A huge debate has exploded in the UK around what can and cannot be published online. Childcare expert Gina Ford, author of The Contented Little Baby Book and others, is threatening to sue the website Mumsnet, a forum run on a part-time basis by a group of mothers, for defamatory comments that appear in a couple of threads.
Ford, who has sold half a million books, wants Mumsnet not just to remove the comments, but to remove whole threads meaning that people who have not said anything negative about her will also be effectively silenced. Mumsnet have agreed to remove the offending comments, but not the threads. They also say it is impossible for them to monitor the 10,000 comments they get every day. Ford’s lawyers have now asked the hosting company to disable the website.
Justine Roberts, one of the Mumsnet owners, gives a great summary here. I don’t know anything about the UK law, but it seems a pity that a rich someone who’s feeling insulted has the financial clout to threaten a website that has 250,000 members with closure.
Gina Ford is controversial. She advocates strict regimes for babies, controlled crying to make them sleep, feeding only every four hours. She claims great success with her methods. My mothers’ group in the UK was firmly divided down the middle about her – they either loved her or they hated her. And the ones who hated her had some pretty vicious things to say. The same probably goes for Mumsnet. Their boards were apparently filled with as many Gina-lovers as haters.
I have to confess to a smidgen of Schadenfreude that Ford’s PR exercise is rocketing out of control. When I was a new mother and very scared, The Contented Little Baby Book freaked the living daylights out of me. I tried one of her routines for about, oh, fifteen minutes. When I couldn’t get Lily to kick happily on her playmat as she was supposed to do for half an hour between feeding and sleeping, I gave up and allowed her boob access. That stopped the screaming.
The book made me feel as if I was failing somehow. Then I found the Sears family, exponents of attachment parenting, who said that having babies surgically connected to you like Lily was to me was really, really good. So I felt better.
There are so many experts out there. No wonder new parents feel anxious. Whether they choose baby-centred parenting or more parent-friendly parenting, as dear Gina recommends, in the end they’ve got to live with their choices. My choice of attachment parenting left me with three babies who preferred to sleep with their noses pressed up against my side until they were weaned. It hurt, but for me it was worth it.
We give all these experts and gurus too much clout. We should take a pinch from one, and smattering off another and not buy into one person’s propoganda wholesale. If I had taken attachment parenting to its logical conclusion, I would probably be tandem feeding a four-year-old and a one-year-old right now. Okay, for some, but not for me.
My bit of parenting advice is do what is right for you, your baby and your family. Choose wisely because what you do will have consequences. However, if you choose out of love, you’re not likely to go wrong.