Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Baby Book Report - Babywise

If there's one thing that pregnancy prepares you for in early days of having a new baby, it's the idea of getting up at night.  I don't think I've slept through an entire night since I got pregnant.  Good nights involve only a trip or two to the bathroom.  Bad nights find me standing over the medicine box in a dark kitchen, hoping that whatever I just chewed up was in fact an antacid.  But even though worst nights fortunately don't yet involve another human being with jet engine powered lungs screaming that he NEEDS something RIGHT NOW.

The authors of Babywise claim that it doesn't have to be that way and that using the methods described in their book will help you help your baby sleep through the night (or larger chunks of the night) at an earlier age.  Most of the advice centers around establishing a feeding schedule.  New babies should be fed every 2.5 hours (from the start of one feeding to the start of the next) and should not be spaced more than 3 hours apart.  Mothers should do whatever they need to (change diaper, unwrap the baby so he's cooler) to keep him awake for a full feeding.  Then the baby stays awake a bit, goes to sleep, and the cycle repeats.  As the baby moves toward the 8 - 9 week mark, he can start to sleep for longer periods during the night without waking to feed.

Problems - according to the authors - arise when babies eat a little then sleep, then eat a little then sleep so baby never really gets full and Mom is a 24-hour milk machine who never gets a break.  They also occur when every cry for comfort (unrelated to hunger) are met with an offer of milk.

While all of the advice in the book seems reasonable, I couldn't help but dislike reading it.  There seemed to be a not-so-subtle undertone that if the baby doesn't take to a schedule perfectly, it is because the mother is doing something wrong.  She's either feeding the baby too much or not enough or holding the baby too much or not enough.  There's no room for differences in a baby's needs or temperament.  If the baby cries during the night after 8 or 9 weeks it's because you are a bad mother, which is not super encouraging.

So while I'm going to try to work toward getting our baby on a schedule before I get back to work, I think trying to live and die by the recommendations in this book are a recipe for crazy-making.  I'm glad I read it, but I wouldn't recommend it to a friend - especially not a friend dealing with a baby who doesn't want to go to sleep.



  1. Yeah. . . and while it doesn't come out in Babywise (published for a secular audience), the theological underpinnings of the author's "Christian" materials leaves a lot to be desired. Similarly, many of the claims that are made by the author are not consistent with the current research on infant growth, development and sleep.

    Just mentioning because, well. . . theology and geometry. . . thought you'd be interested.


  2. Interesting. I didn't realize he also wrote for a Christian audience, although there were a few lines in the book that made me think that might be true. I'm still in the "read everything you can get your hands on" phase and this was recommended to me by a friend so I thought I'd give it a whirl, but I'm not totally surprised that it's not consistent with current research.

    Thanks for your comments!

  3. I think all you need to know about parenting is included in this 3 minute rap video:

  4. I totally agree with the attitude in the book, it is somewhat annoying and STILL gets me anxious when I read it...even though I follow the book's general recommendations. I can say that I have had success with the principles you outlined in your post: feed 2.5 to 3 hours during the day the first 8 weeks, even if that means waking up your baby (which I had to do oftentimes). I had both girls sleeping through the night (which means one 6-hour nighttime stretch, in my book) around 8-9 weeks. I have friends who did the "feed the baby whenever they cry" method, and they are still nursing their 11-month-old every 2 hours. That wasn't for me. It works for them though, so more power to them. Another point: each baby doesn't follow the advice perfectly. Some principles worked better than others, I won't get into details because this comment is already too long. But, don't stress too much, try different ideas and do what works best and what feels right for you! :-)