Monday, March 2, 2009

On Becoming Babywise

Book Review: On Becoming Babywise, Ezzo & Bucknam


Having now finished this baby stage of life, I thought I would return to it for a moment and review BabyWise. I realise this is a risky business! There are enough different opinions around regarding parenting, let along regarding the parenting of young babies, their feeding and sleeping. Oh well, here goes...

I should be upfront and admit I was never a fan of the Ezzo material. I read the Babywise manual for Christian parents when pregnant with M and thought while they had some common sense stuff, a lot of it was very strict and prescriptive and the theological justification for their reasoning was shaky.

Having returned to reread it again, I was pleasantly surprised by the content (note that I read that standard book version this time, not the Christian parenting course one - assuming the two different versions still exist?). In fact, it read so differently to me, that it felt like a completely different book. Perhaps there has been a massive revision? (the book I have just read was published in 2001), or perhaps there are two different versions (Christian vs. non-Christian?). It is of course possible that my memory is poor, but I'm sure it is not that poor!

Overall, it was a sensible guide to the first 6 months of parenting, with the emphasis being on establishing routines of feeding and sleeping. They call their method parent-directed feeding (PDF) -you decide when baby needs to feed, taking their needs and the time since the last feed into account. They were balanced between breast and bottle feeding, acknowledging that while in ideal circumstances breast feeding is better, that you have to make decisions that work for you and your baby - "just as breast-feeding doesn't make you a good mother, bottle-feeding won't make you a bad one" (p83). The chapters on sleeping, waketime/naptime, how to read your baby's cries and general info were all sensible and helpful.
There were some parts of it I disagreed with (as there are with any parenting book!):
  • that you had to ensure your newborn baby had a minimum of 8-10 feeds in the first few weeks. While that may be necessary for some babies, certainly not for mine, 7-8 were enough in those early weeks.
  • they recommend a cot bumper guard to prevent the baby hitting the edge of the cot - these are explicitly identified as a risk for SIDS here in Australia.
  • while much of the book, including feeding and sleeping advice was very common sense, there was very little advice on what to do if your baby did not fit the mould. If you adhered to their methodology, but your baby never slept through the night - what next? There was not much practical help here.
When I think back to my (& my friends') concerns over this material when we all read it 6-8 years ago, some of these included:
  • the fact that it almost guaranteed a baby sleeping through the night at 8-12 weeks. We (without realising it at the time) followed the PDF method of feeding, but our children never slept through the the night that early.
  • it claimed a lower incidence of post-natal depression following this method (one friend, whose child, refused to conform to any of these ideals, thought instead it increased the risk of post-natal depression if you & your baby 'failed')
  • they had two children as the examples (I think I recall their names - Ryan & Stephen?). By the end of the book, it was clear that Ryan was going to be the perfect well-adjusted child (as a result of the babywise parenting plan) and Stephen was going to end up in jail, his entire life messed up. OK - perhaps I exaggerate, but that was the idea. In this book, similar comparisons are made between the two fictional babies - Chelsea and Marisa, although nowhere near as extreme.
All in all, while I have some concerns about Babywise, it also does mirror much of our parenting philosophy - we are the parents, they are the children - we know and decide what they need and when things should happen. We decide when they sleep, feed and play, all within a framework of being aware of the signs they give us regarding hunger, tiredness etc. We are not ruled by clocks, but neither by the children themselves.

Therefore, I admit now that I will stop not recommending Babywise. I think there are people who could benefit from it, especially those parents who struggle to find order in their day (and want it), and those who end up feeding almost non-stop with babies who do not sleep much. I still prefer Baby Love (by Robin Barker). As a guide to the first 12 months I think it is the best I have come across, and it covers so much more that Babywise. Having said that, most parents invest in more than one book and this is one that it would not hurt to have.


In the end though, I think if most of us used our common-sense in parenting and trusted our instincts, as well as having a basic long-term goal of parenting, many things would sort themselves out over time. As we say to couples who are about to enter this stage - remember, in the end, all children end up sleeping, eating and toilet trained in the end, no matter which 'method' their parents used. So, trust yourself!!

[Having written the above, I fully acknowledge that it is much easier to talk about how you want to parent and what to do with babies after having done it. I remember vividly those early years, especially with Mr 0 who would not feed, worried about whether he was having enough food, feeling like it my my fault he could not feed and personally rejected by this tiny little baby who would not accept what my body would give him. I remember us at our wits' end listening to Miss 0 crying and awake overnight for months and months. I remember doubting myself and my judgment in almost every decision, sometimes by the minute (and still do at times!) So, I certainly feel for you if you are still in that 'fog' - it can take a while to lift. But, eventually it does.]

1 comment:

Philippa said...

Interesting review Wendy.
I read baby Wise (non-Christian version) about 5 yrs ago when expecting our second child and had similar concerns to those you have voiced. I did use the sleep feed play idea which worked really well but that was about it.

As for Baby Love - fantastic book - I think I've provided Robin Barker with lots of income with all the copies I have recommended or bought for presents : )