“Modern Mothers have lost the plot”

“Modern Mothers have lost the plot” 150 150 Jane Evans

Image from Pixabay

Where to start with such hogwash?!

On a recent This Morning programme Ruth and Eammon were talking with Rachel Waddilove about the need to adhere to old ways when raising babies and children. It struck me as so sad that a programme watched by many parents was advocating for child care practices and beliefs that have NO scientific basis and belong to the ‘olden days’. Never mind the use of the term ‘Modern mothers!’

Rachel Waddilove described as a ‘maternity nurse to the stars’ is very rooted in times, beliefs and practices that we should have moved on from as they are NOT what babies or their parents need.

When my now 26 year old son was a baby I was told to leave him to cry for 10 minute blocks before going to him, I was then just to pat his back. At the time he wasn’t sleeping that well, my ex-partner got aggressive if he didn’t get sleep and his mother was undermining me right, left and centre so I went against my instincts in order to keep them happy! I would never do that now as I know about brain development and attachment theory.

Waddilove’s opening statement said it all and set the tone, ‘When a baby comes into a home everyone falls on the baby rather than the baby fitting into home life which is what used to happen.’

Many things ‘used to happen’. Children used to be caned in schools, babies used to be put in prams and left at the bottom of the garden to cry/sleep, babies used to only be fed as part of a strict routine and left to cry but we know these cause distress so it’s time to change!

The Gina Ford method was, and still is very popular. It seems to hinge on getting a baby follow a timetable. Having read several of her blogs I find it confusing and contradictory and a bit stressful to even understand, but may be that’s just me?? This Morning presenter Ruth was extoling the virtues of it having raised her son that way.

Much of what Waddilove talked about and Gina Ford writes about seems to focus on a baby being well-fed. Apparently with a full stomach unless they have wind or are ill they should be expected to sleep, which makes me think of those annoying Tamagotchi devices that were a craze a few years ago. What about if they wake in the night and are lonely?

Both Waddilove and Ford are advocates of babies sleeping away from their parents. There is also emphasis on ‘self-settling’. I not even sure I know what that means. Baby’s brains are vastly under-developed so they can’t rationalise ANYTHING!! “I’m fine its sleep time”, “I feel stressed and lonely but shortly I’ll drop off”. Sometimes they just need to be held and rocked and smiled at as they fall asleep.

Gina Ford’s advice is,

“I suggest avoiding eye contact at 10pm and during night feeds to help you show your baby gently that this is not playtime. Your cuddles can be very close, but over-stimulating him at wind-down time can cause him to become overtired and not settle well.”

What I know from doing things wrong
  • I used to try to comfort my crying baby by giving him bottles – it didn’t work he wanted cuddles
  • I tried to do the 10 minutes waiting, go in pat his back – it didn’t work he wanted me
  • I used to panic and get stressed about him not sleeping – he needed me to be calm and go with the flow!
  • As an older child I bribed him with stickers to get him to sleep in his own bed – I should have lain next to him more often and stroked his head, done some massage and taught him relaxation techniques.
What REAL SICENCE and research shows us babies need
  • Contact – physical holding, stroking
  • Connection – emotional curiosity and empathy
  • Calmness – calm adult presence
Babies have very primitive brains so are often in survival fight/flight/freeze mode

Anything and most things can feel overwhelming to a baby as they can’t do anything about feeling:

  • Lonely/scared
  • Hot/cold
  • Hungry/thirsty
  • Bored/over-stimulated
  • Uncomfortable as they need a clean nappy

Any or all of these states activates the stress hormones in their under-developed bodies and brains. They get flooded with act and react chemicals which for a short time is fine but when this goes on it shapes their whole stress-response biology. Like a roller coaster they go UP with stress and there needs to be a safe DOWN which comes from connection with a calm, kind, emotionally available adult.

Babies and children should be the focus of every adult and daily life should be adjusted to embrace their presence fully and deeply. Their vulnerability is obvious, they can’t ‘manipulate’, they can’t ‘know exactly what they are doing!’ They most certainly can NOT be spoiled by being picked up and held too much.

My instincts were strong

When I had a baby my instincts were strong but I felt isolated, vulnerable and bullied into not acting on them. I have forgiven myself for this but boy oh boy do I regret it! My son is a beautiful young person but I can see some of the legacies especially to do with sleeping which is an ongoing issue for him.

My instincts were to always pick him up, hold him, rock him, smile at him. Not to stress about food or feeding (I got told off by a Health Visitor as my breast-fed baby was “too big”), my mother-in-law tried to get me to supplement his feeds with bottles!!

Luckily I did act enough on my instincts and loved every bit of my beautiful boy. I loved sharing in his wonder at the world and we had so much fun too.

I wish the amazing brain and body science that shows the crucial time of development is pre-birth to 3 years had been common knowledge 26 years ago and that holding a baby is THE best thing any parent, modern or not, can do!!

Draw on your instincts

Take a moment, breathe deeply, tune into your gut (we have a second brain system in our gut) and your heart and they will guide you. If you get given advice or you read or hear some, take a moment and do the same checking-in process it won’t fail you.


The Gentle Sleep Book: For calm babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers by Sarah Ockwell-Smith

The Blossom Method: The Revolutionary Way to Communicate With Your Baby From Birth by Vivien Sabel

The Connected Baby Dr. Suzanne Zeedyk

NHS Guidance on reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome for a sleeping baby


Image from Pixabay


Jane Evans

Jane is a ‘learn the hard way’ person. She has learnt from her personal experiences and her direct work with people who have often been in really bad places emotionally, relationally, practically and sometimes professionally.

All stories by: Jane Evans

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