This book (On becoming babywise) has come to my attention again lately, and I wanted to formulate my opinions on it. It seems everyone has an opinion on Babywise, whether or not they have actually read it. I have read it, but it has been a few years. My sister, who had her first child 6 months before I had mine, lent me her copy of the book. The book made a lot of sense to me at the time; it resonated with what I already believed about the marriage coming first in the family, the parents setting the boundaries, no co-sleeping, etc. But it introduced a “schedule” (more on that word later) of eat, wake, sleep. The Ezzos insisted that a baby should never be comfort nursed, or allowed to nurse to sleep, and should be woken up at the parents’ convenience to eat, then after a time of wakefulness, put to bed while awake and allowed to go to sleep on its own. This was probably a good thing for Taryn, as she always filled her diaper while eating and therefore couldn’t have nursed to sleep anyway.
As for the “schedule” idea… The Ezzos insisted theirs wasn’t really a schedule, but a flexible guideline type thing. And that is the key, I think. Because if you follow it flexibly, (Wow, that’s really a word??) it will work. But how do you follow a plan flexibly? Depending on how flexible you are, this schedule could turn into nursing-on-demand, which is very bad according to the book, and enslaves mothers while teaching the child the rewards of its inbred manipulative nature. While the book insists that it is flexible, and that you should watch for your child’s hunger-cues, it also repeats over and over the eat-wake-sleep mantra, and positively states that infants need only eat every 2 ½ to 3 hours. Period. As the goal of following this method, dangled before tired new parents like the proverbial carrot before a horse, is a full night’s sleep, you end up with a feeding every 3 hours during the day, and a break of 6-8 hours at night. By 6 weeks.
As a new parent, as a non “baby-person,” I didn’t know what a hunger-cue was. Taryn cried, but as she had recently eaten, I assumed it was gas or colic. We patted her, bounced her, changed her, took her outside and showed her toys, eventually leaving her to cry herself to sleep. And it “worked” – she was sleeping all night by 2 months. But she was also skinny and fussy, and I was encouraged to give her cereal. And by 4 months she was on formula, and by 6 months she had nursed her last. I remember many times thinking she was acting hungry, but looking at the clock and noting it was only an hour since she ate, so she “couldn’t be hungry.”
I don’t know how the not-a-schedule worked for my sister; I do know she nursed to 1 year at least. I do know the new mother who is recommending the book to her friends has started her baby on formula after just a few weeks. I know another baby who wasn’t doing well on breastmilk and was switched to formula, and it breaks my heart.
Personally, now that I know better (and I DO know better – I’m on my 7th child now; he’s the 5th one to be exclusively breast fed, and just as fat and happy as you please) I’m more apt to recommend nursing on demand. No, it doesn’t enslave, it frees me. I’m free to just LOVE my baby, rather than view him as an enemy to be subdued by torture tactics. When he’s hungry, he eats; when he’s lonely he has someone to talk to; when he’s tired, he takes a nap. And at 3 months he consistently sleeps all night (has been for a while now). I have the joy of meeting his needs, of happy cuddles, of walking confidently into his well-baby checkups. I am free to not watch the clock and worry if I’ve waited long enough, or accidently forgot to feed him at the appointed time. I don’t have to listen to him cry for an hour in the dark because some book said it was good for us.
Now, lest it seem I am anti-Ezzo, let me qualify. It has been a long time since I read the book. Maybe I agree with them more than I realize, and I just didn’t do it right the first time. I can’t say about that. And there are good points to the program. I really think co-sleeping is a bad idea. I’ve had a baby in my bed a few times, when the room was too cold for him to sleep on his own, and he slept fine, but I didn’t. I think some mothers need to be reminded that it IS okay for the baby to cry for a minute. And some people need a little structure. You know, the people whose 5 year old still won’t go to sleep on his own, or sit down for a whole meal? They could benefit from the teaching here. But if you tend toward structure already, or if you are over anxious about making everything “prefect” then I’m afraid Babywise will lead you too far. As far as the 2 ½ to 3 hour feeding time frame, I’d say that’s true only as an average. I don’t count feedings, but I’d guess Elijah eats 8-10 times a day, but that includes the 7 hours he’s asleep at night, and the longer naps during the day. So if you think for just a minute you’ll realize that the actual feedings are much closer together than 2-3 hours.
I’m the first to admit that breastfeeding is hard. It hurts in more ways than one. Afterpains, sore nipples, aching shoulders and wrists from supporting the baby, increased appetite, kidney infection from dehydration… But I also say it’s worth it, and it takes some work to overcome the obstacles (many of which come from without), but it’s worth it. And the thing is, from my experience, the book Babywise isn’t going to help you overcome the difficulties associated with breastfeeding. So if you think it’s worth it, then I’d more readily recommend the blog Domestic Felicity (linked on my sidebar). She has several excellent posts on breastfeeding, tagged on her sidebar (I believe). Or talk to your local expert (by which I mean mother with happy children), and see what her experiences have been. Most women are happy to talk about their early baby days if they think someone wants to hear. Oh, and if you have a story to share, feel free to do so in the comments. Mom? ;-)