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Who’s Gina Ford? Scheduling sleep and feedings. Babble.com’s Parental Advisory.

What is the deal with Gina Ford? I’m pregnant and I’ve been getting an earful about the wonders of her book from my English husband’s relatives and friends. They all swear that her sleep technique works. But I’ve heard she’s controversial. Should I get her book? – Unsure in the U.K.Dear Unsure,

The author of The New Contented Little Baby Book: The Secret to Calm and Confident Parenting, has A HUGE following overseas, and her Supernanny stylings have their U.S. fans, too. Gina Ford is a hard-core British fantasy nanny, complete with all the benevolent dominatrix overtones. One quick glance at the feeding schedules in her book and you can easily imagine her whisking into your nursery, drawing the curtains, rolling up her sleeves and declaring “hmph.” She will not only tell you when your baby should bathe, eat and sleep: “He must start his bath no later than 5:35 p.m., and be massaged and dressed no later than 6 p.m.”, she will tell you when you should bathe, eat and sleep: “You should have cereal, toast and a drink no later than 8 a.m.” Who has time for second-guessing when you’re scheduled to the minute, prodded gently on by Ford’s fabulously British way with words? “Wash and dress baby, remembering to cream all his creases. ” Gina Ford’s unrestrained bossiness offers a life of pure, simple organization: no confusion about naps and nursing, no guessing what the baby’s thinking. Even the creases will be creamed on time.

Some parents really respond to the order Ford promises. It’s not hard to see how a step-by-step plan for baby management could sound extremely appealing in the face of chaos at 3 a.m. And for some families, her methods really work. (Hence the devoted fans). But! For many other families, they don’t: Maybe because parents find the schedules hard to stick to, maybe because the baby finds the schedules hard to stick to. (If keeping track of what to do and when to do it makes you feel anxious, then Gina Ford is probably not your girl.) Ford says her techniques are a huge relief for mothers and a big confidence-booster – the theory being that once she knows exactly what to do, a mother will be cool, calm and collected (and so will her baby). But the problem with prescriptive techniques is that they just don’t work for every baby/parent combo. For all her fans, there are parents who become enraged by her book, claiming that they tried and tried to follow her lead but ended up feeling like utter failures when the world did not fall into contented order as promised.

And Ford’s ideas are controversial – she is very quick to eliminate nighttime feedings, which, according to a number of other experts, can be bad for the newborn’s physical and emotional wellbeing. She believes that a baby as young as six weeks old is perfectly capable of sleeping through the night. In order to get the baby to stay in the crib for long periods, Ford pushes for bigger and less frequent feedings during the day. Others argue that this is simply not healthy for a small baby whose tiny stomach requires more continuous feedings. And, although Ford proposes a pumping schedule to ward off any milk supply problems, stretching out feedings so early can negatively impact breastfeeding. Of course some babies seem to sleep through the night very early on and thrive. Others need more feedings, more comforting.

Both of us, as well as many parents – if not ALL parents – end up taking bits and pieces of advice from disparate sources to cobble together some kind of sleep/feeling/parenting strategy that works. You can read her and see what you think. But it’s a good idea to stay open and see what happens once you have the baby. Then if the Ford program works for you, great. If it doesn’t, you can move on to something that does.

Have a question? Email parentaladvisory@babble.com

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