It worked for Apple, it worked for Moses. Now will it work for you?
Rachel Waddilove is not a household name but she almost certainly will be by the end of this week. Fresh from a month of providing round-the-clock care for a very famous infant, Moses, the son of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, the maternity nurse is now launching what may well be seen as the most sensible book ever written on how to bring up a baby.
Anyone brave enough to enter the fraught arena of childcare advice needs a tin helmet, a good changing mat and a skin made of rhino hide. The battle between baby gurus Gina Ford (time management is the key) and Penelope Leach (liberal love) over whether the young should be fed on demand has been fierce and unrelenting. But Waddilove, whose client list includes MPs, film stars and some very ordinary Devon families, promotes an approach which neatly falls between the two camps.
Paltrow and Martin, her most famous 'family', have allowed their names to be used to help her publicise the book. Known for their vegan and alternative lifestyle, the couple enthusiastically embraced the structured schedule that Waddilove put in place for both their children, Apple and Moses. She stayed with them for the first month after each birth and then spent time in America when Paltrow was filming to help her look after Apple.
Waddilove's espousal of a 'healthy discipline' has earned the opprobrium of many women in the US. One mother's blog states: 'Her advice is terrible ... I'm sad for all the little ones who will cry and cry from hunger or the need for comforting as their parents lie awake in the next room thinking: "But Nanny Rachel says feeding on demand makes mums a slave to their babies."' Another says: 'I am so furious I am seeing red. I can't believe that hippy-dippy, yoga/vegan Gwyneth would let someone with such a back-assward approach to baby-rearing into her house.'
Waddilove is not too worried. She points out that her schedule is not defined by rigid timetables for eating and sleeping. 'If people want to feed on demand or if they want a very strict timetable, that is fine, but I'm a great believer in doing what works. I do know after 30 years of experience that babies make better eaters, sleepers and much easier toddlers if they have some kind of structure.'
As Paltrow writes in a glowing endorsement of the book: 'Using Rachel's technique, Apple was sleeping through the night in a six- to seven-hour stretch by six weeks. She was a very happy and settled baby from the beginning. I believe this is because Rachel put us in a routine so that Apple always felt that there was a loving structure around her. She knew what was coming and could look forward to it with certainty.' The same technique was applied to Moses, born a month ago.
The 58-year-old maternity nurse is a strong believer in breast-feeding, although she says that babies should also be given a bottle from the beginning so that someone else can do the feed during the night and take some of the pressure from the mother. Having been unable to breast-feed two of her own three children, however, she believes women shouldn't be criticised if it doesn't work for them.
Although she won't discuss fees, Waddilove's are somewhere between £100 and £170 a day.
Wealthier families have employed private maternity nurses for many years to help the mother through the exhausting first weeks, but very few have had publicity. Waddilove has worked for aristocracy such as Lord and Lady Ivar Mountbatten, who have three daughters. But she spends as much time as possible at her home on the edge of Dartmoor with her husband John, a retired farmer.
The Baby Book is a guide to caring for a baby from day one to a year old, and contains much practical advice on how to cope. Allowing a baby to cry, in her view, is not going to lead to long-term psychological damage. She believes babies should be allowed to 'shout it out', as she puts it, and left to cry for between 10 and 20 minutes, so that they learn how to get themselves off to sleep. 'Many parents think that you need to rock them off to sleep in your arms, and then lie them down, but actually I lay the baby down in the cot, having swaddled them first, so they feel very safe and secure. If he can't settle, go in but don't turn on the light, stroke his tummy and talk to him gently, but then leave. If he still carries on for another 15 minutes, repeat the process.'
Waddilove believes that as women have babies later in life, often after a full career, they find it harder to adapt to their new domesticity. 'Many of them are isolated and don't live near their own mother. Having a baby is not like running an office, is it, dear? Babies are a blessing and they are so very precious but family life shouldn't be turned upside down just to accommodate them. If you make them the kingpin, you'll be storing up trouble for yourself.'
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