Thursday, 15 September 2011

Baby books - love them or loathe them?

I am a compulsive planner who loves routine. My father's in the Army and our whole family is used to being very regimented! So when it came to my pregnancy, I thought I better get reading and planning...after all failing to plan,is planning to fail.

Or is it? Can we really put schedules around tiny babies and keep our sanity? Is it fair to our children to impose rigid timetables on them?

I've had a mixed response from the parents I've asked. Gina Ford seems to be one of the most divisive childcare gurus out there. For every person who told me her Contented Little Baby book was a lifesaver, another has told me the plan is 'evil'. I read an updated version of her notorious book and to me it seemed fine actually - there was no mention of refusing to feed your baby if it's not at the right time and she suggests only letting them cry for 10 minutes or so as a last resort. But the very packed schedule has frightened even me, and I love timetables!

The Baby Whisperer by Tracey Hogg came in for some praise from my friends - it seems to offer a middle way, between rigid structure and being completely led by baby. The tone of the book can be a bit patronising at times but I'm enjoying reading it and like the tips to remember your baby is a human being...not a naughty pet to be trained from day 1!

The third and final (for now!) book that I'm working my way through is What To Expect in the First Year by Heidi Murkoff. This promises a month by month guide to the milestones your baby is likely to be reaching. My concern with this is that I'll spend my whole time thinking 'why isn't my baby doing that yet?' and drilling the poor thing in daft exercises to get him walking/talking/sleeping at the 'right' times.

What's your experience of baby books, help or hindrance? Any you would recommend for us first timers? Or can I really trust that my maternal instinct will kick in and all will be fine? Let me know what you think below.


  1. I went with the flow at first for Boo, then realised he was 6 months and a nightmare......he didn't sleep..he was just all over the place and so was I. So I read Gina Ford. Her structure didn't work for me, but.. did give me the confidence to create our own routine, and stick with it as I realised if it worked I'd get some sleep!
    With Elvis it has been much easier, as i got into the routine at 6 weeks instead of 6 months (still our own one!)! And he has slept well since 8weeks? (apart from night feeds while he was still small and then teething etc but no waking just because..!)
    Do what works for you, and don't worry about what anyone else says, maybe give baby a week or two to settle in before you start regimenting too much? Remember they normally sleep alot in the day when they're tiny - although Boo never did..ho hum.. Good luck FTM xx

  2. Have you had a look at the Mumsnet book? I think it is quite good, as you get a variety of opinions rather than just one theory.

    I am not a fan of too strict routines, and hate controlled crying or leaving a baby to cry at all. 10 minutes is a long time to listen to a baby cry, and crying is the only way they have to communicate that they are unhappy about something.

    For me, I want the routine to fit around my life, not my life to have to fit around the routine.

    And yes, MrsGoriami is right. Do what feels right for you, take a couple of weeks to just kick back and relax after the birth.

  3. Well, I'm sure you already know from my blog that I'm not a massive fan of any books that are prescriptive or directive at all.

    I'm hoping to start doing parenting book reviews on FYP soon, 'assessing' them in relation to FYP ethos. What do you think?

  4. MrsG, excellent advice, thank you.

    MmeL - you can tell I haven't had to listen to a crying baby for ten minutes yet can't you?! Now I think about it, that will be a long time to hear my baby crying, makes me feel bad just thinking about it!

    FYP, I think your review idea is a good one, will help people see if there are any bits of advice that they can take without following a whole regime.

    Thanks for all of your comments

  5. I've been really lucky with my first. She rarely cries and slept right through from about 2 months. Not all babies are the nightmare you hear about! She is six months and weaning which started a few weeks ago has been a dream.

    I bought only one baby book, called "Your Babycare Bible". It, combined with the paediatrician, has answered all my questions.

    I am wondering sometimes if there can be too much information given to new mothers?

  6. And yes, feel free to hate me for the first paagraph of that comment :-)

  7. Had to click on this link as I have the exact same pile of books - and more! To be honest the What to expect one I find too big to get into now the wee one is around but I definitely benefitted from reading the other two - and settled on a routine pretty close to Gina times but with Baby Whisperer methods I would say! Some folk can wing it but I need routine and guidance and so glad I did the reading! I'd also recommend 'Your Baby - week by week' - I found that REALLY helpful!

  8. The only book I've bought is The Wonder Weeks (this:, which leads you through the developmental milestones of a baby's first 20 months. It's been a lifesaver for me as it's explained exactly why she's so cranky on a particular week and why she may earn certain skills at certain times. It makes it much easier to deal with a bad few days when you know they're totally normal for where she's at in her development.

    It doesn't tell you how to feed them, get them to sleep etc - we've let her fond her own pattern for both, but I can't recommend it enough for parents of new babies.

  9. Hey,

    I used Gina, there i said it and the earth hasn't swallowed me up... I used it as a guideline as i have no family here so had no one to ask.. She worked for us.... Like any self help book you just take the bits you need...

    I also had What to expect in the first year and brought the one for toddlers.. Good advice on milestones and illnesses..

    I pop over from Love New Blogs.... "hello"

  10. I bought one book and that was Penelope Leach. It is like a bible in our house even now (its called your Baby and Child)


  11. I like the Penelope Leach book too.

    Personally, I subscribe to the '4th trimester' theory. This says that for first 3 months or so a baby is utterly dependent on you and isn't totally ready to cope with the outside world.

    From this I inferred that routines wouldn't work for the first 3 months and I gradually introduced routines after that, partly because I had to return to my job.

    Two books I liked were:
    'The Best Friends' Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood' by Vicki Iovine
    'How Not to F*** Them Up' by Oliver James

    Neither are actually parenting manuals, but both helped me to trust my own judgement about what would work best for my son and for me

  12. I too am against controlled crying. There is neuroscience that proves the harm this does to a baby's brain. I would recommend reading "Why Love Matters; How Affection Shapes a Baby's Brain" by Sue Gerhardt before you read anything else.

  13. Really sweet ones are 'what mothers do' and 'how mothers love' by Naomi stadlen. Afraid I have found most books a bit soul destroying...when your baby doesn't do what the 'experts' say I found it too easy to start worrying...but then that is my natural instinct! Currently reading the doctor sears book which is slightly on the hippie side but at least the emphasis is on learning about your baby rather than training. Let us know what you end up liking best!