In the distant mists of 1913, childcare specialist Dr Truby King advocated a strict routine. “The normal baby should only be fed five times in 24 hours,” he said.
Today, we’ve got Gina Ford, a former maternity nurse, who claims that by following her strict routines, your newborn will sleep through the night by the time he is 8 to 12 weeks old.
VICKY, 34, MUM TO LAURIE, 8 MONTHS.
“At first, I was put off by the detail in Gina Ford’s The Contented Little Baby Book. But by the time Laurie was two weeks old, it was exactly what I wanted. Mothering is a skill and something I needed to learn, and books provide you with accumulated wisdom. Making parenting up as you go along seemed a bit mad to me. I wanted concrete instructions and was grateful someone had worked it out for me.
“I don’t believe a baby can know what’s best for her. Likewise, I am a person and I’m entitled to some quality of life and a decent night’s sleep. By 10 weeks, Laurie was sleeping from 7pm till 7am. I’ve got friends who said Gina Ford made them feel like a complete loser, but I think her book is like any tool: If it’s not helping, then it’s not right for you.
“People seem to think you’ve sacrificed your child to the devil when you say you’re following Ford’s strict routine and assume you leave your baby to scream. That’s because they misunderstand her instructions. I’ve never left my baby to scream.
“I breastfed Laurie, but it would have been easier to get her into a routine if she had been on a bottle. It was tempting to feed on demand, but instead I just let Laurie feed for longer than Ford suggested. Rather than demand-feeding, Ford says you should wake your baby at regular intervals to ensure they are being fed enough, which I did. Gina’s routine is limiting, but life with a baby is limiting. I don’t meet friends for lunch because that’s when Laurie sleeps, but they can visit me. It’s a sacrifice well worth making because I have nearly two hours to myself every day. Following Ford’s routine gave me confidence and helped me to relax.”
VICKY’S GINA FORD DIARY:
7am Wake Laurie up
9.30am to 10am Nap. Vicky wakes Laurie at 10am if she’s still asleep
12.30 to 2.15pm Nap
The Baby Whisperer
Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg is a “lighter” alternative to Gina Ford’s method. Her routine is based around the acronym EASY — Eat; Activity; Sleep; You time. A baby follows this pattern over a two-and-a-half to three-hour period, which is then repeated. Hogg advocates a structured routine with flexibility, so parents aren’t ruled by the clock but can still plan their lives.
LUCY, 34, IS MUM TO EMMIE, 9 MONTHS, AND BELLA, 2.
“A friend recommended Secrets of the Baby Whisperer. I like the way it encourages you to adapt your routine around your baby’s — she is an individual — rather than forcing your newborn into a rigid schedule. Whereas Gina Ford might say, ‘It’s midday, your baby must be eating’, Tracy Hogg says if your baby would prefer to eat at 11.30am, that’s fine.
“I’m a ‘routine person’ and I think every baby needs a schedule if you want some time to yourself, especially if you’re planning to go back to work. And if babies are going to eat and sleep well, they need to anticipate what’s coming. I started both of my children on the three-hour EASY routine and they moved to a four-hour schedule before the book said they would.
“Bella slept from 7pm till 6am by 14 weeks and Emmie was asleep from 7pm to 7am at just 10 weeks.
“Tracy Hogg gives you confidence. She says that, as the parent, you should do what you think is best. I ended up letting my babies sleep after they’d eaten, rather than play, because that was what worked for us.
“I had friends who would never go out for lunch because they were following a routine and their babies had to be in a dark room to sleep. A timetable is important but there’s no point if it’s going to stop your life. You can’t define success just as following a schedule and ticking it off at the end of the day.”
LUCY’S BABY WHISPERER DIARY
6am Wake up and have milk
8am to 9am Nap
Noon to 1.30pm Nap
6pm Bath, followed by milk
The “No Routine” routine
In the ’50s and ’60s, Baby And Child Care by Dr Benjamin Spock was the “in” thing. He said if mothers watched and learnt from their babies, all of whom are unique, they wouldn’t go far wrong. Spock offered basic guidelines, emphasising the importance of parents getting to know their babies.
Today, US paediatrician William Sears advocates a style called “attachment parenting”, where mothers follow their instincts and put their baby first. Read about his parenting philosophy in The Attachment Parenting Book: A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby.
KATI, 33, IS MUM TO EDI, 8 MONTHS.
“I have never followed a routine. From his birth, I let Edi take the lead and he has come up with his own way of doing things.
“I think it’s better for babies to develop at their own pace and I’ve always vowed to stay as natural as possible. When we first got home from the hospital, I was on the phone to my mother in tears because Edi was feeding every two hours for 60 to 90 minutes at a time. My mum told me to put him on a four-hour feeding schedule, but I didn’t think that seemed fair. Instead, I decided to feed my baby on demand, just as the nurse had recommended.
“I’d read a study about baby monkeys that said night-time separation from their mothers affects them psychologically and physiologically. So, our son slept in our bed until he was 5 months old.
“When he was little, I carried him everywhere in a sling — we didn’t bother with a stroller. Between 2 and 4 months, Edi would sleep around nine hours a night and was able to soothe himself back to sleep if he woke up in the night.
“At the moment, things have regressed a bit — he’s waking up for one or two feeds in the night. Not following a rigid routine gives me a lot of flexibility. I find breastfeeding easy, so I don’t need to plan my day around Edi — I can feed him anywhere, anytime. Although I read some books about routines for babies before Edi was born, I think instinct is your best teacher.”
KATI’S “NO ROUTINE” DIARY
Around 8am Wake up
Around 9am Cereal
Around 9.30 to 10am Nap
Around 3pm Nap for 30 minutes to an
hour. Milk when he wakes up
Around 5.30pm 30-minute nap
Around 7pm Dinner
Around 9pm Bed