Letter to the Secretary of State for Health
The Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP
Dear Mr Burnham,
As a supporter of the rights of parents, I would be grateful to know the Department of Health's position on the advice contained within 'The New Contented Little Baby Book'.
The majority of parents form an instinctive bond with their new baby; but that is not the same thing as having childcare knowledge, which has to be acquired over time. In the past, this would have been gleaned principally from family members, but nowadays many parents have no option but to obtain their skills from parenting books and websites.
For a while I have been listening to the experiences of new mothers, and have been concerned to hear it suggested that some NHS midwives and health visitors have, on occasion, been fiercely outspoken about my baby routines, spreading misinformation about my methods, and even apparently telling one new mother to 'burn' my book. Midwives and health visitors, paid for with tax-payers money, are employed to support and guide parents, and many do a marvellous job. Yet, instead of offering an informed and impartial view, it seems that some NHS employees have, on occasion, been hostile about my book, claiming that it tells parents to leave their babies to cry for lengthy periods and to make hungry babies wait for food. The spreading of inaccurate facts serves only to bewilder new mothers.
For the record, my personal approach involves listening to the needs of individual babies and then encouraging them into a regular eating and sleeping routine. If my critics were to read my book, they would see that I have never suggested that new babies be left to cry - least of all when hungry - and, indeed, advise parents to always rule out hunger as a reason for crying. Full details can be found on my website www.contentedbaby.com.
From personal experience, and from listening to the views of many parents, I know that the 'Contented Baby' approach leads to healthy, happy babies - and to parents who have the energy to enjoy their children through not being sleep-deprived. Routines for babies and young children have been around in various forms for years, and my advice simply helps mothers to adopt this approach if they choose. I would add that the information contained within my books has been approved by nutritionists and paediatricians.
In a democracy, it seems reasonable to expect that individuals have a right to parent as they see fit, without coming up against any alleged pressure from healthcare professionals in an unofficial drive against certain methods. I am not suggesting for a moment that all new mothers should follow my approach; however, when midwives and health visitors are advising on childcare options, and specifically when making reference to 'The New Contented Little Baby Book', I believe this should be in a fair and informed way. Anything less would be a disservice to families and an insult to the many able and wonderful parents who are successfully raising their children with the help of my book.
I trust that these reputed incidents, while disconcerting for individual mothers, are not part of a more general shift within the Health Service to misrepresent my book and, more importantly, limit the choices available to parents. I would welcome your response.