As parents, we each choose different parenting methods, because not only are we all different individuals, with different personalities, likes, desires, habits, but also because each of our CHILDREN are different individuals. No one is the same, parent or child alike, and because of that I am CONSTANTLY reminding myself that just because one mom or family chooses a certain method, it’s certainly not wrong simply because it does not match my own. Babywise is one of these methods that seems to strike a chord with so many mothers and I wanted to express my own thoughts on good ole Gary Ezzo and his controversial book.
For anyone reading this who is not familiar with Babywise, the books centers on creating a routine and schedule for your baby, starting very early in life. The ultimate goal is a child that sleeps through the night; namely before 3 months. The subsequent goals are a schedule that essentially allows you, as the parent, to dictate when your child does what in terms of sleep patterns, eating and play time. It is UNBELIEVABLY appealing to type A personalities (me) that like to have a plan, but it also requires the “cry it out” method. Regardless, I took the bait and began Babywise with my first child in 2011.
First and foremost, if I ever was in a room alone with Gary Ezzo, the first question I would ask him is this; “Have you ever actually HAD a baby, because all evidence, specifically related to your book Babywise, suggests you’ve never even been in the same room as one”. His book lacks emotion, heart and does not even come CLOSE to empathizing with the connection between a mother and her newborn. There is ZERO consideration for the heart wrenching pain that ensues when your baby cries, and that extends to Dads as well (so we can’t blame his callousness specifically on his gender, sorry ladies). I remember the second night my husband and I were home from the hospital, as we laid in our bed after setting our precious baby girl in her pack n play, right next to us. We clenched hands while she cried after a very full feeding. Granted, that crying lasted all of ten seconds, and then she was out in a milk coma, but it was AWFUL.
Secondly, the book projects a scientific formula that basically reads as such; for the first two weeks, do whatever it takes to keep your baby happy. Feed them WHENEVER they want, and as MUCH as they want. Then, around the two week mark, just stick to this super simple pattern; EAT WAKE SLEEP (you can’t forget the pattern after reading that friggin book). Gary Ezzo leaves the distinct impression that all babies will do just that, with out any issue (read wailing, inhumane cries). HOWEVER, if your baby does in fact cry when they’re supposed to be sleeping, let them cry it out for 15 minutes and all will be cool in the world. They’ll go right to bed. WHAT?
My point is this, every baby is different, very rarely does that prescribed formula work and more so than not, no newborn innocently passes out after 15 minutes of full blown screaming cries. It is in fact, preposterous. I’m obviously over generalizing, but Babywise does not take into account how different all babies are and in fact, it pays little attention to what having a newborn is actually like. Often times, when our babies do NOT conform to the Babywise method, we blame ourselves, think we’re doing something wrong, or just feel as if we’re pretty crap moms (or have TERRIBLE babies).
Yet, while I give Gary (we’re on a first name basis) such a hard time about his writing style that certainly leaves something to be desired for in terms of direction and concrete advice (that was a joke, like an entirely separate book’s worth of info would be nice), looking back on what I’ll refer to as the “Babywise: Room for Interpretation Method” allowed me to find a good combination to fit my rational mom need (a full night’s sleep) WITH my emotional mom need (to never feel as if I was neglecting or hurting the biggest blessing I’d ever received…my baby). With my first baby, it took me only a few days to realize that I was not ok with her almost choking cries for more than 15 minutes. So… I stopped letting her.
In fact, I was ridiculous and would do WHATEVER it took to get her to sleep when she was supposed to be sleeping. That varied between multiple tactics of insanity such as holding her in a statuesque pose in her pitch black room while she slept (sometimes for two hours), to taking walks, to driving in the car, to simply letting her lay on me during the day in her nursing position. I would typically try the crib first, but if she woke up before it was time to eat again (which before week 10 she ALWAYS did, because again, she’s a BABY for the love of goodness Gary Ezzo), I did what it took to stay on schedule. I let both babies cry it out one time EACH for around 45 minutes in the 8-10 week range, and after that they very quickly settled into an easy pattern of being placed in their cribs awake and falling asleep within 10-15 minutes with VERY minimal crying (and I don’t mean wails, I mean small little protests) at both nap and bed time.
Again, everyone’s story is different. I was able to do the same thing with my second baby, but only because I had help in the form of our nanny and parents handling our first, so that I could give that asinine amount of time devoted to routine for the second. It is not the same for everyone, and if I was a full time stay at home mom with multiples, I NEVER would have been able to do that. Additionally… I will be the first to admit that I didn’t have a life from about week 4 (when those babies really wake up and know they’re in the world and won’t sleep anywhere and everywhere) until about week 10-11 (when both of my bebs actually started falling into a pattern that made life SO manageable, including sleeping through the night), so clearly my babies during that time were running me, and not the other way around.
BUT….here’s the thing. IT WAS SO WORTH IT.
I will give up 6 weeks of my life again if it means that around 3 months I have babies that nap when I want them to nap, and sleep through the night for 12 hours. Essentially, it’s HARD work on the front end, but short-lived in comparison to the LONG rewards on the other side that let me live as an adult with needs, wants and longings outside of my babies.
I’ll break those needs out a little bit more here. One, it allows my husband and I to have a life that does not ALWAYS center around our children. At three and four months, if we wanted to put the baby down at 7PM and go out with friends or on a date night, I was worry free because I was (and still am) certain that our babysitter would need to do nothing but sit on the couch and watch TV. I get to be ME outside of my role as mom, and it’s not a big to do. It’s in fact really easy. It’s also good for our marriage. As a full time working mom, I CHERISH my moments on the weekends with our family, but I’m also able to call my sister or whomever it may be and schedule out in advance a mani/pedi, because I KNOW when both bebs will be napping on a Saturday (2PM if you’re curious). And then I miss very little of those quality moments with them, but also get to treat myself. It’s awesome.
Two, my babies are generally in an incredibly happy disposition and I credit that WHOLLY to the healthy amount of sleep they get. I know it pisses some people off when I say we’re unable to do something, based on our children’s naps or bedtime. Yet, I see what they’re like without naps, and not only am I unhappy because of how they’re acting….they’re MISERABLE due to their state of exhaustion. That’s not fair to them, they need the sleep and I’m so happy to provide a routine for them that allows them to know that sleep will happen. Sleep and constant disorder affects us negatively as adults, so it makes sense that the lack of such things affects the behaviors of our little ones as well. Again, yes their nap times and bed times dictate certain hours of our day, but in the big picture that is minuscule in comparison to everything else we CAN do by knowing what our babies need and when they need it.
Third, establishing a routine, also establishes what I think is the appropriate dynamic between a parent and a child, that goes something like this; “I love you immensely sweet baby, enough to know what you need and when you need it, and I’m going to implement that with a form of discipline called a schedule”. It lets our babies know, in a caring way, that we’re in charge. Not them. Gary Ezzo does say that children appreciate and respect boundaries, well here they are.
For me specifically, because Babywise wasn’t super black and white, I was able to determine my OWN method of parenting that let me love my baby, while also establishing a routine that allowed for ME time, husband time, and life (like one outside of my house) time.
I basically used the core principles of the book, and then had to rely on my own common sense and newfound confidence as a mother to determine what fit OUR needs as a family. I also utilized a HEALTHY dose of the book “The Sleepeasy Solution” written by Jill Spivack and Jennifer Waldburger once my babies hit four months. It’s an EXCELLENT tool and resource in regards to routines for your bebs. My husband and I formulated something that fit us, that fit our personalities and fit our lifestyles. What worked for me, may not work for you, or even be DESIRABLE for you….. And that’s TOTALLY ok.
We are who we are, especially in relation to the hardest job in the world called Parenthood. All I’m saying is a version of Babywise did wonders for our family, helped me grow and learn as a Mama and truthfully, in the grand scheme of things, aided me in retaining my sanity in what is a very chaotic time.
So Gary, while I still am not entirely convinced you actually know what a baby is, I thank you for at the very least a set of foundational ideals that we, as parents who choose your book, can build upon to create a sustainable, enjoyable and sain lifestyle with babies.
Did you find Babywise worked for you?
How were you able to “interpret” the book to your and your baby’s benefit?
To see an alternative view to Babywise, you can read this post from another Dallas Moms Blog contributor. We hope that this post doesn’t spark a mommy debate, but helps moms see differing views to help them make decisions that are best for their families.