Monday, 8 February 2010

Babywise by Ezzo

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? ;-)


Ganeida said...

I was a breast~feed on demand sort. The girls slept through the night from day one; the boys did not ~ but then I was a co~sleeper, non~schedule sort too because we all did better that way. ☺ Whatever gets you through the night...

TulipGirl said...

"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.”"

This brings up a concern I have with the materials that still haven't been resolved, even though they keep updating the materials. The eat-wake-sleep routine gives mothers a paradigm for decision making which can easily lead mothers to misinterpret the signals their babies are giving.

Like you, I had a baby who lost weight, I lost my milk supply, and we were doing everything "right" as far as BW, Prep, and the "Contact Moms" in my area went. I remember interpreting what I now know were hunger cues as sleep cues.

MamaOlive said...

Yeah, Ganeida, I thought so. I guess you like being kicked out of bed, as now you sleep with a cat. :-)

TulipGirl, Thanks for your visit and comment. I wonder how many people could share this same experience.

Ko-Leen said...

I followed a bunch of 'rules' with my oldest son, who ended up on formula and then on early cereal. All with he others telling me what would be best.
He was the first to sleep through the night and sleep in his own room.
The other two have been only breastfed, waited with the food and shared a room (bed when they were babies).
The baby still sleeps with me and the middle boy sometimes does as well. In fact he has recently decided he would like to move back in with us, even though he is 6.
While it looked like the older was was doing great, the fact is he is Autistic and while I am not placing blame, I sometimes wonder.
Now I know I let the baby run my day, feed and sleep on demand, sleep with me ect...
But he is happy and healthy. So is the 6 year old who wants to sleep in our room.

Wil said...

I can't speak to most of this, since I don't have any children (and I'm a male!)

But many of these baby-care books remind me of all the diet books. Each one with a different philosophy, a different schedule, a different set of rules. And most of them use the word "flexible" (probably to avoid future lawsuits if something goes wrong -- "You should have been more flexible!")

If shared experience has taught us anything, it's that each human is an individual being and may not fit into the "plan" that such books offer.

(Now, let's see if I change my mind in a couple of years. :-)

MamaOlive said...

Wil, I think you're right on this. All any of us can do is speak from our own experiences. Even siblings will have different needs. I think the best way is for more experienced people to be available as a resource (not a know-it-all) for the younger or less experienced people.
Ko-ster, I'm glad all of your boys are happy. They are blessed in you. Blame is the easiest route, but it tends to bitterness.

The HoJo's said...

I read wonderful book when my eldest was tiny, it gave suggestions on how babies learn to go to sleep and left the what to do about it up to me. It worked for all 3 of mine in different ways. I don't think I could have coped with being told what to do as I wasn't living the traditional home life, with eldest we were running a pub so late nights were a given. Eldest was b/f but wanted food fairly early, and has thrived on it, has Aspergers but was born with that so not relevant. Next 2 were b/f until they gave it up, by the 3rd I would have like to have carried on longer but he just refused. All were in bed with me until they stopped settling, all went into little carry cot beside me until they started getting woken up by us rather than settled, none have chosen to stay in with us which is just as well as they all do great starfish impressions in bed.
I remember watching my eldest and just 'knowing' what he wanted, everytime, until the point that he would say half a sentence as he got older and didn't need to finish, we had some fun teaching him that didn't always work and he really had to let people know what he needed if I wasn't around. That never happened with the younger 2 and certainly doesn't work anymore :o)
Eldest loves routine, Aspergers again, others prefer routine, I guess most but not all people prefer a sence of knowing what pattern the day may take, I think I'd rather know when meals are coming and not wonder too much how long hunger pangs will last.
Almost a blog post in itself this one :o)


TulipGirl said...

"TulipGirl, Thanks for your visit and comment. I wonder how many people could share this same experience."

Anecdotally, it is very common. Though, I often hear the same experience among mothers who still support and utilize BW and don't connect delayed weight gain, early milk supply loss, etc., with BW. Or, don't until years later.

HoJo Fam, I found that with each additional child I was able to let go of the BW ideas more and still maintain a good non-BW rhythm and routine. *grin*

MamaOlive said...

HoJos, Thanks for sharing.

"they all do great starfish impressions in bed" - hilarious! I personally like routine. It's schedules that make me instantly want to do something NOT on the paper. :-)

Misty said...

I commented many days ago about this! I wrote a loong reply and it disappeared! Boo-hoo and so sad. I PROMISE I replied by day 2.

Anyway, I am on baby #5 and we have exclusively breastfed them all I don't know if there is a genetic trait or we "train" them, but they generally sleep through the night within the first 2-3 weeks. I feed on demand and sometimes stretch the times out to get a little break, but they generally make their own "schedule" and we can adjust it to our needs. We do keep a cradle in our room but tend to let them sleep with us since we both sleep with our backs toward each other and right on the edges.
All of my children were "small", but plump looking and healthy.
All in all, each child is different and my son definitely ate more than my daughters because he was the largest,(all of 7lbs 2ozs).
As for the Ezzos, I have heard plenty about them but most was of the dissappointment that mothers had when their program didn't work. Thin babies, distraught parents, angry grandparents and perturbed medical staff-this is the legacy I have seen and heard about. Some people LOVE them, but we all have a choice.

A lot of people don't want to ask other moms for advice and they pick up books with the expectations that things will change and they will become this "great mom". Well they try but no one is a cookie cutter version of anyone else! God made us all mixed up and different so we can find different ways of working things out- that's why we have opinions, options and common sense! Weigh the options and pray about it. If you're really hearing the Lord, you will get an answer (might not be what you want to hear, though).
So think long and hard, consult another mom or two and listen to YOUR child. Mommysense will kick in(about 95% of the time- now child training and discipline, we shall save that for another day, shall we Shari?)

Misty said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Misty said...

Sorry about the double post. Bad computer!!

MamaOlive said...

's'okay, "mom," I took care of it. Sorry the original comment was lost.

Jeanne said...

Hello, I popped in to check out Ganeida's wonderful friend!! I can certainly see why a person who writes such well balanced posts about topics as emotive as Babywise, Ezzo and breastfeeding schedules would appeal to my sensible friend. Congratulations on this post. We loved Babywise, but I agree that a flexible schedule was the key in our case. I liked and adhered to the order of feedings; not necessarily the timing. Anything over 2 hourly fitted with us - and the Ezzos, so everything was cool!!

Jemimah slept through at 12 weeks; we breastfeed exclusively for 12 months and partially until 20 months. For us the book worked a treat. For others it doesn't. Isn't it good that there are choices for all!!

Great post!

MamaOlive said...

Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad my thoughts didn't offend you, and doubly glad the system worked for you and your baby. :-)