A controversial topic among parents, the Gina Ford method has, undoubtedly, been known to transform the unexpected sleepless nights and often unbearably long days with a newborn into more manageable routines - for some parents. We've outlined the major rules that Gina wants you to follow, and if you've tried it, we'd like to know if it worked!
The method itself is pretty simple, and Gina Ford claims it to be nothing more than common sense. The aim for most parents who follow the method is to have a baby who sleeps through the night from 7pm to 7am by 12 weeks. Your baby's welfare comes first, and then you take care of your own peace of mind and health - something that often goes out of the window when you're a first time parent running on two hours' sleep. The routine offers to teach you the difference between hunger and tiredness, and to learn to relieve your baby of these discomforts before they even start crying. So, here's how it's done:
- Small babies should have a structured daytime feeding pattern as soon as possible, so feed them little and often after the birth. A three-hourly feed is recommended; you should wake them for this structured feed if they're sleeping, and feed them sooner if they cry out of hunger.
- Avoid eye contact and interaction with them in the evening and during the night feed to gently show your baby that this is not daytime or playtime.
- Cuddles and stimulation should be given when your baby needs it most, and not when you need it. Interaction can be exhausting, and babies need all the energy they can in order to grow.
- The best time to introduce books and toys is about half an hour after your baby has woken up and been fed, and only ever over 20 minutes before they're due a sleep.
- Babies should be put down to sleep in their own, separate bedroom as soon as possible. This should also be a dark and quiet room.
- To help your baby get used to scheduled daytime nap times, Gina also recommends the Assisted Sleep Method - you hold your baby in the crook of your arm and let them fall asleep with you. If they're old enough to be out of a swaddle, Ford suggests gently holding both of their arms down across their chest to minimise fidgeting and help them settle. Once they've slept soundly for three days using this method at the recommended times, you should do the same thing, but now lay them in their own bed and sit close enough to them to keep their arms folded over. By the sixth day, you should be able to lay them down awake but sleepy in their own bed, and without holding their arms down this time, they should drift off to sleep.
- With assisted sleeping, only one parent should be putting the baby to sleep each time you follow the routine. You can let the baby nap with you, or in the pram if they tend to fall asleep better when you go for a walk. The key thing that you should remember is to stick to your arms and then bed, or just the pram for the duration of the routine, and not alternate between the two. The three and six day limits are just average guidelines - some babies may take longer to settle in their own cribs after a few days of falling asleep in your arms, and that is completely fine as long as you try the crib again the following day.
What are your thoughts on the Gina Ford Method? Are you pregnant and considering using it, or have you followed it before and have some opinions? Let us know in the comments section below!