Kat Kennedy's Reviews > On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep

On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo
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's review
Aug 19, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: books-that-deserve-painful-death

The year was 2008. It was a fair year. The Olympics were held in Beijing and Michael Phelps became an international celebrity. The Indian Space Research Station has a win with Chandrayaan-1 whilst elephants and terrorists rampage across the country killing many hundreds of people. President Obama is elected into office. Fidel Castro resigns. Theoneste Bagosore is convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in Rowanda for genocide. Israel and Hamas fight...again...

And a young, naive woman is pregnant with her first child.

She is unsure, lacks confidence and wants to be certain she does the best job for her unborn child. Yet there are a great deal of books, resources and information - which ones to start with? Which ones to trust?

So she turns to older, more experienced mothers who all but thrust this book into her hands and begin making the promises.

Your child will sleep through the night at eight weeks if you follow this book.

You won't have breastfeeding issues.

Your child will be settled and happy.

You will be a good mother.

The book is full of advice. Not just advice, but research! Science! It must be right!

It all makes sense now. Parenting will be a breeze. The book has told her everything she needs to know.

Don't trust your instincts, it said. That way leads to folly, trust us instead!

Your baby will cry, but mostly this will be to manipulate you. You must be firm, even if you want to give it a cuddle, this will only let the baby win. Don't give up and comfort it, stay strong and it will learn to self settle! Routine, routine, routine, that is the only way to go! Feed every four hours - hold out until then so that they're REALLY hungry and have a full feed.

It makes statements like:

There's no evidence to suggest that crying is bad for babies.
It's actually good for babies to cry for a period of time every day - it's natural.
Don't cosleep. Mother's don't get enough rest with cosleeping.
Children must sleep in their own rooms.
Attachment Parenting is misguided and results in exhausted/poor mothering.

November arrives and her child is born.

She tries. Lord knows, she tries. But he won't stop crying, screaming, with a red face and tiny little hands bawled into tiny little fists. People tell her he is hungry and should be fed. She can't see it. They must be wrong. Babywise had told her that he needed to feed every four hours. Demand feeding would destroy breastfeeding, spoil him and have him feeding from her constantly until he controlled her completely.

Despite having a natural, drug-free, complication-free birth, they keep her in hospital for five days, refusing to let her go home because she is clearly depressed, not coping and struggling to care for her newborn who begins losing weight, cries inconsolably and struggles to settle. Her breastmilk doesn't come in for five days.

Eventually she signs herself out of the hospital. It must be the hospital's fault. That's why the book's advice wasn't working. That's why he wants to be picked up all the time, won't sleep and won't feed properly. She'll be fine as long as she just goes home.

But things don't improve. Her breastmilk supply is limited, the baby restless. She and her husband spend countless nights pacing the halls trying to settle their little boy. They hold firm and don't bring him to bed with them despite their exhaustion, try not to spoil him, pick him up too much and give into his obviously stubborn, temperamental nature.

The mother slips further into depression, rarely looking into her son's face. Soon he stops looking into hers. When he's not crying, he sits cheerlessly and robotically on her lap while she ignores him.

"Spare the rod, spoil the child," she keeps reminding herself.

Eight weeks come and go. The baby cries all night still. The mother has failed. She is a wretched creature. A terrible mother. It was all a horrible mistake.

Maybe the book is wrong? Maybe she should feed whenever he cries? Maybe he could come into her bed occasionally?

Sometimes he pushes away from her, keeps his eyes averted, scrunches up his little face in anger, then he flips and clings to her, feeds constantly, wants to sleep only in her arms. The baby is so unsure in his attachment to his mother. He is a baby in distress.

"Oh no! The book was right all along! Attachment parenting isn't the answer!" she thinks. As a mother, she's failed again. She's failed her son again. Now thoroughly despairing, depressed, unconnected, she begins needing just one beer to make it through lunch time. Then she needs a beer to make it through to bedtime as well.

Eventually, help is sought. "Consistency," the midwife says after listening to the mother's distraught story. "You need rest. You need to refresh. He needs consistent, affectionate nurturing." The mother nods. The advice sounds good. "Stop looking to the clock to feed your baby. The clock doesn't need feeding."

A loose routine is hatched out, but the baby is to be fed when hungry. The baby is to be given rest, love and attention.

Slowly the months slip away. The baby learns to cuddle. The baby learns to laugh and giggle. The baby learns kisses and snuggles. The mother eventually gets better, begins enjoying parenthood. She learns to play with her child, interact with her child, enjoy her child.

She can see now what this book lacks. She sees that it is so concerned about structure and discipline and not love - the greatest Christian principle of them all. It pits mother and baby against each other in a nonexistent battle for control. Between the parent's needs and the child's needs. It is parent-focused with unbalanced, incomplete data and research. It provides no unbiased advice, advocates no nurturing, divorces mother and instinct.

The mother wants those first four months with her son back. She desperately wishes she could have them returned, change them, be the mother HE needed instead of the mother she was "educated" to be. She knows the Ezzos aren't entirely to blame. She's the one who chose to take their advice, to apply it, to lose faith in herself. But they are not innocent either.

They have published this book. The information is careless and their opinion is raised to that of gospel. Biblical references are twisted and garbled in order to fit the Ezzo's approach. Scientific research is cherry picked, or in some cases outright misleading.

At the end of the day, though, the mother has won. She gave birth to a second son. When he cries, he is comforted. When he is hungry, he is fed. He sleeps when he wants to and at night he cuddles up in his mother or father's arms, safe and sound. He looks into his mother's eyes and already tries to smile. He snuggles his head into her neck and gurgles when she presses kisses into his. She is happy. She is in love with her two boys. She is the mother she wants to be. It is nothing like what the Ezzo's wanted.

She likes it that way.
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Reading Progress

August 19, 2011 – Started Reading
August 19, 2011 – Shelved
August 19, 2011 – Shelved as: books-that-deserve-painful-death
August 19, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-50 of 112) (112 new)

Spider the Doof Warrior hate EZZO. HATE THAT GUY! Holding and rocking babies does NOT make them spoiled! They need that! It's how their brains develop

message 2: by Felicia (new)

Felicia I asked for parenting book recommendations recently, and my cousin suggested this. I had to bite my tongue so hard. SO hard.

Spider the Doof Warrior I'd have to avoid biting whole ever suggested this book to me. Or turning into a grolar bear.

message 4: by Felicia (new)

Felicia She was certainly barking up the wrong tree. I'm more of a babywearing, feeding on demand, responding to my kid's cues type.

Spider the Doof Warrior YAY! My kind of person. Put er there!

Amanda J agreed, this book will be getting one star from me as well

message 7: by AH (last edited Aug 20, 2011 06:29AM) (new)

AH And then there are some babies that never settle down. *sigh* I had one of them. Nocturnal, screaming, horror child. Luckily, the next ones were mellow (or they looked that way in comparison).

Great review. Glad your new baby Kat likes to sleep.

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Such a beautiful review. So pleased second baby Kat is healing the wounds a bit. Hope all is going well.

message 9: by Katya (new)

Katya At the risk of sounding like a shrill feminazi, what's a man doing writing a book on motherhood?

message 10: by AH (new)

AH Katya wrote: "At the risk of sounding like a shrill feminazi, what's a man doing writing a book on motherhood?"
My thoughts exactly!

message 11: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Hartman Aw, Kat. I feel for you. Ezzo is nothing but a troll in book form. UR DOIN IT RONG.

message 12: by Regina (new)

Regina Beautiful review. So sorry you went through such a rough time with the horrible advice. Breaks my heart.

Annalisa My sister, who regrets doing Babywise with her oldest son, heard Ezzo admitted years later that he thinks he was wrong. How sad.

What I took from the book is that schedules are comforting for babies so they know what to expect, but I let my babies decide how the schedule runs. I much prefer The Baby Whisperer's advice. My first daughter was an angel who didn't need any coaxing to eat and sleep well. This time around, my baby slept in my arms for 5 weeks straight before I started trying to encourage some separation. I had to let her cry it out a little at night when she hit four months and was still feeding every 2.5 hours at night, but guaranteed if those cries were long and heart-broken I couldn't have done it. Those first few months are meant to be snuggly and bonding and sleepless. Glad you're happier this time around.

Annalisa Oh, and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child gives advice along the lines of The Baby Whisperer too. Put your child to bed when they start to show signs of sleepiness but before they're asleep and they'll learn how to put themselves to sleep. Now if I could just get my baby to stay asleep :).

Spider the Doof Warrior It's just that babies need love, compassion and hugging and feeding when they're hungry, not those schedules, not to be tormented. 8 week old babies shouldn't even SLEEP through the night. They're too young for that and they need constant feeding. Ezzo has no understanding of biology and thinks that giving a baby what they need will spoil them and it's not true.

message 16: by Kate (new)

Kate Copeseeley I ran into this book as a nanny and was so disgusted that I laughed out loud when people told me I should use it to get my baby to sleep (also born 2008). I have to say though, it is REALLY annoying to get "blamed" when your child doesn't sleep through the night because you didn't use Babywise. Argh.

Spider the Doof Warrior I wonder about this obsession with sleeping through the night. Babies might not be developmentally ready for that, but it's pushed on them. This guy's methods are extremely damaging and can cause attachment issues because the whole cycle of attachment is all about fulfilling that child's needs and answering their cries.

message 18: by Cory (new)

Cory Synesthesia wrote: "I wonder about this obsession with sleeping through the night. Babies might not be developmentally ready for that, but it's pushed on them. This guy's methods are extremely damaging and can cause a..."

Yup. This guy specializes in giving kids RAD: http://www.aacap.org/page.ww?name=Rea...

This is a nice book if you want to create a generation of sociopaths.

message 19: by Beth (new)

Beth Cory wrote: "This is a nice book if you want to create a generation of sociopaths."

This. Seriously. While reading this review, I felt saddened and sickened by the effect on Kat's baby.

Is there any way we can get this review bumped to the very top so that it stays there? These couple of paragraphs seem like they contain more wisdom and necessary information than this crapshoot book.

message 20: by John (new)

John Egbert Beth wrote: "Cory wrote: "This is a nice book if you want to create a generation of sociopaths."

This. Seriously. While reading this review, I felt saddened and sickened by the effect on Kat's baby.

Is t..."

I think the only way to do that is to get everyone you know to like the review. (Which won't be too hard, seeing as how it's an awesome review.)

Philippa (Tea in the Treetops) I'm so glad I chucked out both my save our sleep and contented baby routine books by week 3. I still resent them for making me afraid to pick up my child in hospital when she was crying as I was so sure she couldn't possibly be hungry it had only been a couple of hours! Next baby I'm wearing in a wrap as much as possible and letting them do their own thing

Spider the Doof Warrior thank you! pick up that baby. Snuggle that child. Sing to him or her. And if you won't do it, you could just hand that baby to me and I'll rock them and sing them Dir en grey songs.

Or some kate bush.

message 23: by Kate (new)

Kate Copeseeley I think moms are obsessed with babies sleeping through the night because we're TIRED. hahahaha


Sorry, it's just I just noticed the whole title. AUGH! More like the gift of RAD! DANG!

Kat Kennedy Thanks for the responses guys. It was difficult to write this as I still experience shame, guilt and remorse when I remember what I put my son and myself through. The day I realized he would no longer look me in the eye was the worst.

This book is evil. Any book that makes you think it's wrong to care for your child and meet their needs is a terrible book.

message 26: by Steph (new) - rated it 1 star

Steph Sinclair I HATE this book with a fiery passion. Biologically babies are not supposed to sleep that long when they are so little. It is a survival instinct.

I will never understand why as a society we expect so much out of our babies. From the moment they leave the womb, mothers are encouraged to not let a baby get attached to them. Sleep in a separate room in a separate bed, feed from a bottle, don't pick them up if they cry for fear of spoiling, early introductions to solids, crying it out. It all makes me sick.

Kids grow up. It's what they do! They will get there if we give them the opportunity to grow at their own pace. I always comfort my babies, they sleep with me, I wear them in my wraps, I nurse them, I cuddle them. No crying it out whatsoever in my house!

Great review Kat. I can tell it was emotional for you. This is a very touchy subject for me as well. (((HUGS))) mama, you are awesome.

Spider the Doof Warrior Yeah, it's kind of warped. But, Kat, at least the scales fell off your eyes! At least you saw this dude for what he is and did better! So that rocks.

I wish other other folks would get the message. There's that dumb dizzy Tizzy broad to consider. I say cuddle those babies, rock them, sing to them, let them sleep in the same room and SPOIL them if spoiling means nurturing which is what babies instinctively need.

Kat Kennedy Tizzy Hall's book Save Our Sleep is terrible. Her wrapping and layering advice is borderline negligent.

Yet, none of these books quite measure up to the evil that is The Pearls... *Shudders* now that is just child abuse!

But there is a huge push to get children sleeping through the night and that's why these books exist.

I believe it's because our image of parenting in the media/movies, is that happy, positive parents have children who get tucked into their own bed while mum and dad gaze on happily - of course, with full make up on, not tired, relaxed and stress free.

We have this idea that a good mother has a showroom clean house, are dressed beautifully, thin, smiling while she cleans the toilet, feeding their happy, well-dressed children some prepackaged snack while ruffling his hair.

It creates this whole, subconscious image where anything less is failing - and it all starts with the sleep. That mother in movies or cleaning ads are so well-rested!

Become a mother and you soon learn that one of the first questions you are asked of your child after, "Are they a good baby?" is "Are they sleeping through the night?" or "Do they sleep well?"

Spider the Doof Warrior Ugh. >< We need to get rid of the illusion of perfection. This is babies you are talking about. They sure can have some rank poops.
Besides, the abusing people into a perfection that isn't real thing has to die!

message 30: by Steph (new) - rated it 1 star

Steph Sinclair Become a mother and you soon learn that one of the first questions you are asked of your child after, "Are they a good baby?" is "Are they sleeping through the night?" or "Do they sleep well?"

This is so true. As if a baby can be "bad."
What a ludacris thought.

message 31: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Hartman Kat wrote: "Thanks for the responses guys. It was difficult to write this as I still experience shame, guilt and remorse when I remember what I put my son and myself through. The day I realized he would no lo..."

You are a GOOD mom for noticing something was wrong, for caring so deeply about it, for your willingness to grow and change and do whatever it took to make things right again, even while labouring under the weight of depression. All parents fall on their faces, many times and in many ways, but you pick yourself up and you keep going because you love your kids that hard. You are a hero.

message 32: by Leah (new)

Leah Steele Wow. I haven't even read this book, but just based on your review I'd like to track down every copy ever released, toss them all into a dark pit and burn them then spit on the ashes for good measure. I was blessed with an easy-going, happy baby who fed well and barely fussed. Now--as if I had anything to do with it--I have friends ask me for words of wisdom on raising an infant. I always tell them not to read parenting books. Mothering is a joy, a terror, and an instinct as old as time and if you'll just allow yourself to take a breath and let some confidence creep in, you have already in you a bone-deep knowledge of what is right for your child; a connection and a wisdom that all the medical science in the world can't quite explain. I'm so glad you wrote this review. I imagine it had to be somewhat harrowing but rather cathartic. It made my heart ache for you with the remembrance of the futile frustration, the sinking weariness, and the endless guilt that is the burden of motherhood. But I'm glad you finally got to experience the joys as well.

message 33: by Kate (new)

Kate Copeseeley Babies are people, not puppies. We're not supposed to "train" them. Period.

Annalisa Mother's guilt. It never goes away, does it? Don't beat yourself up for wanting to do what's right for your child. I think this book does most damage on first-time moms already prone to scheduling. I'm surprised it didn't affect me more since I can get a little anal. Maybe it's because I didn't read it until my daughter was 3 months and already falling into a routine (even though she was still eating every 2.5 hours). I think by your second child you're softer and know how little you get of those newborn months and so you're a lot more willing to stick it out and cuddle and indulge. Plus you can't remember your first ever being that small. But man, the lack of sleep has killed me this time around. I'm glad to finally be easing out of it. It makes me feel like a zombie. No wonder people fall victim to anything that will get them sleep.

message 35: by Steph (new) - rated it 1 star

Steph Sinclair I think the biggest thing people don't realize is that having a baby PERIOD will effect sleep. The key is finding a way to maximize sleep for everyone in the household including the baby. Many times, this might be right next to mama. Of course, we have to be realistic about the outcomes as well. They've just spent 9 months of sleep right next to mama, why expect them to come out the womb straight to their own bed? I wish doctors would stop telling mothers they should expect 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep by 6 months. We (as a society) push our babies so hard towards independence the moment the leave our bodies. So unrealistic. Independence is something we learn as we grow up. We are not born with it.

Ok, time to get off my soap box. Lol. I'm just extremely passionate about this subject. :)

Spider the Doof Warrior So true. Human babies aren't deer that stand up as soon as their born. They're not like baby snakes that can fend for themselves once they hatch out of the egg. They're not going to go and work in the coal mines. They can't even lift their heads. We got to give them what they need. Compassion. Then THEY learn from being treated with compassion.

Kat Kennedy I wanted to come back and add some resources for first time parents that give a different perspective.

Why African Babies Don't Cry

Peaceful Parenting: Breastfeeding in Mongolia

Mother-Baby Behavioural Sleep Laboratory

This last link is particularly important. It highlights research done by the University of Notre Dame into cosleeping.

Cosleeping and Sids is some of the amazing research they've been doing into cosleeping and Sids.

Spider the Doof Warrior Wonderful! COMPASSION TOWARDS BABIES! LOVE IT!

message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

When this review went by first, I dug around the reviews here on GR, because I was curious. One had this link:


The information about the Ezzos is pretty disturbing.

message 40: by AH (new)

AH I was talking to someone about your review for this book today and *poof* it pops up with an update. Must be reading my mind...

There's so much scary info out there. Just do what you feel is comfortable for your own situation. Ask for help if you think you need it. They do grow up and leave eventually. (or eat you out of house and home).

Kat Kennedy Thanks for that link, Ceridwen! I will enjoy reading through what they have to say.

AH, you're a crack up!

Synesthesia, I know. I love the first two articles. Nyonyo has become common vocab in my house. Every time the baby wakes, my 3YO calls out, "Nyonyo, mummy! Nyonyo!"

message 42: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Weird how much stuff there is out there (including on Ceridwen's link) about "Christian" baby-care and parenting. I went to a Catholic college where we had to read the entire Bible and Catechism and study ethics and...um... there's really not much that relates to what to do with babies. And the main stricture is on raising your children to serve God, which doesn't really pertain in any way to issues like cosleeping or feeding or toilet training. Maybe the Enzos think "spare the rod and spoil the child" applies to newborns?

message 43: by Kaethe (new) - added it

Kaethe Synesthesia wrote: "thank you! pick up that baby. Snuggle that child. Sing to him or her. And if you won't do it, you could just hand that baby to me and I'll rock them and sing them Dir en grey songs.

Or some kate b..."

I sang Kate Bush to my babies (mother stands for comfort), and anything else I could think of.

Now--as if I had anything to do with it--I have friends ask me for words of wisdom on raising an infant. I always tell them not to read parenting books.

Um hmm.

Just do what you feel is comfortable for your own situation. Ask for help if you think you need it.

Ask for help even if you don't think you need it. Be specific.

It is worth noting that sleeping through the night is a huge deal in the US because parents don't have paid parental leave, unlike the rest of the world. If you can't afford to miss work, you can't afford to shift your sleeping to accommodate your baby.

message 44: by Jen (new) - rated it 1 star

Jen Kat, I'm so sorry you had this experience. I too read some Ezzo material before the birth of my first child (1999) and can almost swear that the first edition justified letting your child cry by using the Bible verse about how God didn't answer Jesus' cry from the cross. That, combined with the videos where the guy seemed uber controlling while sharing his tips on Growing Kids God's Way- a ballsy title!

Jaime As with ANYTHING a doctor tells you, you should take it with a grain of salt. Dr. Bucknam (the other person who wrote this book) is actually my doctor. My baby is 6 months old and sleeps from 6:30pm to 7am, and I have people telling me every day what a happy baby he is. He's also in the 85%ile for weight, so obviously eating fine.

message 46: by Jen (new) - rated it 1 star

Jen Dr. Bucknam's profile on goodreads only lists his many 'Wise' books...does he have others? I see the Teen wise, the baby wise, the child wise, potty wise...a lot of doctors publish semi-regularly in peer-reviewed journals and such, so I'm wondering if he has as well?

Kat Kennedy What brilliant advice, Jaime! If only it were not entirely discouraged in this book. This book not only advocates against current best practice but warns parents off of professionals who can help. It encourages mothers against following their instincts.

I don't consider forcing a tiny baby to sleep through the night an achievement.

Spider the Doof Warrior Considering the fact that developmentally babies at a certain age are not READY to sleep through the night and have small stomachs...

message 49: by AH (new)

AH And some babies are just not comfortable in their bodies so they cry nonstop. (That's my theory and I'm sticking to it - He's 19 now and still has tummy issues).

message 50: by Kaethe (new) - added it

Kaethe I'm staggered that anyone would think that every baby should be treated the same. Not even identical twins respond the same way to everything. As babies my daughters were nothing alike.

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