You get the sense that, when giving the book its subtitle ’10 Rules for soothing fretful babies (and their parents)’ Deborah Jackson’s tongue was firmly in her cheek, as the basic tenet of the book is that there are very few rules, only a handful of general guidelines that each parent will apply in their own way.
The first, and probably most important of these, is to relax. Despite having been given a copy of When Your Baby Cries by a wise friend, towards the end of pregnancy, it took me a long time to master the art of calm. I’m constantly surprised when my feedback as a BFC describes me as calm, and I wish I could harness this within my own family! Motherhood maximises our potential for guilt, anxiety, self-doubt, and sleep-deprived irritability; inner calm can be hard to find.
The ‘rules’ in the book are based around learning about babies, and specifically, learning about your own baby, so that each parent finds their own way to respond. There is an emphasis on understanding and meeting the baby’s needs through love and attention, as opposed to trying to make the baby conform to modern notions of good behaviour. Scattered throughout the text, quotations, statistics and facts about baby care in other cultures illustrate the author’s gentle suggestions and explanations.
As the mother of a colicky baby, I found rule 4 particularly helpful, as this gave me permission not to have to stop him from crying, but simply to be there for him and hold him, and accept that I could not understand why he cried. It was a good lesson that we were both on the same side.
I have some concerns with the suggestions of homeopathy and chinese medicine, both of which are expensive treatments shown to work no better than a placebo. These could only be described as doing no harm (p.81) if there was definitely nothing wrong with the baby; and in that case, it would almost certainly be more effective to turn to one of Jackson’s other suggestions instead.
The section on feeding is clear and factual, but again emphasises the important of comfort over and above food, as illustrated by the study of tube-fed babies (p.21) showing that a full stomach does not always stop the crying.
Deborah Jackson has addressed co-sleeping in her book Three In A Bed. This is condensed into a single chapter in When Your Baby Cries, including safety information, along with many other gentle ways to help your baby sleep.
Other ‘rules’ include carrying baby in a sling, establishing a support network, and not bothering too much about the housework, all of which I fully agree with.
This book is firmly based at the attachment end of the parenting spectrum, but without any smug or judgmental tone. It allows space for parents to find their own style, and to cuddle their babies as much as they want to.