Baby books could put too much pressure on mums

Do parenting manuals make you feel like a failure for not reaching the standards set?


Books designed to help new mums navigate the journey of motherhood could be setting standards too high, new research as found.


No matter what the advice or the expert’s opinion, the tone and expectations raised by these books have the same effect on mums, the study suggests.

While undertaking researching for a new book about motherhood since WWII, Dr Angela Davis carried out 160 interviews with mums of all ages and backgrounds. She found that advice about raising children changed regularly, but the way the advice was given was the same.

“Whatever the message, the advice was given in the form of an order,” explained Dr Angela. “The authors highlighted extreme consequences if mothers did not follow the methods they advocated.”

Dr Angela said, “Levels of behaviour these childcare manuals set for mothers and babies are often unattainably high, meaning women could be left feeling like failures when these targets were not achieved.”

Dr Angela also noted how childcare approaches seem to come and go… and come back again!

“I was struck by the cyclical nature of these childcare bibles, we start out with quite strict rules laid down by Frederick Truby King, whose influence is very much evident in the 1940s and following decades. The principal thread running through his books are that babies need strict routines,” explained Dr Angela. “We then find the advice becomes less authoritarian and regimented as we go through the decades and the influences of [John] Bowlby, [Donald] Winnicott, [Benjamin] Spock and [Penelope] Leach.

“However, when we reach the 1990s when Gina Ford came to prominence, we come back to the strict regimented approach of Frederick Truby King several decades earlier,” said Dr Angela.

“More than 50 years on and experts still cannot agree on the best way to approach motherhood, and all this conflicting advice just leaves women feeling confused and disillusioned,” Dr Angela summed up.

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