The Contented Little Baby Book by Gina Ford

Posted by spots (Singapore, Singapore) on 23 May 2006 in Lifestyle & Culture and Portfolio.

Since I'm on a roll writing about non-food topics, I thought it a good time to share about one of my favourite baby books - The Contented Little Baby Book by Gina Ford. I found the book sitting pretty in Kinokuniya way back when I was preggers and Husband and I were searching for good preggie books to read. Gina Ford may not have "M.D." at the back of her name, like Dr Miriam Stoppard, but she is one of the U.K.'s most experienced and successful maternity nurses. Although her book was devoid of glossy pictures, it was the wealth of practical tips and down to earth sharings that attracted me and I ended up devouring the book while barely scarcely flitting through other more beautifully illustrated and well-designed books.

One thing about Gina Ford is she is a bit counter-cultural. You can call her radical if you like. While most other books promote something called "demand feeding", which is basically feeding the baby whenever he wants to be fed, good ol' Gina recommends feeding the baby on a more regular schedule. While there's nothing inherently wrong with the concept of feeding the baby whenever he wants to be fed, it becomes problematic when you're dealing with a very young, usually very sleepy infant. What typically happens when you're feeding a squidge is after less than 5 minutes of nursing, he falls asleep. Now, if you were to follow the demand feeding principles, you might mistakenly think your squidge has fed enough and is full. So, you might leave him be, only to have him wake up 1/2 hour to 1 hour later screaming for more milk. Following the demand feeding principles of feeding the baby whenever he wants, you'd proceed to feed him again. And typically, the squidge might fall asleep again after less than 5 minutes. This pattern might continue throughout the day (and night), with the mother ending up being more tired and frustrated than anything. Thinking that the child could not possibly be hungry when he cries shortly after being fed, the mother may then resort to other methods of quelling the kid, like picking him up, rocking him etc., The main problem with demand feeding seems to be that the prerogative is on the child to decide how much he wants to drink - but he may be a bit too young, or in this case, sleepy, to make that decision!

Gina recommends giving babies more milk during each nursing session - at least 25 minutes per breast, in the beginning. For me, my initial nursing sessions in the first few months were 45 minutes to 1 hour long. I was constantly waking Daniel up during feeding - infants are really sleepyheads! - so that he would continue feeding until he was really full and not just falling asleep. With this arrangement, he naturally fell into a three hourly feeding pattern, practically from birth! I found that I also had more time to rest in between feeds, which accounts for the voluminous amounts of milk I had!

Gina also lays out a schedule for naps and sleeping times. While the way she writes is rather authoritarian, e.g., "At 7am, the curtains must be drawn and the baby must be awake", if one can just get over that, one will see a lot of sense in the principles behind her schedules. For instance, she recommends that newborns be awake for no longer than 2 to 2.5 hours at a stretch. And she structures her naps so that they are short-long-short, i.e., one short nap in the morning, one long nap at noon (2 hours), and one short nap in the afternoon. I never really followed Gina's exact timings - I think it's perfectly ok to deviate by a few mintues, or even by half an hour here or there - but I understood her principles: the baby should have his longest nap in the middle of the day, NOT towards the evening or the morning. If his long nap is too close to the evening, he may not sleep till really late at night, because he's so rested from his long evening nap! Conversely, if his long nap is in the morning, by the time he gets to evening, he may be extremely tired and fussy.

Some may think that putting a baby on a schedule is a funny idea. I used to fear the derision of others, and so never really mentioned that Daniel was on a schedule. But then, the testimonies of other mothers confirmed my belief in the benefits of scheduled naps and routines. One mother who started her baby on a schedule only after 8 months said, "It was like having a totally different baby. He was much less fussy all the time and more happy." The strongest testimony, however, came from my other friend whose 6 month old was waking up every 2 hours at night. One day I received an SMS from her saying, "Yesterday, we vowed to follow Gina Ford to the tee and guess what? My daughter slept through the night 10 hours. Praise the Lord!"

For myself, Daniel has actually been sleeping through the night since 7 weeks old, following Gina's schedules, adapted here and there! (These days, he sleeps from 8pm to 7am!) It's really been a blessing - Husband and I actually get to sleep at night. And Daniel is growing well - he's happy. Or at least, he looks it. ^__^

So ya, nowadays I highly recommend Gina Ford to all mothers. I think when babies are young, sleeping and feeding are probably the most important things to take care of. Issues like discipline, intellectual stimulation, physical coordination skills etc will come later. For sleeping and feeding, Gina has really made a difference for Daniel. And thank God for that!

Two disclaimers though: I think it's important for parents not to follow schedules blindly. Gina Ford's schedules are not magic pills or anything. It's still necessary to use your brain, listen to your child, and most of all, understand and adapt Gina's thinking and principles appropriately to your child. The second disclaimer is a less critical one - when it comes to weaning solids - I think Gina's suggested recipes are not really very helpful as they are more western in nature. I'm still trying to figure out what a corguette is?! But still, Gina's schedule for weaning and her principle that the baby should be given a variety of foods seems sensible enough.

OK, I don't normally recommend stuff - but here it is. My secret is out - I support Gina Ford. She tends to garner either rave reviews or strong criticisms. All I can say is that she has definitely worked for Daniel. (OK, but here's the third disclaimer - there are other things we did with Daniel which are not mentioned in Gina Ford, like letting the baby cry it out and not picking him up too much etc, so I guess we can't give her all the credit? Or I'm not sure how much of the other stuff mattered, but definitely her schedules and principles were key!) I am truly grateful to God for leading me to this book. And be assured, I'll be using it on number 2 as well! Hope this entry has been helpful to all mothers and mothers-to-be ^__^

By the way, any other Gina Ford mothers out there? Give me a shout ya?

p.s. ok I absolutely promise to share the Jap braised pork belly recipe next!

Another Gina Ford supporter from Singapore

Hi there!

I found your blog while surfing for comments on Gina Ford. :) I put my boy on her schedule when he was about 6 weeks old. He's now 3 months and more or less conformed to it (except for the lunchtime nap...) Yes, she is controversial, but really her schedules and bits of wisdom do make sense. The best thing about it is that you really know WHY your baby is crying, instead of trying to "read" their crying.

14 Dec 2008 10:00am

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