Baby Expert Backlash

March 23, 2012 § 2 Comments

Hi I’m a mum of a spirited ten year old girl and I am a night nanny /nanny agency owner/ baby sleep ‘expert’.  The last title I just used to  describe myself makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable , it’s not a title I specifically chose for myself. I wouldn’t say the title was thrust upon me per say but at a recent business seminar I attended led by a well-known and respected life and business coach, after describing what I do and what my business was about I was told…

‘ You’re an expert!’ exclaimed the Coach.

‘Err  I’m not, I’m just someone who enjoys working with babies and knows a bit more than most about getting them to sleep well over night!

‘That makes you an expert’ she replied, quite indignantly ‘you’ve done your ten thousand hours, you’re an expert.’

‘Ok’ I responded sheepishly.

I’m an NNEB qualified nursery nurse so I know  about babies and young children’s development  and  I’d like to think I know more than your average person does about babies and sleep and even know a few little tricks and techniques to settle babies at night without either mum or baby in tears ,but I don’t know everything ! And I certainly never considered myself to be an ‘expert’ me? An expert?

Not sure it’s a title I want at all. The main experts I know in my field are Gina Ford, Tizzie Hall and Alison Scott Wright and Jo Tantum! And quite frankly I didn’t want to be banded in with those public figures thank you very much.  Now I will say of the latter expert I mentioned Jo Tantum that I really quite liked her book. Her book had a much more sensitive and caring approach. And to me there was no controlled crying or cry it out methods discussed. I read her book last year and thought it was quite good for parents who wanted to have a structured day for their babies and wanted advice on sleep. Now these parents in my experiences tended to be parents of twins and multiples.

I do feel however they are under attack and some of it is justified. Which is probably another reason I’m not so keen to call myself an expert?

Now I confess up until I started my business, I’d never given much thought to the controversy that surrounded these figures. As far as I was concerned Gina Ford couldn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know about bedtime habits and routines but I did not like her execution. She was essentially telling me ( in my role as a new mum not a night nanny I must add)not to connect with my baby and that just wasn’t washing  with me, so I ignored her from there on in.  And pretty much advised any mothers I worked with to do the same. I told them all the same thing  and it can apply to all experts.

“If there is something that you don’t like or agree with ignore it but take away from the book/advice that that you find useful.”

That’s assuming you find anything useful in their books.

I’d worked as a night nanny for a few years before I became a mother myself and had heard of Gina Ford mentioned before by many of clients I was working for. At that moment in time she was the most talked about baby guru. I’d skimmed her book previously for work purposes I only read her book myself when I was pregnant with my daughter.

At work 85 % of time I would be asked to try and feed the baby I was caring for according to a gina’ish schedule. But I knew for an absolute fact that when I was to become a mother in a few months’ time, I had no intention of imposing a schedule on my baby. I read Gina Ford and the rebel spirit in me came out. I always had to try and feed a baby to a schedule at work. And it was horrid; trying to keep a baby happy when you know all they want is a bottle is no fun for me or the baby. Now please don’t get me wrong in no way am I criticizing or judging the parenting choices of my clients (there’s enough of that going on already) as all loving parents make decisions they feel are in the best interests of their children, I just decided I wanted to enjoy lavishing time and attention on this gorgeous baby of my very own, emotionally I had had a difficult pregnancy and didn’t fancy the living to a routine in the pursuit of a full night’s sleep. I was used to surviving on less sleep than most because of my job and I was in no hurry to go back to work. I had no intention of ever letting her cry to sleep and I figured if there was ever a night when she wasn’t happy sleeping in her crib, I would happily have her sleep in bed with me.  And we happily did this many a night when she was newborn even though my health visitors advised me not to.

I thought Gina ford was just too regimented and I didn’t understand how she could advise her clients to allow their babies to cry it out! Why would you do that? Newborn babies don’t just cry for no reason!  Babies want to sleep as much as grownups do but just like adults they had to learn how to do it. And I also was quiet annoyed that Gina hadn’t taken into consideration the emotional feelings a new mother has towards her baby.

‘And with no talking or eye contact give him 20 mins on the second breast’

Err I’d  spent 36 hours in labour delivering this beautiful little bundle, I was in complete awe of her. There was no way I was going to feed her in the dark and not talk to her, not stroke her little face and fingers, not sing her a gentle lullaby whilst I was feeding her. To ignore her just felt like the most alien thing to do to this little person who I had spent the last 9 months growing.

I decided that no woman no matter how many celebrity endorsements she had was going to make me leave my baby to scream. ESPECIALLY when she wasn’t even a mother herself. I’m not saying you have to be a mother to give somebody advice on babies but until you give birth yourself you can never really know how it feels, to give birth, to breastfeed and to create an attachment to this little person who had been growing inside of you, to have so much love for this tiny little person who was relying on you to take care of her. Leaving her to cry was just not going to happen! Period! I only found out later in my career just how harmful CC and CIO is to babies as it’s something I’ve never done in my work with babies. I’ve never been asked to by a client and if I had I would have refused. Babies cry to communicate a need it just felt wrong to ignore that.

The only advice of Gina’s I followed was starting my day at 7 am, and having a bedtime routine I decided that the rest would be dictated by Nia (my lovely daughter).  I breastfed but decided that I wouldn’t panic about not being able to provide enough milk as I could always top up with a bottle and I experimented with expressing breast milk with various pumps that I was given or bought. Breastfeeding was very painful for the first 2 weeks but with advice from my mum (a health visitor) on attachment and some perseverance I got pretty good at it. I just went with the flow and followed my little girl’s cues for feeding and naptimes.

In going with the flow and following my baby daughter’s cues, we ended up on most days following a Gina-ish routine. By the time Nia was 8 weeks old I noticed that if we woke up at 7am she would roughly nap for 90mins in the mornings, have a 2 hr. nap around 1pm and a 45 min cat nap around 5.30pm with her bedtime routine starting at 8pm her final bedtime feed at 9ish and her settling to sleep by about 10ish. She would often sleep through til 3am then wake for another feed and finish the night in bed with me. She slept through the night at around 12 weeks old. I remember my time with her as a baby fondly

Any who. I digress! my point, I don’t know everything about babies and sleep but I know more than your average person and I’m still learning as I go along. I’m planning on doing the Naturally Nurturing Sleep Consultant course this year so I can have my experiences AND in-depth educational knowledge about babies and children’s sleep. I don’t advocate or agree with CC or CIO but I don’t believe you should pounce on your baby when she so much as squeaks either. We get to know our babies, their cues and what their different cries mean by caring for and watching and observing and responding to not just our babies and but how they interact with us, their parents  and the environment around them.

Not all us baby experts are like Gina!!!  Via social media and twitter we are better able to communicate with the people we do business with that also means that we can be kept accountable for the things we say and promote. It’s fantastic and I can honestly say that through Facebook alone I have learnt tons about mothers and they’re problems with babies and sleep etc.  And also through Facebook pages  like Dangers of Baby Training and Analytical Armadillo I have learnt sooooo much about attachment parenting, co sleeping, breastfeeding and more to do with babies and sleep and I love it. If it makes me better at my job and better able to help the families I work with then great.

It also means if I say something wrong or don’t explain myself properly I get pulled up!! It’s not always easy to deal with criticism but as a professional I try to use it constructively. However I don’t appreciate the approach I get sometimes.

I think sometimes followers via social media make assumptions and attack.

I’ve seen it recently with The Baby Show ‘Experts’ Claire Byam Cook, Alison Scott Wright and in particular Jo Tantum.  I’m not mentioning any names or pointing fingers but I do feel like the concerns that some mothers have over these experts  although justified much of the time is in danger of turning into a witch hunt.

I’ve seen via blogs and Facebook that some parents are just not happy to be fed information but want concrete evidence and research to back up claims and quiet rightly too. But what is it some objectors are unhappy about? Is it because you believe information to be false? If so that’s ok but to constantly be on the attack? Is it necessary? It’s getting to the point where other ‘experts’ like me who have differing approaches and opinions become afraid to share via social media for fear of attack.

Even the other night I merely stated via my FB page, what  I was thinking, in response to the demand vs. routine feeding study outcomes on the news and I was  pretty much told to shut up , don’t start a debate and get my facts right!! So rude!! I was saying I was looking forward to what else is discovered by the study am I not entitled to share this via my own page

It’s one thing being passionate about a subject and challenging me but don’t be rude. I won’t be bullied and attacked.

Now I do think that because of the way these ‘experts’ have handled their criticism they have left a lot of parents, bloggers commentators quite  annoyed and frustrated.  Gina Ford sues you for having an opinion, Alison Scott Wright as far as I know Just ignores you, And although Jo Tantum does sometimes respond to what’s being said about her, she frustrates me in that she doesn’t share her sources of research and information, bans commentators on her page and then when she does reply or share info she talks in third person, rambles on or shares information and sources that are 20 years out of date. I almost feel like I know what she trying to say in her responses, as a fellow night nanny, but perhaps because of the sometimes aggressive and confrontational approach of bloggers and commentators etc. has now gotten flustered and nervous and ends up contradicting herself. I watched her last week on Channel 5 Live with Gabby and it was uncomfortable viewing to say the least.

What I’m very ultimately trying to say is not all us baby experts are the same, please don’t lump us all into the same boat because we ‘appear ‘to be advocating or promoting the same thing. By all means challenge us! But don’t attack us! Do it the right way, and you may just teach us expert’s a thing or two. I’m always open to learning and can own up things if I get it wrong, which I often do.

And thanks to often being challenged the right way, I have learnt a lot and that’s what being an expert all is about!! Learning and sharing information to help each other.

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§ 2 Responses to Baby Expert Backlash

  • Hannah love says:

    I couldn’t have said it better myself! What you describe is so true. It’s such a shame that a such a caring profession as we do has such a label and bad name.

    I do my job to help others and my one aim is to make families lives happier, babies more settled, healthier and more content.

    Never would I advocate leaving a baby to CIO or discourage anything that encourages the bond between the baby and parent.

    It’s such a shame that a small handful of our profession have given it a bad name (or is it a small handful of people opposing our profession that have given it a bad name?!) probably a little bit of both!

    Keep up the good work and believe in your approach and knowledge 🙂

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