Ok so it's time I wrote about something that has really affected my parenting. It's something that I know causes a lot of backlash and something people have very strong opinions on. I've been holding off writing this post because of this very reason but I've read some really interesting things this week that has really given me a kick in this direction. If you didn't know I'm talking about routine. The Gina Ford routine to be more precises.
My son Joshua is my first child. For all the will and good intention in the world, no matter how much you want to be a mummy, nothing prepares you for having a baby. You get nine months to 'prepare' but what you can't prepare for or pre-empt is the change it brings to your life on every single level. It's about adapting to a whole new way of life. And it's not your way of life, nor do you have any say in it. I love my son of course I did, but I have always found it hard to follow other people's leads. I'm too headstrong (ok bossy) for my own good and I found it really difficult to suddenly being led by this tiny, albeit beautiful wriggling bundle. On top of that I have always needed a lot of sleep. I'm not lazy but I'm one of those people who has always needed a lot of sleep because I have a very high metabolism and if I don't get it then I struggle to maintain my mood and energy levels (hence newly found caffeine addiction *thumbs up*). Throw sleep deprivation in to the mix and post natal depression, the first six weeks of being a mummy were a hard slog. I had read the Gina Ford book while pregnant, ok I had read a few chapters and quickly gone on to the 'haters' side. I couldn't believe this woman with a 'wealth' of experience could possibly say that some of her advice was the best way to raise a child. I'm talking about the over exaggerated 'no cuddles/affection' and 'no toys' part that most people use as the foundation to so openly critise Gina Ford as the parenting anti-christ. I quite openly admit that I too read these two barely mentioned pieces of advice (which by the way DO NOT say those two things) on these topics and allowed something I had already heard to lead me to way over exaggerating them. This was enough for me (fickle I know) to put the book down and join the Gina Ford 'Haters'. How wrong was I.
By six weeks, I needed to regain control of things. I was finding it hard to follow Joshua's own pattern, and in return he didn't seem to be content. He would sleep from late afternoon until 9-10pm then not go back to sleep for hours. He would want naps, feeding, entertaining at all the wrong times of day and it was throwing me way off kilter. A friend recommended I try the routine after coming round and me swiftly bursting in to tears. Her son was a couple of months older and was already going through the night. That was what did it for me, I wont lie. I became a Gina Ford follower because I wanted a good nights sleep! I knew with a few evening hours to myself and a good nights sleep I would be in a better posistion to be the happy mummy that Joshua deserved. And I also knew Joshua was going to benefit for a solid night's sleep. I knew Joshua was going to benefit from the routine structure, he was my child and I benefit from routine so he would! As much as I like to say I'm spontanious, I'm really not. I'm organised with time and like to know what time things are happening. I'm not what I sound like, I'm not strict or obsessive but I perform best in a routine. Overall I'm still relatively easy going. I just need some structure in my life.
I can't say it was easy to get there but it was worth it. That first week was really difficult. And this is when you do have to make some bad parenting statements. Yes my son cried with hunger briefly a few times and sometimes I had to fight hard with never ending stupid dances and walks around the garden to keep him awake just so he would eat and sleep at the specified times. It was difficult. He wanted things when he couldn't have them. Of course you are also provided with solutions, Josh would have lots of water when he was hungry if it wasn't a feeding time. This helped for short periods and slowly after a few days he began to fall more in line with the times I had began to outline for him. In brief the routine consists of two day parts, both 12 hours long. 7-7. That first week Joshua was still waking a lot in the night as the night time part didn't click until last with him so it was insanely difficult to get up at 7am if he had only been back asleep for 45 minutes. But I was determined I was going to do this. I was already feeling better in myself having the routine in place and I could see that Josh was adapting to it better each day. So I carried on. Within two weeks I would say he was eating and sleeping and everything else at the times the routine outlines. Two weeks! If I'm honest only the first few days were hard, the rest of the two weeks I would describe as 'trying' but not hard. By the time the two weeks were up Joshua was going to bed at 7pm, I would then wake him at 10.30 ish and change and feed him before putting him straight back down and he would then sleep through until 7am. He would also have his naps at the right times which meant I got some much needed time to myself. It was the best thing I've ever done. Joshua litterally blossomed and before he hit the 4 month mark he was going through the night.
However very early on I came under scrutiny for my choices about parenting. I went to the local childrens centre for my requested weaning sessions, baby weighing etc but other than the compulsory trips I stopped going after I got fed up of one particular health visitors comments and facial expressions when I could only praise Gina Ford's routine and explain it's affect on me and my son had literally transformed us. She physically recoiled the first time I mentioned in a group session that I 'did' Gina Ford. Now I think very differently about this situation. I know I said something back to her comments once, which I couldn't help but now I have so much I wish I had said! Hindsight's great huh?! Now I have a 17 month old son who has quite literally grown in to the most content, happy child. He's never gone without love, toys, cuddles or kisses. Nor has he ever had his basic needs not met. He has never suffered because of this routine. This is something lots of 'haters' say the routine does. People have said I've made my son suffer by putting him on the Gina Ford routine. My answer? (Minus the expleetive telling them where to go) Yes those first few weeks it was probably more difficult for my son than me, do I allow myself to feel guilty? No. This is because I could see the bigger picture. I loved my son enough to put us both through a difficult few weeks in order to benefit us both. But at no point did he suffer! I'm a routine follower not a neglectful parent. These people who question me forget I tried the baby led approach for 6 weeks. It wasn't getting me or my child anywhere. I firmly admit I wouldn't follow Gina Ford for the first few weeks, as it's important with a brand new baby to feed them when they want and get them used to, well living. After this when I have my next child at 2 or so weeks old I will 100% be doing Gina Ford again.
Some of the myths about the routine-Apparantly you shouldn't give your child any affection. That's rubbish. All that's mentioned on this is not to allow too many people to cuddle your child during wakefull times because it's over stimulation of lots of new faces, voices and smells, plus on a practical note they are more likely to fall asleep having a cuddle when it's not a set nap time. This has a knock on affect for the whole day and night, as the point of the routine is a certain amount of hours sleep per 24 hours. Extra day time sleep means less at night and this is 100% true! Trust me I can vouch for this! The only other thing she says about cuddles is not to give them to the baby when your waking them for their 10-11pm feed because they need to be able to get to sleep without it. So you decide? Is this the same as not giving your child any affection?! Of course not, but the 'haters' have made of it what they have.
Another thing is the toy thing. Gina Ford does not say that you should be a toy nazi. She mearly mentions the affects of over stimulation! It's just another thing people have read and decided to grossly over exaggerate. My sons toys collection could rival that of the local Toys'r'us!
No eye contact with your baby? Yup that ones true, but only at night! Who in their right mind would advise the world of parents to never look in their childs eyes? Come on 'haters' get real. She just says not to give eye contact at night! Which let me tell you works. The odd time I did this my son would smile and giggle and use it as a open invitation to wake up and play which was very frustrating. I learnt the hard way about this one!
So this I will say. I have read a lot of people's takes on the routine. And (I mean no disresepct if this is you) I find the people who say they have tried it and that the routine doesn't work are the people who only half try it. Who don't commit fully to the routine. Unfortunately you need to dedicate your entire life to this routine for the first few weeks. There is no shame in not being able to commit to this. But I really don't think it's fair to say it doesn't work unless you have spent a fair few weeks following it to the detail. If it doesn't work then fair enough, but I guarantee it will. As does Gina Ford. A friend of mine tried it and uses me as her personal self help guide when she has questions. I don't mind this at all and I'm happy to say a lot of my friends have successfully followed this after hearing and seeing the benefits it's had for us. This one particular friend though couldn't understand why her son wasn't 'getting' it. She told me her son couldn't do it and swifty ended up in tears. It was a hard thing to say but I had to tell her that he could do it, but the reason he wasn't was because she wasn't trying hard enough. I felt awful, but it was true. I strongly believe if you truly love someone you tell them the truth. I thought she wouldn't ever speak to me again but slowly she began to really commit to the routine, not just the bits that suited her. Only doing half of it to fit in with your lifestyle wont work. I think she wanted the benefits of a baby sleeping through, having lots of naps etc without having to do the hard work like getting up early etc. It won't work if you do it like that. You can't expect to let your child sleep until 9am and then expect them to go to bed at 7pm plus have the same amount of sleep time in the day. It doesn't work like that. You have to take the rough with the smooth to acheive the results with this. Did her son 'get it' then? Well what do you think? Of course he did. Like I said, every baby can if you commit to it.
People who hate the routine, say it's rubbish are the ones who through whatever reason haven't stuck to it. That's ok though! It's not for everyone, not all parents or babies need this element of day to day life. I did and I do. I don't critisise people who follow the baby led approach with routine. So I prefer not to be critisised myself.
This routine is the best thing I have ever done for me and my son. He's on the toddler version of the routine now and is so used to it that he knows himself when is sleep time, meal times etc and his body clock also tells him. Yes he shows signs of being tired before his set nap times but even if he doesn't look tired when it's nap time his eyes glaze over and he's literally gone from manic running round playing one minute to being asleep before his head hits the pillow when nap time arrives.
I just wanted to show those of you who doubt and have questions that this can be done, the result are real and the work is worthwhile! If you have any questions about it please leave them below and I would love to hear about your thoughts!
Love Chloe xx