‘Gina Ford saved my sanity when I became a mum’

Gina Ford is the guru of strict parenting. Here's what happened when Estelle Lee, 40 and her husband Andrew followed Gina's rules in raising their children Alexander, six, and Freddie, five

Gina Ford saved my sanity – you can say what you like about her but I owe her, big time. Like many new mums-to-be, I bought all the stuff – buggy, bouncy chair, Moses basket… 
I also got a copy of Gina Ford’s The Contented Little Baby Book, read it and thought, ‘Well, that makes sense’, then put it out of my mind. I never considered the type of mother I wanted to be. But I knew instinctively I wasn’t going to be the kind who wears her baby 24/7. After all, my child was going to nap in his egg-shaped Stokke cot and wake up cooing. So when I found myself sobbing with sleep deprivation, I turned back to Gina Ford.

The first fortnight of transitioning to a strict Gina Ford routine was a surprise – most of all to me. A sleep expert later told me that it’s not the babies who are the problem, but the mothers. And it’s true. Routine required me to be disciplined. I was the only mum neurotically trying to keep her baby awake. All the fun things designed to get new mums out of the house became an issue due to the ‘lunchtime nap’. But it worked. Yes, there were tears getting Alexander to sleep longer than a 45-minute cycle, and timing was everything. Too much daytime sleep and you set yourself up for a bad night; not enough and you have a cranky baby. But the schedule was all that mattered when it meant we eventually got a full eight hours each night.

Alexander thrived on his strict routine, so we left him with his grandparents for a weekend and accidentally came back with his brother on board. Little did I know that my parenting style wouldn’t be quite so easy with a second baby that suffered from reflux and dairy intolerance. The routine had to be shelved and there’s no question that the second time around was tougher.

Looking back, did ‘the routine’ help or hinder my anxieties as a new mother? It certainly isolated me, and that’s something I regret, because those baby days are over so quickly. Maybe we’d have got there on our own? I don’t judge anyone’s parenting styles, but Gina Ford served me well. She gave us structure when I couldn’t think straight.

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