When Baby Advice Goes Wrong. Seriously Wrong.

This is going to be a long one folks.

Where have I been? Living under a rock? Well, yes, kind of--I have an infant--same thing. But, still . . . how have I not been following the controversy surrounding Babywise? Seriously.

I stumbled upon a post about it today on SortaCrunchy's blog. Trying to find out what all the fuss was about, I Googled it, of course, and was shocked (to say the least) by what I found.

The book's "Product Description" on Amazon refers to the concepts found in the book as "Infant Management". Infant management!? Seriously? What the hell is that? The word "managing" near the word "baby" sort of replaces the warm and fuzzies with an image of a cold and tinny dictator waving a bull whip near a nest of baby chicks.

It continues by stating that the book is "an alternative to sleepless nights and fussy babies." Isn't that what babies naturally do? Seriously. They can't talk. My friend Asami told me that in Japan they have a one word sentiment that means "babies cry at night" and that Japanese people often refer to the first year with baby by using this word. Why? Because that's what babies do. The first year of life is wrought with jarring and tumultuous change and crying is the only way that babies can express their concern, or worry, or angst, or pain, or hunger.

And don't think I don't know what it's like not to sleep. I have a seven month old insomniac who hasn't caught more than an hour or two at a time of shut eye since the day he was born. I know. I so know. But, I am mom. I will mother and nurture and care for and parent him until he is old enough to sleep through the night and explain his woes through language rather than tears at 3 a.m. Am I tired? Yes. But, sleepless nights and fussy babies are part and parcel to parenting. It's the contract you signed when you made the kid bargain.

I saved the best for last. The description also claims that the book's methods aim to free parents who are "enslaved to the infant's unknown needs". Okay, hold the freakin' diaper cream. Enslaved? Unknown needs? Seriously? I'd rather refer to it as feeding my baby who has not yet learned the skill of lifting fork to mouth. I'd rather refer to it as removing the poop from the butt crack of my child who has not yet learned to control his bowels. I know what he needs and I intend to give it to him.

Point in short--I have never seen more terrifying words in the same sentence as the word "baby". What are these people thinking? This "so called sleep training method" completely removes nurturing from mothering and mothering from parenting and parenting from raising a child.

The most shocking of all is the description of the book and it's author, Gary Ezzo, given on Christianity Today--which is uber interesting as the book, it seems, is most popular among Christians.

"A central element of Ezzo's plan in Babywise is feeding newborns on a firm schedule, controlled by parents, rather than "on-demand," whenever a newborn seems hungry. Ezzo says his parent-directed method is essential to develop respectful, obedient, and godly children. Yet many breast-feeding mothers report that they have been unable to produce an adequate milk supply when following the program according to Matthew Aney, a California pediatrician.

A major focus of Babywise is to get infants to sleep all night as soon as possible. But some pediatricians, when comparing newborns whose parents use Ezzo's guidelines to other infants, have noted a higher incidence of inadequate weight gain, dehydration, and failure to thrive. Critics also sharply question other Babywise emphases, such as introducing a form of spanking in children younger than 2 (CT, Nov. 13, 2000, p. 70)."

Before I burst a blood vessel, I am going to close with the comment that I left for SortaCrunchy in response to her post and her other reader's comments. You'll notice my very agreeable and restrained tone. I posted it before I researched "Babywise". Nevertheless, it still holds true and it is a lot more eloquent than the above enraged babbling. And someone, please tell me that I've got this all wrong. Please tell me that I have gravely misunderstood an otherwise innocuous guide that simply offers gentle suggestions for helping your baby sleep more soundly at night. Please tell me that people don't actually envision parenting this way. Please tell me.

"Other than reading the post and comments, I have no personal experience with Babywise. But I do know that as a new parent, we can all use a little guidance . . . knowing where to find it, however, isn't always easy.

My husband and I have discovered the joys of "Attachment Parenting". It, so far, has provided us with a guide for a gentle, natural and rewarding parenting style. It's a "philosophy" that really only puts in print what most mothers already inherently know . . . go to your baby when he needs you to be there, hold your baby when he wants to be held, soothe your baby when he needs to be soothed--love your baby when he wants to be loved.

I don't believe that the answers to parenting can be found in a book. Parenting is not black and white enough to put in print. Rigid rules and dogmatic directions sour the natural instinct that a mother has for caring for her baby.

Following instincts and receiving a little bit of guidance when that instinct clouds from time to time is our chosen path . . . and so far, so good."


Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

"in Japan they have a one word sentiment that means "babies cry at night" and that Japanese people often refer to the first year with baby by using this word."

Oh, I love that.

I think it would be quite a shock to be introduced to this approach to parenting that is so markedly different from the one you embrace. "Infant management" also does not sit well with me. A lot of what Ezzo writes does not sit well with me.

Having said that, I can tell you that there are families for whom his approaches work just fine. I know many families who have followed some or all of his philosophies and there is no doubt these parents love their children and desire a system that will work for them as a family.

Thanks for the CT link - I had not read that article.

m a m a :: m i l i e u said...


I don't doubt that BW moms love their children. I just can't help but think that they have been terribly misguided. Even very intelligent people with big hearts can be misled.

I can't wait to read your posts to come about this topic and your reader's comments. Don't worry, I don't have near enough time or energy when I do have the time to stir up the pot too much. I'll just sit back and enjoy now that I have said my piece.

Unless I'm really prodded...and then, well I'm not sure. :)

Desiree Fawn said...

Oh boy -- I'm shuddering along with you reading about babywise.
I really feel as though none of the things it teaches you are NATURAL or instinctive.
We try to follow attachment parenting to the best of our ability and really, most of that is what I would naturally do!
Baby crying? Feed her! Hold her! Snuggle!
It's a reflex and I couldn't imagine another way of going about things.

Jasie VanGesen said...

I grew up in a severely religious household and was married and then pregnant way too young. I hadn't figured anything out for myself yet, and the second I found out I was pregnant (less than 3 months after the child-bride wedding) I had book after book hoisted upon me by my well-meaning, but horribly misinformed family, friends, and churchmates. I followed a rigorous schedule for feeding and napping with Silas. Let him "cry it out" every night... and the horrible things you read about.

And let me tell you, the combo of that and my PPD, I was not at all bonded or connected to my son. I look back on those years with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I missed out on getting to know him as a baby and as a result, we didn't become close and have anything resembling a bond until he was about 3 or 4... and even then, it was only the beginning stages of a bond compared to now (he's 8). I cannot stress enough that for 99% of parents, this approach does not work. I guess it depends on what people mean when they say it "works". Because he did sleep through the night very young, but I didn't enjoy a single moment of that time.

Holly Noelle @ Domestic Dork said...

If you want to get my blood boiling with one word that word would be "Ezzo." I recall reading that babies have actually died using Ezzo "baby training" but I can't find the place I read it. So maybe I'm remembering wrong.

If you want to see an equally upsetting take on raising children check this link: http://theoreticalmusing.blogspot.com/2009/06/someone-who-reads-this-blog-sent-me.html

Rosanna =) said...


That's all I have to say.

Anonymous said...

You have to do what works for you, for your family and for your little one. Your own instinct is the best answer everytime.

m a m a :: m i l i e u said...

Thanks to all of you for your validating comments. I am so happy to find that I am not the only one who thinks that this Babywise business is baffling.

m a m a :: m i l i e u said...

Oh my freakin' god Holly Noelle, the post at the link that you provided above blew my mind and nearly sent me into tears.

Never would I have imagined such incredibly insane mothering philosophies ever existed. It terrifies me to know that my poor Noah Finn and your little Lucy have to share the same world with such nuts. That woman makes the world a scary, scary place.

JJ Keith said...

I was going to leave an epic comment here, but I thought it might be more productive if I just made it my own blog post that linked back to here. Here's the link: http://www.jjustkidding.com/2009/07/i-have-some-anger-to-work-out.html

Christie Burnett said...

It seems that many parents today are looking for ways to minimise the impact a baby has on their lives. A book like Babywise is marketed to naive, inexperienced first parents as providing all of the answers. If I here one more mother tell me that they "still need to have a life" in addition to caring for their baby, I will most probably explode - when you have a baby, it becomes your life! We have been sold the myth that we can 'have it all' and some parents want to compartmentalise their children like they do the rest of their lives.

Sorry for the raving, hope this is not to inconherrant but you have struck a cord with me!


BluePixo said...

We don't have control over our children's behavior. We do have deep influence on them. How we love, cherish, and treat our children affects them moment by moment, and for the rest of their lives. But our influence doesn't mean that we can exert control over how they behave and feel.

*BluePixo Entertainment - A place for mom and dad to share topics about parenthood*

Rachel said...

I'm chiming in late on this but I have to add to Christie's comment.

When I was reading about Babywise a few months ago I couldn't beleive the number of mothers who were letting newborns CIO so that they would learn that Mommy won't always be there to fix things for you. WTF? I WANT my son to think that no matter what happens I will be there to try and fix it. The world is a scary place for a baby, I never want him to feel like he's in it alone.

Elizabeth said...

i know i'm late to this . . .

i just found the whole discussion over at sortacruchy and followed your comment over here . . .

i want to say that there are lots of Christians out there (me! I'm one!) who think and know that Babywise is WRONG. i did lots of research on it because i know some people who are very into it and it scared me. it's mostly bad news. really bad news.

i remember thinking, when i was up late and up again and up again at night with my little guy that when he starts sleeping through the night, he won't be a baby anymore. he's 4 1/2. sometimes he still crawls into my bed at night. my little girl started sleeping through the night every night all on her own right after she turned 4.

i didn't read parenting books before i became a mom. i'm glad i didn't. i've read quite a few of them now as my children are growing . . . but i take bits and pieces from each one i read. i am an eclectic parent, i guess . . . and it works at our house.

so. that's what i have to say.

Rosanna =) said...

Hi Joni,

I just had someone recommend Babywise to me because oh, her grandson is "just so good" and her daughter swears by it. I can't even tell you how upset I was. I'm still shaking right now. I had to come home and search through your blog archives for this post.

On one hand, I want to be polite and not just diss her daughter but on the other hand I wanted to quote things that I couldn't remember the top of my head about WHY I don't agree with this damn book!!

ok, done venting now.

m a m a :: m i l i e u said...

Thank you so much, Rosanna! Luckily I haven't come across it again since the post--I am not sure what I'd say! It'd be awful hard to restrain myself! lol!

Peace to Canada!


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