What’s your style?

Last week, some of my mamma friends were at our place for the day. I’d invited all those I knew with little ones of a similar-ish age. In fact, they ranged from one year and a week old and to just seven weeks old (teeny – awh!). The conversation turned to the different books espousing varied parenting techniques. Between us, we seemed to cover the range from Dr Sears to Gina Ford, with one friend admitting that she had read not one of these books but just gathered tips from those of us who had read them.

I started thinking about exactly what our parenting style was. While I was still pregnant, I bought a number of different baby books and read the majority of them. I had heard good things about Gina Ford’s Contented Baby book (if your baby was one that fitted into her strict schedule) and even better things about Tracy Hogg’s Baby Whisperer. At that point, I liked the style of Contented Baby more – it seemed to suit how my life was at that point more (structured thanks to many years with a time-critical job). I even went as far as creating Excel spreadsheets with her timetables for the different age groups. Conversely, I found the Baby Whisperer a little more airy-fairy and was put off by aspects such as asking the baby for permission before changing his nappy.

Photo © English Mamma

When we returned home from the hospital with this tiny little creature, however, I just could not see how the Contented Baby style of parenting would fit in our new lifestyle as a family. One of my main stumbling blocks was that it left no time to go out and this just wasn’t going to work for me. I am a very social person and need interaction with others. I get cabin fever easily when I am alone for more than three hours at a time long periods of time (I’m also an only child, which explains a lot). In fact, I was out with Baby O for the first time on my own before the BVC nurse even came to visit for the first time. The other areas I found challenging were the darkness (with a blackout blind) in the room and the total silence, mostly because I wanted to be able to go out and about and I wanted him to be able to sleep while we were out. Some might not agree with this approach, but I knew that I would be climbing the walls if I had to stay in each day with just Baby O for company. And an unhappy mamma does not a happy baby make…

While in the UK over the summer, I bought Penelope Leach’s Essential First Year, but the book terrified me by saying that leaving a baby crying could lead to a loss of brain cells, but did not specify exactly what she meant by “leaving a baby crying”. Looking back, I am sure she meant crying to sleep for hours but at the time, I convinced myself that she meant longer than 20 seconds and so I would run in and scoop up Baby O at the slightest sound. She is also a hardcore breastfeeding fan and, as I was struggling with breastfeeding at that time and her advice seemed to amount to “anyone can breastfeed, don’t be a quitter, just persist”, I found it hard to see past that.

Once Baby O was a couple of months old, I returned to the Baby Whisperer and found that if I overlooked the permission to change a nappy aspects, then her three-hour EASY schedule of eat, activity, sleep and you time suited both Baby O and I down to the ground. We rolled with the EASY schedule for the next three or four months and everything was dandy.

However, once we added food into the equation, it started to get a little more tricky. He was on three naps a day (around 8.30am, around midday and then mid-afternoon) and these turned into power struggles between us. The first nap of the day went smoothly, the midday nap became problematic and the afternoon one was an all-out battle. I had been offered a copy of Happiest Baby on the Block but had also been told that it was unlikely to make a difference to Baby O’s sleep now as the book was aimed at mothers of newborns.

We carried on like this for about a month before I suddenly had an epiphany: maybe a Contented Baby schedule could help us. And low and behold, after a couple of days it began to work like a dream. So now Baby O is down to two naps a day and is so much happier (thank you, Ms Ford!). We still don’t follow the book to the letter (sorry, Ms Ford!) as we still don’t use a blackout blind or have complete silence and I am more flexible with how long Baby O sleeps for his first nap (I don’t limit it to 45 mins if we are going out in the middle of day and he will have to sleep while away from home); however, we’ve found a method that works for us: part Baby Whisperer, part Contented Baby, part English Mamma.

I think it is a shame that this has become such an issue (on one forum where someone was selling one of these book, another mamma offered to buy it from her so she could burn it!) because the books do offer good advice; I think you just need to find the parts that suit you and tweak them a little as you go along and your baby grows. But I know a number of people who have been put off reading one or other of the books because of others’ opinions of them. The problem is the vast number of books available out there (Ferber, Dr SearsWeissbluth, No Cry Sleep Solution, Baby Wise, the Baby Whisperer, Penelope Leach and Contented Baby to name just a handful), and who has the time to read all these with a newborn?

* I have included links to these books for reference. I really don’t care who reads which books. If you find a book that works for you, then well done you, whichever book it may be.