Babycare expert Gina Ford is threatening to sue parenting site Mumsnet after allegedly defamatory comments were made of her methods.

As any seasoned mother will tell you, there’s more than one way to bring up a baby.

But a row is brewing over a clash in parenting styles that is causing consternation among childcare experts.

In the blue corner stands Mumsnet, a leading parenting website with 10,000 daily postings and one million users a month. In the red, we have Gina Ford, the maternity nurse whose million-selling volume, The Contented Little Baby Book, has become a love-it-or-loathe-it classic, in which mothers are given strictly timed routines and advice on “controlled crying”, where babies are left to cry themselves to sleep, rather than being cuddled.

Ford, 52, who has no children of her own, has always provoked controversy with her rather hardline approach to the care of young babies, but her fans are legion, as attested by the fact that three of her books account for 25 per cent of the childcare book market.One of her video clips , Cute little baby burb like a man !.To click on http://www… and enjoy viewing

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But she feels that personal comments made about her by members of Mumsnet have crossed the line and constitute defamation, including childish entries such as one describing her as “a fart-faced, rolly-fluff poo” and another sarcastic comment that accused her of “strapping babies to rockets and firing them into south Lebanon”.

Ms Ford claimed in a statement that her lawyers had only sought the closure of the Mumsnet site after they did not get a reply to a letter to Mumsnet’s lawyers demanding the removal of the “rockets to Lebanon” comments.

But Ms Roberts said: “That is a little rich given that Ms Ford demanded the closure of the site within hours of making the original complaint. Even the most demanding lawyers do not reasonably expect responses to complex legal letters within hours.”

Mumsnet was founded by mother-of-four Justine Roberts, an ex-City trader. Roberts, 38, found the “stomach-churning sexism” of the trading floor too much to endure after returning from maternity leave and, instead, wanted to forge a career that was compatible with civilised family life.

Since its inception in 2000, Mumsnet has gained enormous consumer clout through its product recommendations. Compiled from feedback by mothers for mothers, Mumsnet reviews cover everything from backpacks to high chairs and have ousted Which? in the affections of middle-class mothers.

But Mumsnet is much more than a glorified listings site. The members’ forum has a reputation for supportive debate and has hosted online chats with public figures such as the Conservative leader David Cameron.

Roberts, who fears she may lose her home if a resolution can’t be reached, is keeping a low profile in the run-up to mediation so as not to inflame Ford further. But the fact that members are no longer permitted to mention Ford in any of their postings raises questions about the stifling of legitimate debate.

Both Mumsnet and Ford offer very different coping strategies to help those beleaguered professionals who have climbed the career ladder without raising a sweat, who have video-conferenced and multi-tasked with effortless ease, and yet find themselves utterly floored by the arrival of a single mewling infant. A report last week into ageing mothers revealed that the number of women giving birth aged 40 to 44 has doubled, to 23,459, in a decade, and that these mothers were “nervous wrecks” during pregnancy, not least because many of them had never held a baby before. No wonder childcare experts are hailed as the new spiritual gurus.

In an age when the idea of having extended family nearby has all the pinch-me-I’m-dreaming nostalgia of a Hovis advert, there’s something uniquely isolating about 21st-century childbirth. Which is why Ford’s diktats have such a wide appeal among women used to being in control, who may feel their only hope of clawing back some shred of sanity in those milk-drenched, sleep-deprived early weeks is to impose an hour-by-hour timetable on a tiny baby, worthy of a Soviet apparatchik.

It’s all very fluid, very subjective, very democratic. In short, the very antithesis of Ford and her unbending approach to creating routine. Perhaps the clash of cultures was inevitable, but it’s no less disappointing for that.

Where two or more new mothers are gathered together and one of them looks slightly less hollow-eyed with exhaustion, the cry will inevitably go up: “Is he a Gina baby?”

A Gina baby is commonly acknowledged to be the sort of sleeping, eating, perfectly behaved automaton that we all secretly yearn for, if only we could summon up enough tough love.

Parenthood these days is tricky territory to negotiate for all of us. We’re older, but not necessarily wiser. When Grandma lives 300 miles away, and her most recent childcare experience was looking after you, 40 years ago, you’re going to need all the help you can get, whether that’s from an interactive online community or the comforting certainties of the Contented Little Baby bible.

For all the furore, Mumsnet still lists Ford’s book under its childcare recommendations. There’s a natural crossover in their demographic, and I would be surprised if there weren’t many a grateful Ford convert thanks to the site whose survival her legal action now threatens. New motherhood is full of uncertainties, but what is certain is that the lively, provocative exchange of ideas must go on.