Jaime's Reviews > On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep

On Becoming Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo
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Jan 07, 08

Read in November, 2007

I was going to borrow this book, but mysteriously, everyone I know who used to own a copy chucked it into their trashcan and had nothing to let me borrow. I decided to read the library's copy and find out if it was as useless as I had heard.
As a general review: BabyWise inspires extremism. You either assume they are crazy and you do whatever you darn well want to or you assume they are geniuses and you believe every word. These are both dangerous schools of thought. The book starts out with some genuinely useful principles for new parents: 1) Babies function best within the workings of a family, not as the center of the universe. 2) New parents could easily overlook their marriage with a new baby in the house, and that’s not cool because children need the stability of knowing that their parents love each other and value their relationship as a top priority. These principles are generally reasonable and a good reminder for new parents. But then the book offers advice on how to put the principles into practice and the advice has nothing to do with the principles.
BabyWise purports its program as a happy medium between the 2 extremes of parenting philosophies. Extreme #1 is reported as Attachment Theory, which they describe as follows: your baby is completely in charge. Parents have no ability to make decisions… that new baby rules the home. They must be held every single second they want to be held and fed every time they want to eat. It actually says more than once that this theory expects parents to feed their kids as often as every 20 minutes… you get the idea. This is a completely distorted and extremist view of Attachment Theory, which really just states that babies are trustworthy to know what they need and that especially when they are very young, if they seem upset, there is something upsetting them and it’s worth looking into instead of blowing off your child’s needs and assuming they are just being controlling and ruining your life.
Extreme #2 was clock-ruled parenting and is presented by the BabyWise book as follows: schedule, schedule… RIGID schedule. If your kid ate at 8am and was put down for a nap, they can’t possibly need anything from you until 11am, so don’t touch them, talk to them, or help them AT ALL. The clock is in charge, and you must be available again at 11am.
The BabyWise program describes itself as a happy medium between these extremes that puts the parent (not the baby or the clock) in the driver's seat. You use a schedule, but instead of being ruled by the clock, you assess your baby’s needs and take them into consideration. It sounds good until the major rub occurs: BabyWise claims that ALL babies should be sleeping through the night by such-and-such an age (defined as 7-8 hours of sleep) or you are parenting them badly. Talk about pressure on new parents! It really just becomes a third extreme. Forcing my child to sleep all night before they are ready (by ignoring them when they cry) makes sleep the most important priority of parenting, and doesn't even do it well!
If you ignore the “make your child sleep and ignore them if they cry during the night” fiasco, there was a small bit of decent information in the rest of the book, especially the multiples chapter (I have twins) which was written by a invited author, a pediatrician and mother of triplets, twins, and 4 singleton children) not the BabyWise authors.

Bottom line: BabyWise could be useful if you have enough confidence in yourself to know where they are full of crap (the research listed is only sometimes actual research and is sketchily presented… they only report studies that support what they have to say, so they only have a few studies to report from. It’s rather shady). I don’t recommend it for brand new parents because it adds too much stress in areas that your kids might not “perform” up to the designated standards. However, I recommend the multiples chapter to every new parent of multiples!
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Ric (new)

Ric Jaime, how many children do you have?
Are they sleeping through the night, every night?


Lisa Nelson Well said. Lots of stress for new mom's.


Hilarie I think many books on parenting should be applied to particular situations and not taken as the absolute authority. I LOVE some of the ideas in babywise- especially the eat-wake-sleep cycle. I think as moms we MUST first trust our own instincts and especially as we apply anything we read on development, training, etc. That being said, I love reading parenting guides to get ideas from people who know more than I do and apply what I think will fit (and it has been different for each of my 3 kids).


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