March 31, 2006

Which Faux-Christian, Baby-Starving, Borderline-Abusive Parenting Cult Is Right For You?

New parent trying to do the right thing but tired of thinking for yourself?

Just wishing for a secretive, authoritarian, and uncredentialed charismatic leader to provide you with an elemental-fear-based, irrationally and incorrectly nostalgic, anarchy- rebellion-, and immorality-saturated worldview based on a woefully superficial and sensationalistic cable news-level-of-analysis, combined with a rigid, formulaic, isolation- and schedule-based methodology for instilling some good-old-fashioned respect and discipline into your whiny, self-centered, instant-gratification-craving, borderline immoral newborn, an approach which is unencumbered by any relationship with so-called "science" [including so-called sciences of "physiology" and "pediatrics"], and you want to make sure that nearly every medical professional group in the country AND every leading pediatrics expert has come out against it, warning it can starve and harm kids and might even contribute to some of the longterm mental and emotional problems its proponents claim to be preventing? [try diagramming that sentence, college boy -ed.]

Been praying for a parenting system that's as clear, unambiguous, controversy-free, and easily interpreted as The Bible or, barring that, that has a few tenuous scriptural references thrown in, at least in the editions distributed at megachurch, but which have been quietly removed from the "secular" editions because, frankly, that sells better?

Sure, we all are.

That's why Gary Ezzo created Babywise back in the early 1990's. Now over ten years later, with the exception of a few minor edits foisted on him by the evil secularists in the science and children's health communities, Babywise is still on track to achieving Ezzo's dream of "captur[ing] the hearts and minds of the next generation." Says Ezzo, "We gave the last [two generations] over to the ideological humanists; they have our tax dollar and the public classroom to bring about their agenda. We cannot collectively capture the minds of the next generation without educating the minds of today's parents." Amen.

AND I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire:

And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth.

And when that book's Amazon rankings did reach ten, the seventh trumpet did sound, and the earth did roll up like a scroll, and there was much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth among the false prophets in that day.
- Rev. 10:1-2, give or take

From 1998 in Salon's Mothers [sic] Who Think section: Getting Wise to "Babywise" [ via Philosopher Dad, who has links and a bit of experience with Babywisdom himself.]
On Becoming Babywise Amazon ranking today: #374. Yesterday: #325.


Um, I guess this must be that third dimension of the Smart-Ass graph I was looking for.

Or, thinking about the can of Whup-Ass you're fixin' to open, maybe you, like MetroDad, are truly a mommy blogger.

{Did I forget to mention that graph is on log-scale? For details, read my upcoming book, "Mommy Crusades" -ed.]

I get so sick of people slamming on BabyWise. I must admit I didn't know it was written by a Christian fundamentalist when I read it - I only discovered that when I mentioned the book subsequently to some other people who first stared at me in horror and then politely tried to explain the controversy. (A very good friend of mine gave it to me and she did not know of the controversy either). The people who claim it's clock based feeding are just as closed minded as they say Ezzo is - and they clearly haven't read the book. He specifically says don't watch the clock. You use a clock as guide, but most importantly the parent is supposed to watch for cues from the baby. My take away from the book was to impose order - the particular order was: eat, play, sleep. Except in the middle of the night - eat then sleep. And no snacking so you don't have to feed a bazillion times in each session. (which means keep the baby awake for a full feeding and try and keep the baby awake after). But if you think the baby needs to eat again in a cycle - feed the damn baby.

Additionally, he's pretty clear that you don't start any of this during the first 2 weeks - so how someone could be going "by the book" and have a dehydrated, depressed baby in 2 weeks just means that they didn't read the book very closely.

Generally, people should lay off Ezzo and instead work on educating parents - or teaching them how to read.

(Note, my baby did not sleep through the night at the promised 8-12 weeks - but of course I was flexible and followed my own baby's needs and patterns - as the book tells you to do. My baby slept through the night consistently probably at 5 months - but he was 1 month early - so really 4 months - and he barely weighed 10 pounds then. All of these things are factors the book tells you to take into account, if you actually read it... The problem is that people are unable to adapt for the fact that their child is unique. So maybe the problem is stupid parents. But raging against the author is not very helpful if that is the case. Nor is the seemingly paternalistic attitude of those who do so.)

"feed the damn baby" - oof: I'm skeptical about about the article's claim that the Babywise method was "disguised child-hate." But the previous commenter's line resonated that sentiment.

From the article: "parents spoke of their sincere desire to produce 'obedient,' 'respectful' children. Rarely did these parents mention a hope to produce emotionally healthy adults." Just who is supposed to benefit from raising a child? I'd say the child, but apparently not everyone agrees.

The article & daddytypes aren't waging an ad hominem attack on Ezzo. It's a much needed warning against a dangerous message.

[I'll come clean and say I had no knowledge of Babywise at all before reading about it on the sites I and P'Dad linked to. But there was enough to tell me that the Parent-Directed Feeding system is taken by plenty of parents as gospel--and that's not a pun--and that strict structure faithful following of a schedule is the answer to their parenting woes. The unequivocal criticisms of professionals I DO trust and HAVE read and incorporated in my own parenting carry weight with me, especially in the face of a lack of scientific evidence (or worse, misleading claims of scientific evidence that doesn't exist or that actually refutes the claim) AND in the face of nearly a decade of seriously disturbing, consistent reports of questionable behavior by the author/expert. Should I not question Ezzo's credibility in the face of these things? Just as I raise an eyebrow re. Brazelton's potty training advice because I know he consults for Pampers?

In fact, R., the system you describe of routines and paying attention to a kid's signals sounds an awful lot like Brazelton's recommendations, and yet he's one of the strongest critics of Ezzo. And Sears has plenty of followers who turn into annoying AP-preaching zealots, too, so the issue is not just "Christian" or "discipline" or "structure," but parental rigidity and swallowing doctrinaire advice whole. -ed.]

Lurking mom here. My baby is now 13 months. At about 1 month, I read through Babywise and Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, and they made sense to me back then. All I really gleaned from them is the eat-play-sleep cycle, and (from Baby Whisperer) a little more insight into a crying baby and how to try and read their cues (though I never found it all that helpful). I mostly ignored the Ferberizing parts of the books. After about a week or two, I didn't read them again, and have never noticed what Babywise says about discipline.

Until yesterday (when I saw reference to it on another site), I had no idea there was such a blazing controversy. I tried to generally follow the eat, play, sleep pattern, because that pattern seems to make sense. My baby now does not require nursing (or a bottle) to take a nap or go to sleep at night, which I think is generally a good thing.

As for timing, my baby (before reading Babywise) had breastfeeding issues, and I was instructed by my pediatrician and 2 lactation consultants to feed her every 3 hours, no matter what, which we did for months until the breastfeeding problems were resolved. I would have gone crazy had I been feeding her every 2 hours or less for 4 or 5 months; every 3 hours is hard enough as it is.

As the previous poster mentioned, I took the parts of Babywise that made sense to me, and used those. My particular baby seemed to enjoy her eat, play, sleep routine. Her naps were not the long naps Ezzo thinks you should shoot for, usually only 45 minutes. So I had to adjust my thinking to fit my child. Fancy that!

In doing more looking around (on the web) since hearing about the controversy, I've been trying to figure out if the eat-play-sleep cycle is what people think is horrible just in general, or if it's the specific, rigid application of it that people don't like. So far I haven't seen a clear take on that. Anyone care to enlighten me?

It doesn't appear I've caused any permanent damage to my child -- even though it's ridiculous, that thought has crossed my brain a few fleeting times since yesterday. But if I have another child, should I really avoid this approach entirely?

Please, someone just tell me what to do. (joking! joking!)

{granted, the salon articles are 8 years old. So it's like reruns: if you haven't seen them, they're new to you. -ed.]

I'd bet that part of the problem is that new parents are so worried about screwing up that they will latch onto any system that seems to offer a promise of keeping some modicum of control and/or sanity. That probably goes for the Babywise/AP/Happiest Baby/whatever-gets-you-through-the-night, just about any of us who are just trying to figure out what the heck we're doing.

It's funny. Just last week a friend with a 5 month old was pushing Babywise on me. I'm 18 weeks pregnant, so people are full of advice all the time. The interesting thing about the friend pushing Babywise was that she has generally been "If you have any questions" but with Babywise, she was like, "I'll buy you the book". I had never heard about it before but she did say that her pediatrician doesn't like it, which kind of sent red flags up for me. The crazy thing is, she swears by it. Her baby sleeps through the night and is on a schedule that works for them. So, I dunno.

An earlier commenter mentioned that Ezzo says specifically not to watch the clock. That would be a confusing comment to encounter if you are not familiar with the text. If you've studied the book carefully, you know it's not the whole story.

Ezzo specifically says not to watch the clock-- that is true--but in the next breath gives lots of instructions that are based on time-mediated feeding intervals. He specifically says to be flexible. But he specifically also says to not be too flexible--particularly in the early weeks. (p. 109, BW 2001) Ezzo often presents mutually exclusive advice, so parents often seem to know inherently which side to discuss in public, and which side to take to the bank, in order to be sure they get the promised sleep-through-the-night results.

In fact, Ezzo takes this confusing approach to language into other interactions as well. For example, he portrays himself as having maintained a quiet, godly dignity in the face of all the criticism his book has evoked, but issues lengthy response after lengthy response after lengthy response, filled with scathing ad hominem attacks on those who dare to suggest that his books are less than perfect.

With Ezzo you really do have to see whether the overall message and actions match the words.

Any book that promotes discipline to infants, especially physical pain ("squeeze or swat the hand"), is bullshit. It takes 5 minutes poking around on Ezzo's ridiculous website,, to realize he's a nut job.

My sister in law gave me Babywise when I was pregnant saying it was the best thing ever. Since I never listen to her advice, I never read it until my twins were about a year old and I was reading a bunch of books on getting them to sleep better. When I read it I was completely horrifed and promptly disregarded it. Several months later I became aware of all the controversy. My SIL actually applied ice cubes to her infant daughter's feet to wake her up to eat, unbelieveable. I told her if she ever came near my boys with an ice cube, she'd pull back a bloody stump.

[if only I could be a fly on the wall at your family's Thanksgiving dinners... -ed.]

The book is no different from Baby Whisperer, but people don't get all up in arms about Baby Whisperer. Who cares about the backstory on the authors when you are just looking for ANYTHING to help you figure out those first months. Like the other posters, I was able to realize that Babywise was a little unrealistic, but the eat play sleep thing made sense, and got me off of breastfeeding at every whimper (therefore helping me regain my sanity.) My baby sleeps 12 hours a night and is happy and self-confident. I can put her down without her getting hysterical. This makes me happy which makes me a more relaxed and happy mom. I have seen so many people who looked to Sears as their parenting god end up cursing him when they were stuck with a one year old in their bed, and then have to do Ferber. He's the unrealistic one if you ask me.

Read more about Ezzo at

I personally think that book is evil and just flat out bad for babies.

Don't knock the ice cubes, or at least the idea behind it. My girl was a somewhat reluctant nurser and slow to gain weight, and therefore had to be woken up (woken? is that a word) to eat every 3 hours. The Doctor and lactation consultant recommended (1) stripping her near naked (in wintertime) and (2) ice cubes. We chose (1). Again, this was before reading Babywise.

Look, I'm sure that there are plenty of bad/stupid parenting books out there, but the real problem with 'Babywise' is that because many churches recommend it strongly (due to the biblical reasoning) faithful parents will stick with the system regardless of any dangers it may pose to thier infants. Even when their children don't gain sufficient weight, or even start to lose weight, the parents will avoid telling the peadiatrician about the system they're using... If the pastor said this is the way to do it, this is the way they'll do it...

Been there, done that, got the lowered milk supply and failure to thrive baby. . .

Sure, blame the mother. But I was following the materials as intended and as written. As were the other mothers I've known who have used and regretted using Babywise.

Foundationally, the Babywise materials have faulty information about breastfeeding, infant growth and development, and sleeping.

Lots of info is available at these sites:
TulipGirl on Ezzo

The probalem with all "parenting" books is the people who read them, who are not confident enough to rely on their own common sense and realize, if their baby is screaming in hunger they need to feed it, etc.
Having read babywise, I think the routine they prescribe (which is the same as babywhisper's, but she says is with an english accent, so therefore it is ok in the eyes of most people) is very realistic and having done the feed, awake/ playtime down while awake thing and had it work well for us. I am not a babywearer and don't cosleep (after having almost smothered my first child the first time he slept in my bed (how are you supposed to sleep without pillows or blankets?), I did find the tone condescending and offensive and I am not even in the AP camp.
I think you need read several books, talk to different poeple and do what works for you and your children. If you want to be your childs only lovey, good for you, I however like to go out occassionaly with my spouse and have other trusted people care for my child with out stress.

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