Sleep Book Review 2: New Contended Little Baby Book (Gina Ford)

Gina Ford is a UK based author who has 20 years of experience working with babies. She worked as a maternity nurse at a time where formal qualifications weren’t offered or expected. Her book is written from personal experience of working with over 300 babies.

The New Contended Little Baby Book combines feeding and sleeping routines for parents to follow. For the purpose of this review I will only be concentrating on the information, schedules and routines she provides regarding sleep.

The Good

Gina Ford provides lots of advice on setting up your nursery in preparation for your newborn.  For new parents this is particularly useful.  I know I wasn’t sure of everything I would need and probably bought things I didn’t need and forgot things I did need!  She does recommend that a baby should be rooming in with their parents for the first 6 months, as is recommended by the AAP but I was still concerned that in this section  she suggests a blanket tightly cover the bottom part of the bed (and hence the baby). This goes against the AAP recommendations regarding safe sleep. If a baby moves in their sleep then the blanket could cover their face and provide a suffocation or strangulation risk.  Sleep sacks are much safer for keeping a baby comfortable and warm.

She also mentions the importance of bedtime routines throughout the book. As we know, bedtime routine are incredibly important as they provide consistency and a cue to sleep for babies (and children). Bedtime routines can also decrease night wakings. Gina Ford does not provide any advice on good components of bedtime routines besides bathing and feeding your baby. Her main concern is how to schedule your baby’s feedings around bedtime.

Gina Ford provides valuable information about sleep associations and the benefits of teaching your baby to fall asleep on their own without things like rocking or cuddling. She also explains that babies can wake up overnight if taught to associate certain things with falling asleep. She mentions that parents may need to consider sleep training should their child have a sleep association, but first check with their pediatrician to rule out underlying issues.  This is all very important advice for parents to keep in mind when teaching their babies to sleep.  Sleep is a learnt skill and parents need to provide the right environment for their babies to learn.

The Not So Good

Gina Ford clearly states that the routines she provides in the book are created to meet the natural sleep and feeding needs of babies. When reading the book I found it concerning that in general the amount of daytime sleep she suggested for a baby at any given age or stage (up to 12 months) was actually an hour or two less than normal recommendations.  This means she is not meeting a baby’s natural sleep needs. She says her routines are structured to ensure babies never get overtired, but my concern is that she expects babes to sleep less than they should, which in turn can cause overtiredness.  Her routines may work for some babies (think very easygoing babies), but the more sensitive babies, will definitely struggle with getting less than ideal sleep.

Night wakings and early risings were also discussed but not all the reasons a baby can experience either were mentioned.  Parents need to know all the reasons a baby can experience early risings and night wakings to make informed decisions on how to address them.  For early wakings she mentions light streaming in the windows, babies expecting parents to come and attend to them at their first noise but no suggestion that overtiredness can be a cause of early wakings. In terms of night wakings she suggests that too much sleep can be the reason and provides suggestions for reducing day sleep. Overtiredness can also produce night wakings. It is especially worrisome that she doesn’t mention overtiredness, given her schedules provide less sleep than the normal averages and could therefore lead to overtiredness.  Uninformed parents may end up making the over tiredness worse if they reduce day sleep, as Gina Ford suggests.

She also mentions in her book the importance of naps, however her routines do not provide an appropriate amount of sleep for a baby during their morning nap. Ideally, as a sleep consultant I am aiming for over an hour for the morning nap and love it when the babies I work with sleep 1.5 hours or so in their morning nap. Gina Ford however recommends 45-60 minutes at the most. As a general rule, anything less than 60 minutes for a nap is not restorative, which means she is advocating for non-restorative naps. The other thing she doesn’t bear in mind is that both the morning and afternoon naps have special purposes. The morning nap has more REM sleep and REM sleep is important for learning, creative problem solving and emotional and psychological restoration. The afternoon nap is important for physical restoration. If a baby is missing out on enough sleep for their morning nap, then they are being provided less opportunity for mentally restorative sleep and learning consolidation. Gina Ford also suggests that babies will cut out that morning nap (or reduce it to only 30 minutes) way too early. She suggests babies drop their morning nap between 9 and 12 months. The normal age range for dropping naps is 12 to 18 months, with the average being 15 months. If you drop a baby’s nap too early this will lead to overtiredness and sleep issues like night waking and early rising.

I hope you found my thoughts on The New Contented Baby Book useful and that you can make informed decisions on the information within the book that you use.  As you will have noticed I have some concerns on the content as I feel it could lead to babies not getting the sleep they need.  If you feel your baby may be overtired and you need help fixing it please feel free to contact Mylee at Little Big Dreamers today.  Or you can schedule an appointment here.  Have you had a chance to join my free community where parents come together to discuss child sleep issues?  Join here!  I look forward to helping you improve your baby’s sleep!

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