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Gina Ford v. Baby Whisperer
on 12 June 2012
My baby is 3 months and, being a lawyer, I liked the idea that there was a text book out there that could tell me how to have a contented baby, or indeed how to whisper to her to get her to do what I wanted/needed her to do... I think both books have good points to them, but my views after having read both, and tried both approaches is as follows. There are some positive views at the end, but I want to start with the reality.
If you buy Gina's book you are clearly a person who likes routine, perhaps who is even a little bit of a control freak. That's why I bought it, I admit it. However, this book goes to extremes in that it even tells you when to have breakfast! The routines are very helpful to get an idea about when things could happen, but unless you have a baby who is extremely passive and completely 'common baby problem' free (e.g. colic, reflux), feeds perfectly and has no mind of her own, then sticking to the routines is nigh on impossible. For example, if your baby sleeps in the car/pram this means you can only drive/walk places at the times the naps are meant to take place. So if your NCT friends are meeting at a time that clashes, you and your baby miss out. Also, if you have a baby who refuses a late feed at 10pm as they are sleeping (and who won't dream feed) then you have to get all of the calories in during the day so the feed times Gina suggests are also out. Furthermore, not being able to stick strictly to the routines when you are tired and emotional during the first few weeks can just add to your problems. You feel more like a failure.
However, having said that, my baby is 13 weeks and has been in her own room from 7 weeks and has been sleeping around 10 - 11 hours at night from around 10 weeks. I really do attribute this to routine. Gina's book is useful if you follow it loosely and make the routine work within the parameters of your own baby's rhythms. For example, Gina's notion that a baby's day is from 7am - 7pm worked for us. I never get baby up before 7am and she goes to bed around 7pm. By sticking to this more or less all the time I know where I am, when my day begins, and when it ends. Baby feeds at different times to the times Gina suggests because she doesn't take a late feed. However, by having the 7am - 7pm frame within which to work, I know how much food she should take and at what hourly intervals. Sometimes baby's feeding is erratic during the day e.g. during growth spurt, but I always stick 7am - 7pm as Gina says and I think that has helped baby sleep well at night.
The Baby Whisperer has some great tips in it, in particular how to interpret your baby's body language and crying which Gina's book lacks. It is also more compassionate and in tune with the emotional side of parenting e.g. Gina says at one point to think about who needs a cuddle you or your baby. If it's you, don't pick her up if she is crying. Now, I challenge any Mum not to pick up their crying baby if they want a cuddle! The routine suggested by the Baby Whisperer is also less rigid than Gina, focusing on what the baby does rather than the clock - the idea of Eat, Activity, Sleep, You Time - the "EASY" Routine. I try to work this into the framework of Gina's 7am - 7pm day so at least there is some timing structure so I know where I am. However, the Baby Whisperer book is generally full of stories about how the Baby Whisperer saved the day with many families (as is Gina's book to a certain extent), but if you strip that out, I think the Baby Whisperer has the edge over Gina for being more practical, flexible and helpful, with more useful insights to how to interpret your baby's needs. It certainly is less likely to stress you out! So, Gina's 7am to 7pm day + Baby Whisperer's flexible routine = a plan.
Reading and having either or both books as a crutch for the first few weeks I think is a good if you're that sort of person (which I am). At least you have a point of reference if all else fails, and by reading the books you feel like you are doing something to prepare yourself for the arrival of your baby, or if the baby is here, doing something to help you fathom out what the heck you're meant to be doing! But take it all with a lot of salt, take from the books the info you want or need, and do what makes you and baby happy!