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The Politics of Parenting

 |  Parenting

Gina Ford — so-called “parenting guru” — has lashed out at UK Lib Dem party leader Nick Clegg after he hit out at her parenting manual. Ford, an unqualified former maternity nurse questioned Clegg’s maturity (ironic, given her lawsuit against mumsnet after mums shared a few views of their own) because of his comparison of The Contented Little Baby Book to “a sort of Ikea assembly instruction manual“.

My favourite part of her retort is her misguided idea that because the book has sold 1 million copies, that there are 2 million British parents following her advice. I don’t know what planet Ford is on, but this is as barmy as me suggesting that every one of my thousands of visitors over the years are loyal readers. In actual fact, my following is smaller by yards, and I imagine much of the sales of Ford’s book are by well-meaning and probably child-free friends and relatives who read the blurb and think it sounds amazing.

Back here on planet Earth we know that her advice to breastfeeding mothers is potentially detrimental to supply (babies suckle at the boob to encourage production of milk; her suggestion to top baby’s up with formula interferes with that) and her enthusiasm for cry it out/controlled crying techniques chills me to the bone. Her book and its followers are symptomatic of several generations of parents who think raising a child involves shoving a bottle in a baby’s gob and posting in front of the TV so as not to be an inconvenience to mummy and daddy.

As for Clegg… far from losing voters, I have a feeling this revelation of his choice of parenting method is likely to connect him to a lot of mums up and down the country.

Jem Turner jem@jemjabella.co.uk +44(0)7521056376

16 comments so far

  1. TWD said:

    The comparison to an Ikea manual made me LOL. I just read the article and… not making eye contact with your baby when you feed him/her? I’m no parent, but that just doesn’t make sense to me, and I doubt it will "complement parents’ natural instincts."

  2. Stephanie said:

    I do think the idea of self-soothing is important, at least for a little bit. If the baby wakes up and fusses for a few minutes, I think it’s okay to allow the baby to comfort itself, get settled and go back to sleep. I mean, I’m not saying leave it there screaming for an hour, but give it five or ten minutes and see if the baby goes to sleep again. If it doesn’t, then he/she is probably hungry, needs a diaper change, is scared, etc. I’m also all about breast-feeding 100%, but I don’t think you need to do it for three or four years. I’ll probably do some research in professional medical journals regarding long-term breast-feeding before I make my decision, but I think a year to a year and a half is plenty of time. That’s my personal opinion, of course. I would never push it upon anyone else :)

  3. Audrey said:

    Book about parenting are good because they give parents a lot of perspectives outside of their own experiences, and some of those perspectives are just too alien. The crying-it-out thing that Stephanie described is something I remember my mother doing with my sister. Leaving an infant to scream for more than a few minutes is just unnatural though.

    Breastfeeding all the way. *Thumbs up.*

  4. Amanda said:

    Ford’s a guru, but yet she doesn’t have children of her own? A midwife is supposed to be knowledgeable, yes, but don’t they just deal with babies recently born (I could be wrong, I really don’t know)? Plus, her lashing out at anyone who opposes her view is just as judgmental and immature as she claims Clegg’s dismissal of her ideas is (and he’s one of her potential 2 million parents … except she sold 1 million books … did some go to libraries? … are some parents not single? … were some books given as gifts and then never used?).

  5. Vera said:

    I kept envisioning Ford trying to shove a cross into Clegg’s face, at the rate she kept threatening with loss of votes.

    My favorite part of the article, was how Clegg’s wife suggested they check the baby manual in the middle of the night. FTR. my mom told me that she had thoroughly researched motherhood when she became pregnant. Got herself a book and followed it to the letter, even took it to my pediatrician (who found it hilarious that she drew graphs about my growth) :P

    The lady’s entirely ridiculous. I thought only "lifeless" internet addicts had this problem. :o

  6. Macca said:

    At the end of the day people can raise their children however they like, but a woman can’t expect everyone to follow her ‘conservative’ views on upbringing – much less the Liberal party leader. :P

    I think you made a mistake – "top baby’s up". Unless you mean baby’s stomach, you have a rogue apostrophe. XD

  7. Kerry said:

    I saw something about her book on the tv. I thought it was a load of crap to be honest, some of the things they were saying. I don’t have any children, but I was 12 when my younger brother was born so I remember everything about how he was treated as a baby etc. I don’t really agree with the self-soothing thing. Although it might be good to leave them for a while occasionally so that they don’t associate crying with constant attention, doing it to the extent that they were saying on the tv is just ridiculous.

  8. Melissa said:

    Like an above commenter posted, she’s a guru yet doesn’t even have any children of her own? I’ve never heard of this woman, but I know I sure as hell would not be taking parenting advice from someone who’s never been a parent. I get annoyed enough at people who HAVE been parents who tell me how to raise my child! I don’t know why people feel the need to follow books like that so religiously. I never thought I’d be good with babies, but honestly, a lot of the stuff does come naturally.

  9. Vira said:

    Wow. Hilarity!

    Anyways, would you care to write something discussing how long to breast feed is appropriate? I’m not very educated on the topic except to know that it’s really the obvious choice for any mother who cares for her baby’s health. I just feel like 2 years old would be the stopping point, maximum, but you said the WHO says 2 is a minimum? (Also, who are the WHO?)

    Seems like an interesting topic to me. Keep bringing the goods like you are, though.

  10. Anthony said:

    The sad thing is that this lady probably has a load of bat-shit crazy women who praise her and thinks she’s a genius. To a certain extent, taking care of a child is common sense… but according to this lady, you must make it ten-times more complicated than it needs to be. This "guru" is one giant facepalm.

    *facepalm*

  11. Adrianne said:

    I wouldn’t have figured that there would be politics involved on everyday issues such as parenting after reading the first paragraph of your entry LOL. I come from a very close-knit family and whenever someone in the family becomes a mother, all the mothers of the family would spoil her with advice, assisting care, and more advice. It’s been like this even when I was born and we all turned out to be okay LOL.

    ((Back here on planet Earth we know that her advice to breastfeeding mothers is potentially detrimental to supply (babies suckle at the boob to encourage production of milk; her suggestion to top baby’s up with formula interferes with that) and her enthusiasm for cry it out/controlled crying techniques chills me to the bone.))

    I may not know everything about being a parent, though I’ve had a lot of experience sitting babies (as in my cousins’ children), but letting the baby cry it out until she stops? I’ve always thought that, with lots of love from the friends and family, that parenting in general would be something natural, like it would just come to you once you bear a child of your own. But this woman? Wow…

  12. Julie said:

    The article (the first one) states that her book has sold "more than a million copies worldwide". Note the worldwide part.

    I wholly agree with him when he says this:

    “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’.”

    And some bits sound full of shit, like not making eye contact during late night feeds. Mommy to baby looks are among the cutest, most natural things ever, whatever the time. Doesn’t that turn the feed into a mechanical act?

  13. Echo said:

    Gag- I love the part where she doesn’t have any children of her own. People think I’m ridiculous because I let my son ‘decide’ as a newborn if he was a crib baby or a mommy baby… he chose mommy baby. He couldn’t sleep on his own, he needed to hear my heartbeat and feel my body heat. It’s what’s natural for him and he craved it. He was also so skinny when he was … 20" and 4lb 13oz that I worried about him burning up too many calories trying to maintain his temperature to be able to grow properly.

    He had to be ‘topped’ with formula at first, he couldn’t even suck hard enough to make a bottle work, but as soon as he was strong enough bottles were gone. And lately I won’t nurse him as soon as he cries for milk because he has gotten a habit of nibbling every hour, on the hour. My leash is so short :( So he waits a few minutes (usually being held, though- so no crying, just fussiness) so he will eat better and I get a little more time for super exciting things like dish washing and carpet vacuuming. And if you cosleep and breastfeed, waking up to feed your baby a few times a night is REALLY not that bad. Everything you need is right there : P

    I don’t understand how there are so many ‘experts’ out there telling parents to ignore their children. I look at it like this- at 24 and after years in a long distance relationship, I was sad and lonely every night going to bed alone. How can I shove a kid into a room alone and say, ‘Sleep in the dark! by yourself! This is the only way you’ll learn, the only way to be healthy!’ when, as adults, we crave company in our beds? Someone to snuggle with? Sure, sometimes it’s GREAT to have a bed to yourself : P But usually only when you know you don’t -have to- be alone.

    Why are so many people so afraid of doing what their hearts tell them is best for their child?

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