London - Modern mothers have “lost the plot” and damaged society by treating babies like “tin gods”, according to a leading maternity expert.
Rachel Waddilove, whose clients include Zara Phillips and Gwyneth Paltrow, has helped generations of families with her no-nonsense parenting manual The Baby Book.
She is now bringing out a new version in response to changing lifestyles which covers routine, sleep training and travelling with a baby.
The writer took aim at the modern trend for “attachment” parenting, which sees babies sleep and eat on demand, and insisted that mothers should not feel guilty if they don’t breastfeed. “Formula is not poison – lots of people have been bottle-fed and are perfectly healthy,” she told the Telegraph.
Her advice focuses on mothers rather than babies. “I’m not belittling the fact that children are precious – they’re a gift – but we’re building a generation of little tin gods and it’s not creating a very nice society. We’ve lost the plot,” she warned. “Babies mustn’t think the world revolves around them. They’ll grow up thinking the world owes them a living.” She encourages women to avoid treating their children as a “king-pin” and focus on their relationship with Dad and the rest of the family instead.
Miss Waddilove, 68, a mother of three and grandmother of six who trained at a Dr Barnardo’s nursery college in the 1960s, advocates traditional parenting methods including swaddling and controlled crying, which sees parent wait before tending to a wailing child. “Babies should be taught to wait. It’s good training, we all have to fit in. That’s why twins are often nicer,” she said. “You’re not leaving a cold, hungry, unloved child on its own to cry for hours. That’s abuse. We’re talking about a baby with a full stomach in a comfy cot learning to self-settle and sleep. That’s parenting.”
A recent study in the Medical Journal of Australia claimed swaddling could damage children’s joints, but Miss Waddilove insisted she would not change her stance.
“Babies have been swaddled since the time of Jesus. It’s rubbish to say people in their forties are walking around with bad hips because they were swaddled,” she said. “The problem is they’re overweight and don’t take enough exercise.”
Miss Waddilove also takes a relaxed approach on formula milk instead of breastfeeding, which the World Health Organisation suggests mothers do for at least six months. “The most important thing is the baby is fed,” she stressed. Of “attachment” parenting, she added: “It’s so constricting. I don’t think it’s good for life in the West where so many mothers have to go back to work.”
She suggests that mothers sleep in the same room as their babies for just two or three weeks rather than the recommended six months. “Babies need to learn to be on their own,” she claimed. “It’s probably lovely in those early days, but I have mothers ringing me after two or three months because their babies won’t sleep anywhere else.”