Monday, November 15, 2010

Babywise Review- Part Two of Two

(Read Part One Here)


Chapter 6, Establishing Your Baby’s Routine, was highly confusing. He talks about drawing the balance between structure and flexibility. Certainly, this is a good thing, but he spends most of the chapter talking in circles, which left me confused as to where he stood exactly and what a mother on his program is supposed to do.

In one paragraph, Ezzo will tell you that flexibility is good, and to feed the baby whenever it’s hungry, even if that’s only two hours after feeding time. But he quickly follows that with a reminder to make sure you then get back to your schedule (2 ½-3 hour intervals between feedings). You can be flexible, just so long as you get back to your routine. So, under special circumstance, or during infrequent times when baby gets hungry sooner, you’re allowed to feed him. Just make sure you get back to your routine.

He tells you to assess the baby and feed when he’s hungry- but he still constantly emphasizes getting back to the 2 ½-3 hour routine. Ezzo never suggests that your baby might need to nurse every 2 hours on a regular basis.

On page 107, he strongly emphasizes never letting baby fall asleep at the breast. He emphasizes this several times throughout the book, even for newborns. He gives a list of suggestions for keeping your sleepy newborn awake and making sure he never falls asleep at the breast.

Throughout the chapter, he consistently talks about how this plan works for babies, is what they need, and so on, and that mama needs to stick with it. Then he’ll say just follow your instinct (which he seemingly makes fun of numerous times throughout the book) and baby’s hunger cues, not the clock. That sounds like demand-feeding to me, except for the fact that his next paragraph is emphasizing the need to stick with your routine.

On page 124, Ezzo informs his readers that babies will cry from 5 to maybe 45 minutes at night when you’re dropping his middle-of-the-night feeding. I’m sure that for many babies this is true. Regardless of whether or not that time frame is healthy, and our differing opinions there, I have an issue. Not every baby fits that time frame. I know personally babies who cry for hours and hours without getting anywhere, just working themselves up more. Yes, these babies do exist, in spite of what Ezzo says. So what’s a mama to do if this is her baby? Ezzo certainly doesn’t give answers, since it appears according to him these babies don’t exist. And she wouldn’t dare get advice from someone else, for fear it wouldn’t line up with Ezzo’s philosophies.


Chapter 7 talks more about your routine/schedule, and the eat/wake/sleep cycle he promotes. He reiterates the need to keep baby awake while feeding him. He’s also firm on the fact that you should determine the times at which everything happens.

On page 127, he tells you that guidance should start immediately, but you won’t be into the swing of a full, predictable routine until about 1 week. I guess that’s an upgrade from expecting strict routine to happen the moment baby’s born?

On page 31, he talks about letting your baby cry himself to sleep at naps (indicating a 15-20 minute cry time), and ridicules the ideas of it being harmful to baby physically and emotionally. In fact, he guarantees that if you don’t let baby cry it out, you’ll meet your goal of having a fussy baby. Maybe crying alone is harmful to baby, and maybe it isn’t. There is current research that I believe is a pretty good case for potential damaging effects of letting a baby cry extensively alone. It would help me see the other side if he’d point to some research supporting his viewpoint. Again, if an author has to fall to just making fun of the “other side” in place of supporting their own arguments, it feels rather weak. Actually, it reminds me a lot of what politicians do during debates when they don’t have answers that anyone’s going to like.

Later in the chapter (pages 131-133) he gives you his sleep plans. Not to totally pick him apart, but again, there’s no research, and to my knowledge he has no particular experience in this field. If he proved himself a little more trustworthy in some areas, I’d be more willing to take him at his word and believe that he has thoroughly researched what he’s talking about.


Chapter 8 delves into the touchy topic of crying. Again, even in a whole chapter devoted to baby’s crying, he never touches on what to do if your baby cries for one hour, or two hours, or even more. Since you aren’t allowed to go elsewhere for advice, I’m not sure what you can do. He does suggest mother evaluation, but it’s hard to figure out what he means by that, when he degrades maternal intuition, makes you swear to stand by his methods, and so on. I don’t think any mother could evaluate and follow intuition, while still adhering to BW principles.

On page 138, he talks about how tears eliminate stress. It’s not something I’ve personally researched, but I know for many adults when stressed, overwhelmed, or bedraggled, a good cry helps relieve some of it. So I could see that being true of babies as well. However, I would tend to question whether that stress should be there in the first place. Essentially, he’s instructing you to create stress by (for example) leaving the baby alone in a crib to fall asleep. Perhaps through crying and screaming the baby eliminates stress, but it’s stress that you placed on him. You won’t be able to keep your child from stress and difficult circumstances forever- and it wouldn’t be healthy to. But forcing them into a cold and dreary world so soon out of the womb seems a little overboard.

Also on page 138, he begins a discussion stating his opinion that crying has no long term effects. Considering this is a highly controversial subject, with some excellent research out there, it seems like he should use something to back his opinion. Instead, he shifts the spot light to the question of whether or not “blocking” a baby’s cry (keeping baby from crying through offering the breast at first cry, wearing in a sling a lot, etc.) is good for him. In his words, “The answer to this question also is no.”

He goes on to define what security and attachment are. According to him, an attachment parented baby isn’t attached, because their contentment/lack of crying is simply because they’re in close proximity to mother all day. He says these babies only cry less because this philosophy calls for the “suppression” of crying. As “proof” that these babies aren’t attached, he says this: “Try placing an “attached” baby in his own crib and in all probability there will be a great deal of crying.” (page 139)

This is getting into discussing independence, which he continues to discuss on page 140. I don’t think the question is whether or not the AP child is well attached to it’s mother, but whether or not it’s fully independent, and the obvious answer is no. A child with severe attachment issues is withdrawn from people, doesn’t interact well, lacks the ability to be affectionate, is insecure, and so forth. Ask adoptive parents, who deal all the time with children who have Reactive Attachment Disorder…kind of the “severe” end of attachment issues. When Ezzo says the child who can’t go in a crib alone isn’t attached, what he really means (based on true definitions of the words) is that this child isn’t totally independent yet.

Which brings us to a question- is independence healthy? If so, when? I think most of us would agree that eventually, independence is positive for everyone. After all, no one likes the horror picture of a 25 year old son’s first night out of his parent’s bed being his wedding night. And one expects a child to be independent to a certain degree. However, I don’t think this needs to be implemented all at once with a 1 week old. Independence can naturally occur through a process. Starting with being “attached” to someone all day and learning to trust them completely to meet all his needs…and gradually, with age, learning to do more things for himself, go about on his own, wait his turn, and so forth.

Ezzo states (page 140) how horrible it’ll be for the AP baby when suddenly a new baby comes along and they aren’t center of the universe, don’t get their demands met instantly, etc. I think he’s missing a big point here. Not always, but typically by the time another baby arrives, the older child would be not much younger than 15 months, and often 18 months-3 years. A 15 month old, or even a 12 month old, is extremely different from a newborn. I think it’s absolutely critical for a child to learn to wait, be patient, etc. I just don’t think that has to occur during week one. While some attachment parenters might encourage this total gratification, life-revolves-around-baby to an extreme extent, and through a person’s entire childhood, that’s not always, or even often the case. Meeting a baby’s needs doesn’t mean you’re conditioning them to, at 2, not be able to handle waiting in line, waiting their turn, doing their own chores, playing alone, etc.

On page 141, Ezzo uses an extreme case of inapplicable research. He references a research study done by Daniel Goleman. In essence, he did a study of children where he’d offer them a marshmallow, and tell them that if they waited until he returned, he’d give them a second one. He found that by the time these 4 year olds had reached high school, those who had waited for the second were generally more successful and confident. The research makes sense to me, and I don’t find fault with how it was conducted. However, Ezzo uses this to back his statement (pg 141) “Research has clearly demonstrated that immediate-gratification training negatively impacts a child’s ability to learn, affecting the skills of sitting, focusing, and concentrating. All are prerequisites for academic advancement. These are facts.” So, he finally incorporated some research. There’s just one problem: Ezzo is talking about babies, and Goleman was talking about 4 year olds. A four year old waiting for their snack, waiting for their turn to wash their hands, waiting to speak and not interrupting, and so forth is fine and dandy. It’s great. But this is totally different from an infant. Goleman’s study does nothing for proving what Ezzo has to say. Ezzo feels this claim is all the more backed by his own little “study”. They took 25 BW children of their choosing, did the same “test” and found they had very positive results. They have no idea how AP children, or children under any other parenting style, would’ve handled the situation. They just know that the kids they chose to test passed, and those kids were raised BW style.

While on the topic of facts, Ezzo goes on to say that “No evidence exists to prove that an immediate response to every cry teaches a baby about love. Likewise, there is no evidence proving that some crying fosters insecurity.” For the record, it’s also true that there’s nothing proving that crying is good for a child, or that a child left to cry consistently feels very secure in their world. And there are studies out there suggesting, though not necessarily proving, that crying alone a lot does emotionally harm a child. We aren’t talking just about “crying”- we’re talking about crying alone. Nor are we talking about one isolated incident, we’re talking about on a regular basis, till baby gets with the program.

Ezzo tells us that BW babies express themselves with happy sounds, coos, and so forth. I presume he means to say that AP babies don’t, which is entirely untrue. I’m sure there are BW babies who are happy. I’m even more sure there are AP babies who are happy and content. My daughter and many other babies who would follow more of an AP line than BW wake up with happy coos, talk and giggle throughout the day, and generally are very pleasant babies. They don’t cry just to manipulate their parents into bending over backward for them. If my daughter wants my attention, she makes “calling” sounds to get it- not just fussy, unpleasant noises.

Ezzo also states that demand-feeding parents are constantly anxious and guessing. This is certainly something I have never observed. From what I’ve seen, most APers know their babies well, and know how to respond correctly to their needs. Again, this seems like something he threw in just to highlight his views.

In “allowing” moms to let their babies cry a lot, Ezzo takes care to occasionally suggest low milk supply as a possible reason for excessive crying/hunger. This is good, and would hopefully help eliminate some of the FTT issues people have had with his methods. I would guess, though I’m not certain, that he’s added more cautions to his current book to help balance it against critics. Unfortunately, the methods he mentions for correction still aren’t things that would work for every woman.

On page 150-151, he talks about how dangerous it is to mother “emotionally”. He’s basically talking about instinct. Sometimes instinct and fast actions save lives. Assessing a situation and evaluating what needs to be done, as he suggests, isn’t bad. Most APers do this. You hear baby crying, so you go and see what the matter is, and act accordingly. I’m not even sure what’s so very different here, except that it allows him to say that mother intuition is negative and potentially harmful, whereas his method allows you to look, assess, and think- lining everything up to what Ezzo would say, and deciding accordingly. Why? Because, “In practice, emotional mothering can set the stage for child abuse. How? It creates a vicious cycle. A common characteristic found among abusive parents is a tendency to direct thoughtless, impassioned responses toward their innocent children. Too often those responses are fueled by sleepless nights and a child trained to be demanding.” (page 151) This seems rather radically out there- because a parent chooses to be a parent at night, as well, they’re going to be abusive parents? Because they have fast reaction time when they sense baby needs them, they’re on the fast track towards abuse? I see where he’s going and how he makes the connection, I just don’t see this actually happening in reality. It’s a nice hypothesis in view of the way he believes, but it’s just that- a random hypothesis.

On page 151, Ezzo continues to talk about the assessment deal. Basically he leads up the “fact” that APers always just feed their baby when he cries, rather than assessing what else might be wrong- dirty diaper, need to burp, etc. Throughout the next couple pages, and elsewhere in the book, he points out how ridiculous it is to offer the breast to a child who’s crying for a reason other than hunger. And while the breast is the last thing a baby needs who just wants their diaper changed, there is scientific evidence that the breast is a whole lot more than just food. A very larger player in it is “oxytocin”, a calming hormone. When this is released (during breastfeeding), it not only calms the baby, but relaxes the mother as well. So when your little one’s sick, or scared, or just “needy”, emotionally, what could be more perfect than offering the breast? Nursing typically doesn’t last very long at these sessions, and often baby hardly even gets any milk. It is purely a comfort suck, being soothed by the presence of mom, the release of oxytocin, and so on. This isn’t an issue of giving food to solve a problem- like giving a cookie to an upset or sick toddler. I can see how that might, on a continual basis, lead to obesity as Ezzo suggests. I can’t quite see that being the case of breastfeeding- because, again, it’s not food you’re offering, it’s comfort and relaxation. Oxtocin is also great for the mom who’s had a long day- and taking the break to feed your baby is likely to help you feel so much more relaxed and equipped for the task at hand.

There’s much, much more in this chapter. But for the sake of keeping this article a reasonable length, I’m not nearly touching on every issue I could. Again, the goal of this is to bring out some things for consideration, and most of all, to encourage moms to not blindly pick this up, and to do all their own extensive research from all different view points before deciding how to parent.


Chapters 9-11 are mostly repetitive chapters. For the sake of avoiding repetition on my part, I’ll just give a brief synopsis of each.

Chapter 9 discusses colic and reflux. He talks some about specific health issues with these babies and defines the terms (stating that most babies diagnoses with colic don’t really have colic), but mostly it’s a reiteration of how absolutely crucial BW is for these babies. On an up-note, he does concede that colic and gastroesophagel reflux disease (GERD) or gastroesophagel reflux (GER) won’t necessarily follow the book perfectly, though they should still be scheduled and so on. Unfortunately, this is only allowed for babies who’re diagnosed with one of these- and that, after going into detail about how most babies diagnosed with colic don’t actually have it and shouldn’t be treated as such.

Chapter 10 is all on dealing with multiples (twins, triplets, and so on). It’s written by a woman who had triplets and twins. Again, same information, just extreme stress on how utterly necessarily BW is with multiples. It’s also mentioned that you’ll need help, and shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it.

Chapter 11 is all about problem solving. Mostly just giving the same information he gives throughout the book in Q&A format.

Chapter 12 is entitled “parenting potpourri”, and is a wide range of parenting topics with a brief synopsis. He says all these issues are covered in greater form in Babywise’s sequel. I could delve into a lot of it, but it would be getting pretty far away from the point. Again, although we disagree on many of the topics, my biggest issue with that chapter comes in the form of his lack of research (pages 215-216). He uses a bad family-bed study to “prove” that the family bed is unsafe and should never be used. Ezzo claims that the study was comparing third world country co-sleeping death rates against US crib deaths. If this research exists, I would agree it’s faulty, however it does nothing to prove Ezzo’s point. It simply shows that someone on the other side of the fence didn’t orchestrate their research properly, and therefore can’t properly prove his argument. Whether or not this research even does exist, however, is up for debate- because Ezzo doesn’t reference any study or names.


In conclusion, I think that there are many moms who do a great job at mothering and can use BW successfully. However, the program itself, and the man behind it, is dangerous. I’ve tried to be careful about not using Ezzo’s critics as sources or the backbone for my argument, since so much of it is emotionally charged. However, I found this article ( ) to be interesting and insightful. Although I’ve learned not to take anything anyone says for “gospel”, he seems write very soundly and factually, without stooping to the name calling and hate mail that many tend to. As a previous employee of GFI, he confirmed many rumors or supposed factual things I’d seen about Ezzo and GFI before. Sadly, he also confirmed the conclusions I reached regarding birth trauma/attachment parenting, and other philosophies portrayed in the book- that Ezzo says what he wants, without bothering to always make sure it’s absolutely factual. The author, Frank York, is a freelance writer and author for Focus on the Family.

Take it all- the book, my review, the reviews of others- with a grain of salt. Most importantly, read with an open mind and follow up with all your own research. Consider the safety and physical/emotional well being of your child above what one random guy says. Till someone gives Ezzo a lesson in the basics of research and stats, it’s imperative that you take matters into your own hands.


  1. I found to be a better resource for evidence-based articles to use in decision making for babies and breastfeeding.

  2. Thanks, TulipGirl, that looks like such a fun site- I'll definitely be doing some reading there! :-)
    By the way, I'm curious, if you don't did you find our site? I've browsed around on yours quite a bit before (always enjoy what I read!), but didn't remember actually commenting.... Thanks for stopping in!