Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On Reading Babywise

All right. I finally did it. I read Babywise. So many of y'all recommended it this week as I was struggling with Jamie's sleepless night, that I decided to give it another shot. I'd read bits and pieces of it over the years, larger chunks and maybe even most of the book when Sofi was a baby. I never really liked it much and it didn't seem to fit for us.

As I re-visited it this time around, my view of the book congealed a little more and I think I can share my thoughts fairly articulately now. At least, as articulately as you can expect on five hours of sleep.

First of all, the pros. I really appreciate his take on the effect of a healthy marriage on a child's well-being and his advocacy of family-centered parenting, as opposed to child centered parenting. I heartily agree with most of what he says in that chapter and have found it to be very effective and an important concept I need reminding of again and again. Good chapter.

His concept of watching your child and interpreting his/her cries, looking for hunger cues and in general tuning in and establishing some sort of schedule based on your child's needs and cycles is great. It sounds pretty much like what we've practiced with all three kids, with increasing degrees of skill and success. Scheduling, of the mild, and baby-needs-initiated variety that we practice and Ezzo seems to advocate, can be a life-saver.

I actually found, as I read, that our own parenting practices mirror Ezzo's advice very closely, with one primary difference being the timing of nursing. I still nurse James both on waking and at naptime-- a two or three hour schedule, instead of the recommended four hour schedule for his age. Ezzo states that this extended feeding schedule ensures that the infant will receive adequate hindmilk at each feeding, since a "snacking" pattern (shorter, more frequent feedings) would give him/her only the thinner foremilk. I found this a little irritating-- it's bad science. The fact is, a woman's body will adjust to fit the demands her infant puts on it, whether that is for larger quantities of milk at long intervals, or smaller quantities at shorter intervals. There's not a set, inflexible level of foremillk that must be disposed of before the hindmilk is accessed. It's flexible. It changes. Your body will adapt to your baby's feeding habits.

The only time you might have a problem with not accessing the hindmilk would be while still establishing those breastfeeding habits in early infancy. This can be easily addressed by simply offering your "snacker" the same breast each time over, say, an hour or two, until it appears to be empty. Then switch to the other side. As a healthy breastfeeding relationship is established, your body and your baby will get into sync with one another.

(Some articles discussing milk composition and production. One states that an extended, or elongated nursing schedule may actually contribute to HIGHER levels of foremilk in a baby's diet...)

The next point on which our custom differs from Ezzo's recommendations is the eat-play-nap sequence. Although I am always sure to put Jamie into the crib awake, rather than let him fall asleep at the breast (something I learned from Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, a book quoted in Babywise), I do nurse him both before and after every nap. Or at least, I offer the breast. He rarely is interested in nursing when he first wakes-- he's been asleep for two hours and he's got other things on his agenda than snuggling quietly and nursing. He's got things to do and places to go!

Ezzo doesn't say specifically WHY (that I could find) he recommends the eat-play-nap sequence, other than to simply state that it's better than play-eat-nap. He actually goes so far as to say that this ensures an early establishment of nighttime sleep, but I can't fathom why. Since James has never really had consistent day-time sleep problems, I'm willing to give Ezzo's ideas a try, but I'm not sold on the idea. It doesn't make sense to me to work against the natural relaxing effects of milk and the action of nursing. I mean, if God puts stuff in the milk to make 'em sleepy, it stands to reason you'd want to take advantage of that, no?

I have to state for the record that all the crazy, rabid, "the man's a Baby Killer!!" stuff I've read about Babywise on various blogs and whatnot is totally uncalled for. I mean, really. The worst thing I could see happening is over-tired moms getting frustrated with babies who don't want to nurse the way they're "supposed" to and quitting. He's not what I would consider a rabid supporter of breast-is-best and the book treats bottle-feeding as an almost-equivalent to breast. He seems to advocate the feeding schedule above the actual feeding method.

BUT. Anyone who reads this book and then starves their kid to death in order to Observe The Schedule To Keep It Holy ought to get their head checked. Seriously. It's the same kind of thing that people like the Pearls ("To Train Up a Child") get reamed for-- for NO REASON. People do stupid, even criminally stupid, stuff all the time and there's no point in starting a witch hunt for the author they were currently reading at the time they did what they did.

OK. So that's the (mostly) positive stuff. I'm really not sure if I want to get into the stuff I dislike about this book. I have a post already written, but I have to wait and let it gel a bit first. I know I have quite a few friends and readers who really love this book and I'm not sure I want to go there. Speak up in the comments if you care and/or want to hear :)


Jen said...

Okay, here are my thoughts. You knew I would comment :) My babies always woke up hungry from day one. That's why I would feed them in the middle of the night. My guess would be that since Jamie is eating right before nap time, he isn't waking up hungry. As for a why for the eat- play-nap, my understanding is that it makes it easier for the baby to eventually adjust to the regular family schedule- we wake up, have breakfast, and then play. Another why, is so that Mom is setting the schedule, not baby. There is real freedom in that- you know when baby's going to get hungry again, because baby is on a schedule. So you can run to the store and not worry that baby will need to nurse while you are gone and Dad is babysitting. It also makes going on a date without baby possible! There will be scheduling exceptions, when baby is going through a growth spurt or sick, but then you work him back into it when you sense that thing are back to normal. The eat, play nap schedule is supposed to help ensure better nightime sleep because the baby is eating during eating time and not dozing off as much. When the eating and napping follow one another, it often becomes one long phase of eating and dozing, which doesn't help to establish a set napping pattern, which I think is key to a long night time sleep. Too many catnaps during the day make baby not as tired at night.

Rachel said...

I really, really don't like 'babywise'. I did agree with your take on it mostly though. The scheduling things is what I find particularly disturbing. And the reason so many people are so against it is mainly the feeding schedule. The person above said that there will be exceptions to the schedule as in growth spurts, but Ezzo doesn't account for this in his teachings. And another reason people feel as they do about it, is that this is not his only infant book. There is "Preparation to Parenthood" that goes much deeper in depth into his whole schedule philosophy. That is where he really gets emphatic about the schedule and not deviating from it. Unfortunately there are women who latch onto his kind of teachings and follow them to the letter, not accounting for their own child's growth patterns and end up with a failure to thrive child and in some cases there have been some deaths. So I do not recommend his books/teachings to anyone.

I loved what you said about nursing before and after the nap - that's what I've always done. Mine have always wanted to nurse before their nap. I think people like Ezzo forget that nursing is not only for food/nutrition, it is for comfort as well.

Just keep following your heart and watching Jamie's cues. I'm sorry you're having a rough time at night, I've been through that before with several of mine, but it doesn't last forever (even though it seems like it will!!!).

Hang in there! Love ya!!

Lauren Valentine said...

I haven't read the book - but I'd still like to hear the rest of your comments. At Jamie's age I offered the breast before and after naps - but we settled into a nursing before napping pretty regularly. Both my kids ate more frequently during the day (about every 3 hours) and slept well at night (Noah moreso than Chloe). Babies are different - no amount of scheduling will ensure that J will sleep through the night. I did the exact same things with C as with N, but by 8 weeks N slept for 10 hours straight at night and never looked back. C is a different story - but I'd still call her a good sleeper. (Last night she woke up cause I turned on the hall light outside her room - I should have known better - but it took us quite a while to figure out that it could wake her up). I hope you find something that works - I'll be praying for you.

Padgaretti said...

"I mean, if God puts stuff in the milk to make 'em sleepy, it stands to reason you'd want to take advantage of that, no?"

This is purely my response to his view:) With Lilly, Lucy and Robbie they were always fed before nap and bed for this very reasoning and bonding. Sometimes they fell right asleep and sometimes they rested in bed happy and were content with a full tummy until they drifted off. There was my sister's pumped milk for the girls and breast for Robbie. My motto was "just as long as there is nothing in their mouth so that there is no baby teeth rot." I also fed on demand by cues and they all slept wonderfully. I am not sure if God just gave our family three super sleepers or something else, but it always worked for us:) BUT every kid is different!

As far as Jamie the poor thing has big siblings that want to have fun and no matter how hard you try at that age your voice just carries. I think you mentioned that in the other post for the daytime. I am praying it will all get figured out so you can have more rest:)

Denise said...

Well, I have different views, conflicting even within myself, about Babywise. It's a very polarized topic!!!

Before we had kids, we watched a lot of parents/babies, and we personally kept quite a few of them. The ones that were the most anti-Babywise seemed to have the fussiest, least happy, most demanding babies. The babies seemed to rule the family the most. When our friends would go on their anti-Babywise rants to us, Jonathan's (behind closed doors) comment to me was always, "Why would I take baby advice from you when I don't want babies anything like yours?" Anyway, that sounds harsh and it was from a viewpoint of a young, rather prideful couple who had not personally experienced parenthood.

Fast forward to when we had our own child. Pre-Elyana's birth, I made sure to read a few breastfeeding books, as succeeding in that was the MOST important thing to me. I knew the most important thing to establish a healthy child and a good supply was to feed often, learn her cues, and to comfort her. I really loved "Happiest Baby on the Block", which I read as well pre-Elyana. While rejecting the evolutionary undercurrent, I heartily agreed with the belief that the first 3 months of an infant's life are full of adjustment from in-the-womb and that it's vital to adjust them to that with as much nurture as possible. Breastfeeding = Nurture!

That said, I knew by that 3 month old period, Elyana was old enough to begin to SLEEP "schedule". I read Babywise, the latest edition. I liked the easy way to set it up, and it made a lot of sense to me to let the baby Sleep/Eat/Play. I especially did not want a baby that needed ME there to nurse to sleep (i.e. date nights!). I was concerned about the baby getting drowsy while nursing and then getting into a cycle of drowsy sleep/nursing/waking/nursing... Basically, not being able to have a point where I called it "quits" and put the baby down. I mean, if she was falling asleep, and then I tried to pull her off to put her down, and she started fussing/crying for more nursing, how could I turn that away? How would I know if it were hunger or just comfort? Then, like another commenter said, the drowsy in/out could contribute to a less satisfying nap. By getting the baby up and feeding immediately, she would naturally stop when no longer hungry.

Now, what I always did was watch hunger cues. If she seemed hungry during a wake cycle, or pre-bedtime, I did not say "You can't nurse, it's not time." Baby's needs came first. Baby's cues first.

When reading earlier versions of Babywise, Ezzo is pretty flamingly stringent. He even tells you to offer your newborn FORMULA instead of the breast if they're trying to nurse too often!!!! He has gotten MUCH more lenient in his dogma.

Something I hated was he doesn't give place for a mother's intuition. What I hated was his advocating turning OFF the monitor so you wouldn't hear your baby cry when you're sleep training. So, we mothers are too weak to discern between what's worth sticking to, and what is too beyond it and isn't emotionally right for our babies?

Anyway, I took a lot of good away from Babywise, but I always have to talk about it with the usual disclaimers. It's how I talk about the book "Created to be His Helpmeet" too. I think you need a solid commitment to breastfeeding before ever reading Babywise.

I have lots more to say, but it's too hard via a blog!!!!!!!!