One of the things you may not know about me is that I spent a fair few years as a volunteer breastfeeding supporter. I used to run breastfeeding groups where mums would meet together to help each other through the often challenging process of getting to know their new baby.
What was so good about those groups is that I'd see women who'd been tentative and nervous when they first came along months before confidently and sensitively support and reassure new members with tiny babies.
An all too common experience during that time was to have a woman phone me up in tears because she and her baby were so unhappy. There are lots of reasons for that to happen, but on many occasions I found that the root of their distress was trying to follow the rather prescriptive regimes in Gina Ford's to my mind ironically titled "Contented Little Baby Book." I have no doubt that her methods work for some people, if you define success as a baby that sleeps through the night and doesn't trouble its parents at all.
The thing is, most babies don't do that. Ford's one size fits all approach, which includes putting the baby to sleep in a totally blacked out room from birth, a completely alien environment, and leaving him or her to cry, is by its very nature counter instinctive. I used to suggest to mums that the best place for that book was to prop up the leg of a wobbly table or something and encourage them to set themselves free from the tyranny of her routines which had practically every minute of the day mapped out.
In every single instance, within days mum and baby were happier as they started on a two way process of communication and built up a trusting and responsive relationship.
Those experiences are why I am so utterly thrilled to see Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg explain how her methods certainly didn't make his family contented in the Sunday Times. He hit the nail totally on the head when he said:
“I will never forget — in the middle of the night, Antonio woke up. Miriam said to me: ‘What does the book say?’ I remember saying to her: ‘Okay, we have got to stop this. I have subcontracted my parental instincts to this book’.”
Gina Ford is clearly unhappy with Nick's comments, but I'm sure that there are parents round the country who will appreciate that he's spoken out and will empathise with his experience.
UPDATE: Superb post by Cllr Lisa Northover on how Gina Ford's methods undermine breastfeeding and wreaks havoc on the relationship between mother and baby.