Sunday, January 31, 2010

A (mostly) AP mama's bone picking with Babywise

OK, as many of you know I originally created a blog to serve as an outlet for my not-always-popular ideas and links regarding childbbirth, vaccines, Babywise, circumcision, etc... Here is controversial topic number one!

*If you are one of my Babywise friends, please know that I do NOT mean any sort of judgement in this post or believe that you are anything less than an absolutely STELLER mommy. In fact, some of my best baby advice has come from moms who implement BW in their household. These are the reasons I have chosen to NOT use Babywise and why it, in fact, gives me the willies. Please read the disclaimer at the bottom!

CIO: Crying it out. The act of leaving a crying baby on his own to train him to sleep on his own
BW: Babywise. The book in question. Written by Gary Ezzo.
GKGW: Growing Kids God's Way. An organization founded by Gary Ezzo. Full of controversial and harsh methods of raising and disciplining children. If you ask me, anyway.

I am going to provide lots of links to my articles on my Favorite blog: The woman behind these blogs has 3 M.A.s, her doctorate, and 11 years of teaching or counseling in sexual development-related areas, and has deticated YEARS to researching the 'birth and babies' field. In fact, here is a link to the best, most thorough aritcle about babywise I have read, which so happens to be on Dr. Momma's Peaceful Parenting blog:

My covering of BW will be no where near as thorough or awesome. You may just want to skip what I have to say below and head on over to Peaceful Parenting. Please. Do it.

Here is my modest review. It goes a little somethin' like this:

Where me and Gary Ezzo agree:

1. Scheduled naps. When Jericho emerged from Newborn-hood at 4 months old, he suddenly quit sleeping through the night (yes, my NON CIO 2 month old was sleeping 7 hours straight for a month and a half). I was desparate. After doing much research, I realized it was because he was suddenly 'awake to the world' and didn't just put himself to sleep anymore. He would snooze for sometimes only 40 minutes all day. This created a bad cycle of overtiredness that lead to bad night sleep. When I changed my behavior and started nursing or rocking him to sleep three times a day after about 2 hours of awake time, his night sleep improved GREATLY! My AP books (such as the Baby Sleep Book by Dr. Sears) never mentioned the importance of regular naps. I believe them to be invaluable.

2. Not creating Sleep Associations. There was a time when Jericho would just put himself to sleep anywhere. Whether I was holding him or nursing him or if he were chillin' in his Pack-N-Play. I believe that if I would have let him to so more often (such as 50-75% of the time) he wouldn't have needed Jaden and I to rock him for 5-10 minutes evenry sleep time starting at 4 months. He would have had the expierence necessary to do it himself. Jericho is almost 8 months and will NOT sleep without some sort of movement. We're currently practicing the gentle sleep methods listed in the No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley. I will let you all know how this works out for us. The hard part here is who can resist snuggling an almost asleep newborn? A SECOND time mama, that's who!

Where Ezzo and I part ways:

1.Leaving very young, crying babies alone in their cribs in the name of "learning how to fall asleep." I personally believe a little fussing for a few minutes before they fall asleep is really no big deal but I don't think that's really crying it out. I've read every baby book I can get my hands on from Babywise to all of Dr. Sears AP books but one of the most eye opening book for me was my sister's child physcology book (I can NEVER spell phycology right, LOL!). Here is a quote:

"The production of stress hormones by the brain is lifelong, but the amount produced relates partly to early experiences. If too many stress hormones are required early on (for instance, in an infant is terified or anticipates pain much of the time), then the developing brain loses to capacity to react normally to stress; the reason may be that the normal neuronal reactions have been pruned to allow rapid responses. Later the child may be hypervigilant (always on the alert) or seemingly indifferent...."

Basically, babies brains are shaped by early experiences. Here's a link to more info:

There is little doubt that when a baby is left to CIO, they are under stress. Sometimes severe. How can you tell? How do YOU feel while crying? What if YOU were crying so hard you vomited? Sure, perhaps the damage done is minimal if your baby sleeps on his or her own after the "three nights of crying hell". The key word here: Perhaps. If there is ANY question that what I am doing is potentially harmful to my completely dependant baby, why would I want to chance it?! I have friends who do Babywise and use CIO in ABUNDANCE. Almost recklessly. GKGW makes it VERY CLEAR that your child is not to be in control of you, but you in control of it and unfortunatly many take that too far. It seems some mothers who use CIO have a hard time keeping it minimal.

There is a reason CIO is so hard for a mother; we were meant to respond to our children's cries. Not doing so dulls our motherly instinct. True story. Google it. Read Helping Baby Sleep by Anni Gethin and Beth MacGregor. Even Richard Ferber, author of Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems (Ferber's name is so synonymous with crying it out that this method is also known as "Ferberizing") himself now says he would never let one of his kids CIO.

2. Scheduled feedings. There is a reason the (usually moderate) American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a warning about Babywise's advocation of scheduled feedings (called PDF for Parent Directed Feedings). Dr. Momma has an awesome, in depth article on Demand Feeding (also known as Cue Feeding) written by two nurses/lactation consultants. Here is the link:

3. The total negativity about all things Attachement Parenting. I'm not going to lie to you. When I first read BW, I felt an almost brainwashing effect. I am very passionate and firm in my beliefs about the almost devastating effect BW can have. If this book divided MY mind, I can only imagine what it does to people who HAVEN'T done their research. I had one friend tell me the only place she ever read about Attachment Parenting is in Babywise. BW paints AP parents as selfish parents, held captive by their babies and their desire to coddle them. The picture the book paints is almost disasterous. Toward the back of the book, Ezzo covers (and undermines) different "crunchy" topics such as natural childbirth, the critical bonding period, co-sleeping, babywearing, etc. It's almost as though Mr. Ezzo has a personal agenda to critisize this parenting style.

No where will you find the words, "Do what's right for you and your family as all babies and family units are composed differently" There are very radical and finalized statements in this book. And hardly ANY references for back up. I repeated read, "if you do THIS, your baby WILL become THIS way" as thought it were basic fact. My personal favorite: "if you don't sleep train your infant, your infant will never learn to sleep through the night."

4.The general attitude "babies enter OUR family, they'll live by OUR rules". I recently had a friend who is very much into Babywise, Toddlerwise and Growing Kids God's Way. She is VERY indoctrinated and passionate about the 'benefits' of following such a regime. In fact, her exact quote was, "These babies join OUR family. They need to bend to our rules and way of life. We decided long ago that we weren't going to bend to fit them. They don't know what's good for them. If I decide my baby can go 5 or 6 hours without a feeding, they ARE GOING TO GO 5 or 6 hours without a feeding." Her tone was harsh and abrasive and I left our meeting almost livid. Where's the grace? Where's the love? Nurturing? When we have kids, they change our lives forever. I believe it's the ultimate lesson in humility and selfless ness. While I don't believe in letting toddlers rule the roost, I DO believe that babies know best! They know where they're hungry. When they need love and affection. They have preferences and needs just like we do. I'd like to add that this mother's youngest child didn't sleep through the night until almost a year old. So much for CIO being the end all answer to the night waking "problem"

GKGW is supposed to be a Christian organization. They back up their Crying it Out beliefs with saying that God ignored Jesus while he died on the cross, which was beneficial; so shall we ignore our baby's cries for the benefit of better sleep". To that, I bring up the fact that God has lavished more grace, love and understanding on us than we could ever deserve. We, too are God's children. He is our Abba (daddy). He never leaves us or forsakes us. When we were created we entered 'His family'. God didn't expect us to "bend" to fit in with him. He knew we were born to be sinners and He so humbled and "bent" Himself to come to the earth as a lowly man to DIE a gruesome death on the cross. He met us where we are and paved the from the depth of our sin to a blessed, godly life. He has grace and mercy as he gently disciplines us as His beloved children. I believe He filled out lives with children to teach us selflessness. We simply CANNOT expect an immature being to bend and mold to fit into our tidy adult society. We MUST meet children where they are: as children.

Let me ask you this: Who of us is going to look back when our children are grown and wished we held and snuggled them LESS?

I believe whenever a mother decides she might be intersted in using Babywise, she must weigh the benefits and the risks. Just like everything else. Informed consent is of priceless value. Please, do you research. You owe it to your baby. Here are some more links:

*Disclaimer: I want you all to know that I MEAN NO JUDGEMENT to those who disagree with me! I just want you all to know the things I've come across in my many (MANY!) hours of research on these topics. I've chosen to start my controversy with "Why we are NOT fans of Babywise and Growing Kids God's Way." While it is true that I have big issues with crying it out, that is NOT my specific main issue with my friend Gary Ezzo. To prove this let me inform you (probably much to the dismay of my Attachment Parenting readers), my 2nd favorite baby sleep book is Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. While this book advocates CIO, it goes into great detail of how to get your baby to sleep better by never (I repeat: NEVER) letting them get overtired. It was life saving in our household but I just disregarded the CIO parts. Seriously. I love that book.


  1. I've only heard of these resources in passing and kind of liked the idea of teaching my children to expect bedtime through normal, reoccurring bedtime events. And the idea of scheduling made some sense. But what really ended up working for us was co-sleeping. It allowed for that bonding while still letting me get the sleep I needed. Thanks for sharing, I think each mom is entitled to her own views, even if they are controversial and I really appreciate you sharing yours!

  2. Thanks!! I'm really not opposed to scheduling and I totally think a bedtime routine is necessary and even comforting for babies!! How long did you cosleep for? I'm thinking about doing that for the first few crazy months with our next baby. I bet it makes nursing oh so much easier!!

  3. It actually turned out to be something of a necessity when my second came along. When I learned how to nurse laying down I could just feed her and doze. We actually kept the bassinet next to the bed so I could just get her when she woke up. We usually keep that in our room for the first six months and move them out after that. Aaliyah goes down around seven and will wake up once around ten thirty or so. Then she's out till it's time to get up. Sometimes she still comes to our bed to sleep, but I try to keep her in her own bed at least for the beginning. It's funny how each kid is different and does things a little different!

  4. I very much enjoyed this blog. I thought about using bw, but knew I didnt have the heart to listen to my baby boy CIO. It made me sad to picture myself ignoring him when he needed me, in some way, shape or form. He is 7 1/2 mos, sleeps in his pack N play next to our bed, and usually sleeps about 7-8 hours a night, and no tears before bed or when he wakes.

  5. We do a version of CIO, I guess you'd call it. Generally speaking, Ty doesn't cry it out but every once in a while he'll fuss so I'll go in and get him and he'll have this look like, "haha I got my way!" even though he's crazy tired, so I'll fix him a bottle and set him back down and sometimes he'll cry but usually for no more than 5 minutes and most of the time it's his "I'm tired and I'm on my way to sleepy land" cry. I never let him cry if it's more than that, I always go in and check on him.
    When he was younger we co-slept a lot so I could nurse once I too mastered nursing while lying down lol We don't generally do it anymore because I'd like our bed to ours when Ty and any others get older, but every once in a while we'll bring him to bed with us.

    I'm not gonna lie, I was VERY upset when I read that quote from your friend about letting your child go for 5 and 6 hours between feedings if she so chooses...that to me is torture and child abuse! As a full-grown adult, I can barely make it that far in between meals or at least snacks! I can't imagine making my poor helpless baby wait that long between feedings! It makes my heart ache and break just thinking about it!

  6. I found your blog through a Google search. I am a Mama of two little boys who I NEVER let CIO. I wanted to say good for you to speak out against Babywise. It is perhaps the most dangerous and scary indoctrination tool that I've seen that brainwashes parents and takes away all natural mothering instincts. The worst part is that they try to do it in God's name. What a sham. So glad that so many doctors, experts, and parents are wise enough to forego BW and see it for the danger that it is. Thanks for speaking up about Christian AP. Also, you can always judge by the fruit of such actions. The Sears family has 8 children who are all still very close to their parents and have good relationships with them. Not so with the Ezzos. Just wanted to encourage you. Also, for anyone else reading, my boys woke up many, many times at night until they were over a year old and needed to be nursed, cuddled, or brought to bed with us. They are the brightest, kindest kids who can sleep through the night now. No cry it out was involved ever. Blessings.

  7. I really liked most of what you write. I am a BW mom, and have tweaked it to fit my own child. I think any parenting book, when taken to the extreme, is dangerous. I also don't believe in judging a style based on hearsay. It's important to do the research. I do like how BW is so similar to the recommendations by the AAP. But to see this one actually has to read both the AAP website and the BW book.

    As for that friend who wanted to overrule her childs' hunger...she definitely could not have read the BW book...where it states over 16 times to feed the baby when he is hungry regardless of the scheduling the time.

    I simply took the schedule suggestions in BW, watched for her various cues, and figured out approx. how often she came looking to eat. I set my schedule from there and not only is she sleeping 7 hours at night, there is rarely any crying...aside from reflux.giddiness. Bit again, I set the schedule based on her cues.

    I think as a mother we need to thoroughly read and research all methods and create a 'plan' that fits our own family and baby.