Baby sleep: two theories on what works from Gina Ford & the Baby Whisperer

What should you do when your baby starts to cry? Let them cry it out, or nurse them until they fall back to sleep? This debate has been ongoing for decades but is there a right way to go about the bedtime routine or is it more personal. 

With over 20 years of experience in childcare, parenting guru Gina Ford argues that parents should follow a strict routine to get their babies to sleep. Her theory advises parents to follow nine different routines that match their baby’s natural rhythms, therefore avoiding the issues that bring on endless tears such as hunger and tiredness. This is done by breaking your day down into 5-minute slots to help settle your little one into a routine quickly, with strict direction on naps, feeds and bedtime. This method also helps parents to gain structure in their day as they know when feeds and naps will occur.

Ford states that your baby should be woken around 7 am to be fed (always taking place in the nursery.) Feeding should then occur every four hours, with the last feed taking place around 6:15 pm. Ford says that during feeds, no eye contact should be given to prevent excitement before sleep; nor too much affection shown. She also claims that babies can become exhausted if there is too much interaction, as they need to keep up their energy levels for growing during the early stages.

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Ford also recommends that leaving your baby to cry is a good idea for around 1 hour a day. Doing this should train your little one to self-soothe and therefore sleep through the night around the 8-10 week period. 

With her routine, Ford states that babies should be put to sleep in their own bedroom as soon as possible - which is kept dark and quiet for optimum relaxation. She also adds that only one parent should be doing the bedroom routine and once they’re asleep they should stay in their cot for the remainder of the night. 

Alternatively, the Baby Whisperer has a different perspective on the sleep method. Tracy Hogg was a ‘nanny-to-the-stars’ famous for being able to placate and calm babies. She says to balance the ‘cry it out’ and ‘giving attention’ methods, giving them an even playing field as neither is health for the baby’s development alone.

Tracy also advises parents to be wary of ‘accidental parenting’, in which a baby is bottle-fed, nursed or walked around to fall asleep. Ultimately this means that the baby relies on props rather than being able to fall asleep naturally.

She claims that certain methods should be adapted to the child’s age, but no routine should be used before the baby is 3 months old, as newborns tend to sleep throughout the day and have no desire for play or interaction. 

The Baby Whisperer devised the E.A.S.Y theory which is made up of E (eat), A (activity), S (sleep) and finally Y (you). Firstly E; your baby should be fed when they first wake up followed by A which is some time to play - dependant on your little one’s age.

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After a bit of playtime, your baby should become sleepy S, meaning they may be ready for a nap without any aids such as feeding or rocking. When they do sleep, Tracy suggests following the ‘put-down pick-up’ method as a simple way to get your baby to sleep. Simply place the baby down in the cot and pick them up should they become unsettled. This method should be carried out as many times as it takes until they nod off fully. 

If the baby does become unsettled, Hogg states that parents should try the Four S method, which consists of:

  • Setting the stage: a simple procedure to let the baby know that bedtime is looming. For example changing their nappy, closing the curtains or switching off the lights.
  • Swaddle: you may choose to swaddle your baby to make them feel comforted. It must be noted that not all babies like to be swaddled.
  • Sitting quietly with your baby
  • Shush-pat: if your baby is crying, patting your baby in the centre of the back whilst making a loud ‘shh’ sound can distract and settle them.

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Eventually, your little one will fall asleep soundly and you’ll have time to yourself. 

Remember, both Ford and Hogg’s theories are extremely different and of course, are based on matters of opinion. Whatever works for you may not work for others, including between siblings. However, if you are struggling to get your baby to sleep, it might be worth trying one of these methods. The most important thing is to do what is best for you and your baby, which means you don’t always have to follow ‘methods’ or ‘guides’.

We've curated the softest nursery essentials to help calm your baby & keep the whole family sleeping peacefully.

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