About the Author
Deborah Jackson is the author of the best-selling baby and parenting books Three in a Bed, Baby Wisdom and Letting Go as Children Grow.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Foreword to new edition
One Saturday early in the new millennium, sometime before I was commissioned to write this book, I was giving a parenting workshop in a trendy part of London. I'd worked at the venue before and always enjoyed the relaxed, bean-bag atmosphere and open-heartedness of the parents who took part.
So I hadn't expected the first question of the morning. It came from a father who was sitting on the carpet cradling his newborn baby.
`Why,' he said with a twinkle in his eye, `does Gina Ford sell more books than you?'
It was a bold opener which gave an unexpected energy to our first discussion. I knew that, though the question was deliberately provocative, it would plunge us into a relevant debate. Here we were, a set of intelligent, independent-minded people, keen to enjoy the challenging process of becoming parents and ready to learn from our own experiences and mistakes. Yet many of our equally intelligent friends were in the thrall of a detailed infant timetable. What's more it was a best-seller.
It's all too easy as a parent to be judgemental about other methods of childrearing - and even easier for one childcare author to take a pot shot at an apparent rival. I never wanted to start the battle of the babycare gurus. But as a non-prescriptive writer myself, I can't ignore the recent success of highly-prescriptive advice books.
In most aspects of modern life, we prefer to be left to our own devices. Yet here was evidence that detailed directives were helpful for many new parents. Parenting by numbers (eg. 8am, 10.30am, 12 noon...) was obviously a formula that sold well and - love it or hate it - I needed to understand why.
My own approach has always been to offer research rather than rules. Years of studying families from other cultures and from our own human history taught me that there's no single way to raise a baby. As many years spent bringing up my own three, delightful but very different, children reinforced the message that one size, however `simple', simply cannot fit all. My aim as a writer was to inform and to reassure - and to promote people's individual parenting styles within a broad framework of loving care.
After the workshop, I came away with a list of supplementary questions for myself... Why have the keywords of modern childcare become DO and DON'T? Have we become so inexperienced as baby-handlers that we need nannying ourselves? Might there even be a causal relationship between the amount of advice we get from newspapers, books and interfering relatives - and the amount of guilt we wallow in every day? Why are we prepared to succeed or fail by a stranger's set of rules?
I decided to slip under the radar and find out. I would write a childcare manual which had all the hallmarks of a modern rulebook, but none of the dogma. My previous book - Baby Wisdom, a survey of parenting practices through time and around the world - was, admittedly, as big as a butcher's door stop. When Your Baby Cries would be easier for new parents to pick up, put down and throw out of the window in moments of stress. I would distil the long evolution of human baby rearing into a format that busy parents would have time to digest.
And here it is, the handbook made to soothe parents as much as their offspring. Its collected wisdoms are served in 10 short chapters: rules if you prefer. These rules may not tell you what to do every minute of the day, but they do legitimately cover the important facts about infant crying. They also include a few Dos and Don'ts for those who like a proper set of instructions with their human delivery.
You won't be told when to draw back the curtains or put your baby down to nap, but you will be urged to relax, try out new ideas, have fun, give generously and give in. You'll get ideas for reducing your baby's crying and methods of coping, but very little to make you feel guilty or inadequate. And I defy you to find any advice that could come between you and your own, unique child.
Because in my book, early parenting doesn't work like that. Caring for a baby is an ancient, tactile, human activity which should be more about families getting to know each other than obeying the invisible childcare guru. I can't be there when your baby cries, but luckily your baby's not remotely interested in me. You are the only rule that matters.
Deborah Jackson, May 2009