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I mentioned yesterday, that I was quite shocked to read some of the Babywise “myths” when I first started researching the idea. I first found the concept of Babywise on Pinterest, and I didn’t yet know it was called Babywise! I found a pin that was focused on scheduling feedings. I had been researching how often I should expect to feed my baby throughout the day and night. I am one of those Type A people that love to be as prepared as possible for things. While I knew I couldn’t possibly know anything exact, I wanted a ballpark number to keep in mind- a goal. When I saw the idea of scheduled feedings, I was fascinated. I know that I personally thrive on schedules and knowing what is expected of me, and that my students also did the same, when I was teaching high school. I had a feeling that babies would also love the idea, and I really wanted to give it a shot. As I researched more and more, I finally found the term Babywise. That’s when the research turned negative. Once Babywise is mentioned, there are a lot of myths to sift through. I turned to the book, and to the BabywiseMom blog. I also joined the Babywise Mamas group on Facebook so I could have a support system with other mamas that were using the same concepts.
Today I’d like to address something that I’m very passionate about: Babywise Isn’t Imposing a Schedule, it’s Learning the Ideal Schedule. This is a very important idea that often gets lost (unless you’ve read the book).
Using Babywise will starve your baby and cause failure to thrive
Babywise requires you to hyper-schedule
I kept seeing failure to thrive, failure to thrive, all over the internet. And I kept thinking…did we read the same book!? Nowhere in the Babwise book, does it mention to leave your baby to cry if they are hungry. In fact, it says quite the opposite.
In an effort to clear the air on this myth, I took to the book yet again. I hadn’t read through the first Babywise book, since Caroline was in her first months of life, so I found it fascinating to re-read! There are several quotes I’d like to pull your attention to:
1. Clock feeding, Parent-Directed Feeding (the Babywise method), and Child-led Feeding compared
Chapter two of On Becoming Babywise discusses different feeding philosophies. Babywise is what they call “parent-directed feeding”. Let’s look further into the comparison:
- Clock feeding: Babywise discusses how in the 1920’s clock feeding got a lot of attention. “A regimented feeding schedule of every 4 hours was considered to be in the best interest of the child” (Ezzo, page 38). “The baby who showed signs of hunger sooner than 4 hours was left to ‘cry it out’ because the clock, not the baby determined when feedings occurred with little regard to the baby’s immediate needs or the parents’ natural inclination to intervene” (Ezzo, page 38).
Summary: “Feeding times are guided strictly by the constant of time, as measured by the clock.” (Ezzo, page 44)
- Child-Led Feeding: In the 1940’s a second theory was gaining popularity. “..the attachment parenting mom is acting on the fearful assumption that every cry, if not a signal of hunger, is a potential sign of attachment failure”. (Ezzo, page 40)
Summary: “Feeding times are guided strictly by a single variable: the presence of a baby’s hunger cues.” (Ezzo, page 44)
- Parent-Directed Feeding (Babywise): “PDF is the center point between hyper-scheduling and the re-attachment theories. It has enough structure to bring security and order to a baby’s world, yet enough flexibility to give Mom the freedom to respond to any need at any time.” (Ezzo, page 43)
Summary: “Both the variable of the hunger cue and the constant progression of time will together direct parents at each feeding”. (Ezzo, page 44)
Comparing these feeding philosophies, clearly sets the stage at the beginning of the book. With just these few quotes, it is clear that Babywise is not a hyper-scheduling method. It is not leaving your baby to cry when your baby is hungry. These myths are describing clock feeding- not Babywise.
2. Babywise is a holistic approach
I bring this point up, because of the constant mention of the failure to thrive myth. The myth that Babywise causes failure to thrive, implies that babies are left to starve. The above quotes on feeding philosophies have already refuted that claim; however, I think it’s important to realize that Babywise is more focused on a baby’s overall well-being than any other approach. Here is one of my favorite quotes from the book:
” It [PDF] is a proactive style of parenting that helps foster healthy growth and optimal development. For example, a baby cannot maximize learning without experiencing optimal alertness, and he can only experience optimal alertness with optimal sleep. Optimal sleep is tied to good naps and established nighttime sleep. These advanced levels of sleep are the end result of consistent feedings. Consistent feedings come from establishing a healthy routine. PDF is the pebble that creates the ripple effect leading to all these outcomes.” (Ezzo, page 43)
The focus of Babywise is deep and broad. It is focused not just on feedings and a schedule, but on healthy routines, optimal sleep, learning, healthy grown and optimal development. Babywise is a way of life, not a simple ‘implement and go’ philosophy.
The idea that Babwise uses hyper-scheduling and allows for no flexibility is another key point that we should discuss in detail. There are several instances in the book that discuss the flexibility that needs to be allowed with this method.
Ezzo makes it a point to clearly discuss and address the concept of flexibility:
“Children come into this world with basic needs for nutrition, sleep, cognitive growth, love and security. As a baby grows, these needs do not change, but how these needs are met will change. Therein lies the challenge. How do you establish a baby’s routine that is predictable, yet ‘flexible’ enough to meet a baby’s growing and changing feed-wake-sleep needs? Part of the answer comes from understanding the meaning of flexibility. The root word, ‘flexible’, means ‘the ability to bend or be pliable’.” (Ezzo, page 87)
As Ezzo starts to discuss specific scheduling ideas and merges (dropping a feeding/nap), he again reinforces the concepts of flexibility and the importance of understanding your baby’s needs:
“A mother cannot arbitrarily decide to drop a feeding or adjust a naptime, unless the baby has the physical capacity and ability to make the adjustment. For example a two-week-old baby has neither the capacity to go 8 hours without food nor the ability to sleep through the night; thus, at this point in time, a mother should not be thinking about dropping the night feeding.” (Ezzo, page 91)
“For example, a baby at four months of age, one feed-wake-sleep cycle might be as short as 2.5 hours, while another might stretch to 3.5 hours.” (Ezzo, page 92)
He then makes it a point to address that not all babies will be on the same schedule at the same age. There has to be flexibility based on individual needs:
“All babies experience the same merges, but the do not experience them at the same time. For example, Cory began sleeping 8 hours through the night at six weeks of age. Across town, his cousin Anna began sleeping 8 hours through the night at ten weeks. that is a four-week difference.” (Ezzo, page 92)
4. Hunger cues
Let’s address the starvation myth head on while we are at this!
“Responding promptly to a newborn’s hunger cue is central to both cry-feeding and parent-directed feeding, but there is a major difference. The PDF approach encourages full feedings about every 2.5-3 hours rather than a cluster of small feedings. Working to achieve full feedings is a key to PDF success.” (Ezzo, page 63)
Ezzo then explains what to look for and how to determine if your baby has shown hunger cues. “The hunger cue should always trump the time on the clock.” (Ezzo, page 63)
Here’s the thing. Babwise is not easy. When you succeed, you end up with a very happy, well rested baby that is eager to learn. Your baby will be content in between feedings, and they will sleep better and longer stretches. When you’ve succeeded at Babywise, you will have people tell you that you are “so lucky to have such an easy baby”.
The reality is that it is anything but easy. It is not as simple as finding and implementing a schedule. You have to find the ideal schedule. You have to have a holistic approach. You need to be flexible. You need to know your baby’s hunger cues, and distinguish them from other cries. You need to know what it means when your baby wakes up early from a nap. You need to know that waking up early from a nap has different reasons based on the amount of time they slept- that waking 30 minutes into the nap means they are probably overtired, but that a 45 minute nap means something completely different.
You have to implement a schedule, observe your child, make notes, analyze the data, and repeat. You make adjustments, do more observing, more trial and error, more analyzing, and more repeating. You do this until you find the sweet spot. You’ll find the schedule that is ideal for YOUR child. Then you stay consistent with that schedule. Until….your baby starts showing signs that it is time to make a change. Maybe you now need to drop a feeding, or drop a nap. You need to be so in tune to all of the “data” that your child is showing you on a daily basis.
It’s worth it. Boy is it worth it! But it is not easy. It is not luck. It is hard work, and it does pay off for both you and your child in the end.
Posts that may be of interest:
Don’t forget to come back this week for more Babywise Myth Busters! We have a five days with 8 fabulous myth busting posts for you to read!
Here is the schedule along with the topics for each day:
Links will go live on the day specified below…
– Monday: Valerie at Chronicles of a Babywise Mom- Myths Versus Realities of Babywise
– Tuesday: Katrina at Mama’s Organized Chaos- Babywise Isn’t Imposing a Schedule, It’s Learning the Ideal Schedule
– Wednesday: Shea at The Moses Home- How Schedules Keep Us Flexible, Not Rigid
– Wednesday: Natasha at Let’s Be Brave- Babywise Works For YOU, Not The Other Way Around
– Thursday: Carrie at Wiley Adventures- Babywise and Cry it Out (how they do/don’t go together)
– Thursday: Kimberly at Team Cartwright- Babywise and Breastfeeding (does not diminish milk supply)
– Friday: Cole at Twinning Babywise- The Misconception that Babywise is just Sleep Training
– Friday: Emily at The Journey of Parenthood- Using Babywise Isn’t Impossible with Multiple Children
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