Ok, I'm sorry Gina, I don't mean you personally, I am sure you are a lovely person, but a lot of the books you write? Well, I would be happy to burn every single one. My predjudice is not limited to Gina Ford, there is a huge array of publications out there that I have begun to resent...
At the tender age of 21 I became assistant manager of a branch of JoJo Maman Bebe. I loved the company, the people, the vibe, what's not to love? I got to spend my day cooing over babies, squealing in excitement at tiny shoes and jumpers. The brand themselves were excelling in their field and I was keen to do the job justice. I studied each product at length, and I read each book with care and attention. That is where my first indroduction to Gina Ford began. We had the range, sleeping, potty training, you name it, there was a book to cover most parenting problems. At 21 my own children were just a passing thought, a dream for the future. None of my friends had kids as yet, and my cousins and siblings were out of the baby stage. Well, to put it bluntly, I had no frigging clue. So Gina Ford made the whole deal sound like a breeze. I knew dogs, we always had dogs, and clearly raising a child was as easy as training a dog, stick to the rules and you will have a well behaved, perfect angel, who sleeps on demand, potty trains in a week, eats all their vegetables. Simple.
Every poor, unsuspecting new mum was sold a copy of some parenting help book if they entered the shop with a problem. 'I am having such trouble getting Johnny to potty train'
'Oh, have you tried this book? It's wonderful, will sort out any issues.'
'She is one and still not sleeping through the night.'
'Really? Oh dear, you need this book, will help with any bad, bedtime habits.'
Dear Mum's.... all of you, everyone that I palmed one of these books to, please accept my deepest, deepest apology. I was young and naive, please don't hold me personally responsible.
Five years later I became a mum, to a beautiful, highly spirited, little girl. She came out screaming, and continued to cry pretty much non stop (unless I was feeding, rocking, swaying, carrying, holding...). She would not sleep in her Moses basket. She would scream for hours unless I let her fall asleep breastfeeding. I couldn't sit down if we went into a restaurant, or cafe, or park, she wanted to see the world from mummy's full height. I was exhausted.
When you are that tired, and you look around at friends who have contented children, fast asleep in their cots or chilling happily in their prams, you feel like you are doing something wrong. Then you read these manuals and you are told you are doing something wrong. I was bombarded with the bad habits I created for my child. Her acting out was a retaliation for just wanting to sleep and me not letting her? 'You MUST break the bad habits, do it NOW or she will be in your bed FOREVER! You must let her cry it out!!!' Emotional, hormonal and tired I panicked and we began the process of 'cry it out' which ended two hours later with me crying my eyes out, her making herself vomit and my long suffering husband collapsing with his head in his hands. NEVER AGAIN.
Look at the people around you, every single one is different. We all have different likes, different opinions, and our babies are all different too. What works for one may not work for another, I know many people who had success with Gina Ford, with cry it out, but I know just as many who didn't. Some kids sleep through the night without any help, others take years. The last thing any sleep deprived parent needs is to be told they are doing it 'wrong'.
Somewhere along the line I realised I just needed to do what works best for us. We have done a lot of co-sleeping, a lot of breastfeeding, a lot of rocking to sleep, but we got there. My eldest sleeps through all night every night, in her own bed, happy, content and safe. My youngest, we will get there. She is 19 months. On Wednesday she slept through the night for the first time. It appears to be, so far, a one off. But that one off shows she can do it, she just needs a little more time. Until she is ready to do it herself, she is welcome in our bed for cuddles, I will still take her for a walk if she is struggling to nap, and I don't care what anybody thinks
There will always be people who like to stick their nose in where it's not wanted, those who like to shout out when their 3 week old sleeps through, when you are at home with a two year old who still doesn't sleep, 'helpful' family members who like to point out 'two bad sleepers? Must be your parenting skills, have you tried this?' I know it's hard, I know getting through the day when you can barely function sucks every bit of enjoyment out of it. But I promise, it gets better, you have heard it so many times before you don't want to hear it again, but it really does. In the meantime, just know, you are NOT doing anything wrong, and these parenting books are not the answer. Your baby is unique, do what works for you and your family, there are no bad habits, only love for your child and I never heard of anyone loving someone too much.