Like the skeletal supermodels and airbrushed pop stars that we blame for body confidence issues, Gina Ford has caused many a mother to doubt her parenting abilities especially with regards to sleep.
The best selling author has, through her “Contented Little Baby” book, inadvertently created a mass of mothers who are permanently dissatisfied with how their babies are sleeping.
Her book has become a veritable bible amongst many a new mother. It advocates a daily routine for babies and parents or carers which if followed to the tee, should result in a model child that sleeps and eats like clockwork. I am not even joking. Her method works so well for some that I have seen mothers who can set their watch according to what time their babies wake and cry for milk.
My sister’s children were and still are perfect “Gina Babies”. With very little effort they fell into the 7-7 routine and the 2 hour sleep at lunch time in the cot which I thought was the stuff of legends became a family staple!
But what about the “Gina Resistant Babies” like mine? My sister and I gave birth the same week, so we were able to conduct a near perfect experiment…Whilst my sister’s baby slumbered peacefully 14-16 hours a day, mine yelled like banshee from dusk till dawn and then till dusk again, stopping only to feed and take twenty minute naps!
And we were were following the same advice and doing exactly the same things with our babies. My sister tried not to be smug about her sleep success and I tried not to hate her for my sleep failings.
So why do some babies sleep and others don’t? There is no accurate explanation for this, but I would hazard a guess at a very simple answer..like adults, babies are all different.
At 5.5 months my son was crawling …whilst my sister’s baby, perhaps too busy sleeping, did not get the crawling memo until much later on, which of course was a source of frustration to my sister and her husband who saw our son tearing around whilst their daughter lay prostrate under a baby gym.
The point is, all humans learn to do things at different speed and babies are no different. Yours may not sleep well now, but perhaps he will be dancing the Fandango and speaking Mandarin before your friend’s baby!
The problem in the meantime is this: if our babies are not sleeping from the fabled 7pm to 7am we are disappointed, frustrated and disillusioned with our mothering skills. Books advocating rigid sleep programmes designed to educate and empower new mothers can have the opposite effect if they do not work.
If the book says the baby should be asleep in its cot from 12.30-2.30 and yet here he is wide awake screaming as you pound the streets then how does that make you feel? Like a failure? Like a crappy mother? And a tired one too.
No matter how many times you hear about sleep deprivation when you are pregnant, nothing can prepare you for those first few weeks and months (and even years) of sleepless nights with your child. Even with the most supportive partner and a baby who is a super speedy feeder and a better than average sleeper you will still no doubt be dreaming of a time when you can catch 8 hours of solid shut eye.
We don’t need to waste time or page space chatting about why sleep is so important and how rubbish it feels to be getting so little. We all know that a good night’s sleep can be a total game changer. You wake feeling refreshed, happier, more confident and able as a mother, a less grouchy partner, a more skilful multi-tasker and a like a new and better version of the person you were yesterday.
So what should you be doing? A sleep consultant can really help. Someone who can help you with a tailor made plan for your situation. Pick someone with lots of experience and some great reviews. It does not matter if they have had their own babies or not, as most have worked extensively as Maternity Nurses and will be very experienced in dealing with babies.
We are running regular Sleep Workshops in SW London. You can sign up for one here.
For more information about Doctor and Daughter antenatal classes see antenatalclassesinlondon.co.uk