The Dangers of the Babywise Method

IMG_6082_edited-1It’s amazing how as soon as you are pregnant the whole world wants to give you unasked for parenting “advice”.  “Say goodbye to sleep” is one I commonly hear or, “You’ve got to get that baby on a schedule if you ever want to sleep through the night again.”  I’ve found it quite alarming how many negatively charged comments I get from people in regards to being a parent.  Well why the hell would anyone want to have a child if it is so difficult?  Or is it?  Well, I can’t exactly speak from experience yet, but something tells me it has more to do with the parents themselves than with the baby.

I have heard many parents talk about how you shouldn’t sleep with babies because a) it’s extremely dangerous and b) it is spoiling them, and they won’t leave the bed until they’re 15.  They then reference this parenting book called Babywise, Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep by Gary Ezzo, evangelical preacher, and pediatrician Robert Bucknam.  This book was based on a church-oriented book entitled Babywise, Raising Kids God’s Way, previously written by Ezzo and his wife, about how they raised their two children.   The Ezzo’s childbirth classes are promoted by churches as a way to ensure that their baby will sleep through the night by 6-8 weeks, and will eat every 3-4 hours, nothing more, nothing less.

When looking into the advice that this book gives, I was deeply disturbed.  It tells parents that they are the ones that should regulate sleep, play, and eating schedules, and even coins the term “Parent Directed Feeding” or “PDF”, where the parent dictates the feeding schedule and babies are not allowed to feed on demand.  If they miss a feeding, then the parent is advised not to make that feeding up because the baby needs to learn a lesson, and stick to the schedule.   Here are some of unsubstantiated claims the book makes.

  • “Demand-fed babies don’t sleep through the night.”

False: Even if they do wake in the middle of the night, if the baby is in bed with the mother she can simply offer him the breast, and as he falls back to sleep, pop him off and go back to sleep.  This is why co-sleeping is a wonderful thing.  Infants have not yet developed circadian rhythms.  The mothers night time milk contains melatonin that the baby ingests which in turn helps him or her establish those circadian rhythms.   Night time milk also contains the highest concentration of growth hormones, which, you guessed it, helps a baby grow healthily. Also, Prolactin, the milk making hormone, follows a circadian rhythm and is highest at night, making milk more plentiful in the wee hours.

  • “A mother who takes her baby to her breast 12, 15, or 20 times a day will not produce any more milk than the mom who takes her baby to breast six to seven times a day.”

False: A mother will produce as much milk as is needed for  her baby’s needs.  The more the baby needs, the more he feeds, the more she produces.  Amazing how nature works when trusted.

  • “Colic, which basically is a spasm in the baby’s intestinal tract that causes pain, is very rare in PDF babies but is intensified in demand-fed babies.”

False: Feeding on demand has long been used as a cure for colic, as well as the soothing sensation from being carried in a sling.  Colic usually has more to do with something in the mother’s diet that may be affecting her milk, or an intolerance to formulas. 

  • “In our opinion, much more developmental damage is done to a child by holding him or her constantly than by putting the baby down. In terms of bio-mechanics alone, carrying a baby in a sling can increase neck and back problems, or even create them.”

False:  A baby has been inside of the mother for 9+ months. Just because a baby is outside of the womb, doesn’t been they are done with the gestation process.  They need to be close to the mother as they were in the womb, and the constant motion is soothing to the baby.  Babies that are carried in a sling or worn cry less and demonstrate a calm alternates.

This terrible advice forces parents to go against their instincts of wanting to pick up their crying baby, or feed their hungry baby.  They have to do everything in their power not to attend to their sad_baby_by_picklefish79distressed little one.  Not only is this terrible parenting advice, it is also very dangerous.  Babies have been been experiencing failure to thrive, dehydration, and emotional problems thanks to this “parenting method”.  How in the world can someone assume that a baby is manipulating their parents by crying to get what they want?  They don’t even have language yet!

When a baby is crying is it because one of their needs has gone unmet and that is their only way of communicating this to their care-givers.  We seem to forget that a baby has not completed the gestation process simply because they are out of the womb.  People seem to think that babies should be independent and treated like little soldiers as soon as they are earth side. How can we expect them to be independent when they are babies? According to Ezzo and Bucknam it is somehow wrong to baby your baby. Some people will call me naive or some kind of hippy, but to me it is instinctual and common sense that if your baby is hungry…feed them, if they are crying…soothe them, if they want to play…play with them. But I guess common sense just doesn’t have its place anymore.

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