy babies is a bit off the mark.

  7. gah, can you amend typos? *shakes head*

  8. I'm with you, a good routine is a life saver. But I'm fully aware that works for me, may not work for other people. Wish that the politicians and those who stridently say 'this is what you should be doing' would remember that too.

  9. Well I think we can safely say we are all in agreement. Perhaps the politicians could take note and stop laying down the law and let us get on with raising our children, while they get on with running the country. I have a feeling things might go a lot more smoothly that way!

  10. Gina Ford seems to divide opinion but on this you're very right. How I wish the nanny state would leave us alone. It sounds like you're doing a great job with your 4.

    There's a tag for you over at mine but I've put you down as Mumof4 as I had that for you (journalist, mum of 4 from Judith's Room I think). Hope I haven't got your name wrong but it's definitely meant for you.