*This is my review on the book Baby Wise by Ezzo/Bucknam, copyright 1995/98. It’s been brought to my attention that there are two versions of this book…the book I am reviewing is the mainstream, secular version of Baby Wise. I am not endorsing the authors, their beliefs, or their other works. This is just an honest review of a mainstream childcare book.*
To be honest, I’ve been hesitant to even write this. I know first hand there are people who have been hurt by false teaching, legalistic upbringing, and the works of the Ezzo’s. This book receives so much criticism that if you happen to have read it, you most often don’t want to admit it. I remember when I picked the book up at a local JBF sale I didn’t want to tell anyone that I was going to read it for fear of negative backlash. But my mentor, whom I highly respect, had good things to say about it so I splurged and bought it for the $2 it was selling for. And I’m glad I did. The version I read was not only informative but also helpful these first months of Elizabeth’s life. Like we learned at our dedication class at our church, most everything you need to know about parenting is instinct and common sense.
Our Experience with Baby Wise
I started reading Baby Wise during my third trimester and I ended up putting it aside because I realized 1.) I wouldn’t remember much, 2.) I had no idea what Elizabeth would be like and 3.) it was hard for me to read about things I wasn’t yet experiencing. So when she was just a few days old I cracked open the book and began to read. What struck me first was the lack of Biblical instruction and all those absolute statements I kept hearing about. What I’ve later learned is there are different versions of the book and I’m so glad I picked up the secular version! Knowing I would be the one providing the daily care for Elizabeth while Alex worked I knew that I wanted some sort of semblance to our lives. So I dove right in.
And just to note, I think whether your baby sleeps through the night, eats every 3 hours, or doesn’t do either of them isn’t because of your parenting but instead due to the child.
Feeding & Babywise:
Because I had read Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding alongside this book, I didn’t really see many differences. Essentially all feeding of a baby is parent directed, that is, the mom chooses to feed the baby. But like you know, I knew from the beginning that I didn’t want her to use my nipple for comfort. I’m just not comfortable with that and I feel that’s okay; instead I gave her a pacifier. I noticed through trial and error that most often when Elizabeth was crying, had just eaten or had only gone an hour since her last feed, that she was tired not hungry. How did I know this? She refused to eat! So I learned quickly that she could go 2-2 1/2 hours between feedings because she was able to and preferred to. Now that being said, she’s an efficient eater, always has been, and doesn’t tend towards comfort feeding. So as her mother, I was following her cues. And of course, there were times when she was hungry earlier than the 2-3 hours she usually can go. And of course, if she was hungry I fed her. I also knew she was doing fine on our “routine” because she met all of the healthy growth indicators.
Routine vs. Schedule:
Despite not being a Type-A person, I actually do thrive on routine. And after so many years watching children, I really believe that they also thrive when things are fairly consistent. That being said, I do like flexibility…with Elizabeth we, as a family, wanted to still maintain some parts of our “old life.” By tracking her feedings & sleep I was able to see patterns form which help us better plan our days. We knew that any routine we came up with would NOT be rigid…our life just isn’t like that and to Elizabeth’s benefit neither is her mother. For the first 8 weeks of her life, I didn’t do anything but feed her when she was hungry, let her sleep, and snuggled her as much as I could. No routine. But after that I began seeing a pattern to her ways.
Elizabeth was consistently sleeping 5 hour stretches by 7 weeks old. And as she grew, her nighttime sleep lengthened. Now at 3 months old, she goes to bed around 7 pm and sleeps 9-10 hours until between 4:30 and 5am. She then eats and goes down until right around 8am. And again, I don’t think it’s because we did BabyWise. I think it’s because our daughter is a hibernator and LOVES to sleep like her daddy. I also borrowed some advice and instituted the Dreamfeed from The Baby Whisperer…I feed her and put her down around 7 and gently rouse her to eat around 10pm. Interestingly enough, she doesn’t need this. She’ll sleep 9-10 hours without it, but I NEED it. If you nurse you know what I mean. I CAN’T go 9-10 hours without her eating!
I also highly recommend the Eat, Wake, Sleep cycle. I believe The Baby Whisperer has another name for this as do some other baby books. In reality for our hibernator at 3 months, this means she eats for 10 min, is awake for 50 more minutes and naps for 2 hours. Then it all starts over again. It’s fairly consistent. This is another piece that I experimented with. For a few weeks I would let her fall asleep right after she ate and the result was a short nap and a very cranky baby. So we’ve continued the EWS cycle and things have been really good. I still run errands and then she’ll take a cat nap on the go but I try to be home for at least one of her naps so she can get a good one at home, in her bed.
As far as our routine, well, I NEVER wake Elizabeth up in the morning so our daily routine doesn’t start until she wakes up. But she’s fairly consistent, give an hour or two, so most days her eating pattern looks like 7:30/8, 10:30/11, 1:30/2, 4:30/5, 7:30, and then she dreamfeeds at 10. On her own, around 2 months old, we switched from a 2 1/2 hour feeding schedule to a 3 hour schedule based on the fact that she wasn’t all that interested in eating at the 2 1/2 hour mark but was at the 3 hour mark. As she grows and stays awake more our routine will keep adapting, that’s why I like routine…it’s not RIGID!
Lastly, I liked the book for its guidelines. So often I would be wondering, now at this point, what is she capable of? Not what SHOULD SHE BE DOING, because every baby is different. I found their guidelines very helpful for breastfeeding, waketime/naptime, and sleeping.
Crying it Out:
At this point, we don’t really let Elizabeth Cry-It-Out…not because we feel like it’s harmful or bad-parenting, but because often she doesn’t need to. We’ve tried it a time or two and let her go up to 10 minutes crying and the result is not a baby that can calm herself back down, she just gets more mad. And while we want her to be able to self-soothe we’re not going to force her to do that. Instead when she’s crying she most often has relinquished control of her pacifier and all she needs is for it to be put back in place. So we’ll do that for her a few times and so far that seems to have been all she needs. We know that can be a slippery slope with the pacifier and she may decide to manipulate us and make a game of it. At that point, we’ll face the consequences, but right now, we’re all better off this way. That being said, the crying section of the book was very informative and helpful…there was so much more to it than just Cry-It-Out and for those opposed, new research did just come out stating CIO is not harmful.
So there you have it, our unbiased review of BabyWise and how the information within its pages helped this family of three establish some semblance of routine. For another fantastic review, check out Styleberry Blog.