Why we tried Babywise

by Lesley on February 25, 2013 · 5 comments

in motherhood,the why we series

We’re a Baby Wise family. Kind of. There. I said it.

Today’s post is about why we tried Baby Wise when Anna was an infant, what we liked about it, what we didn’t, and why we’ll likely follow a similar scheduling technique with our next baby.

Some of you are thinking: “What’s the big deal? We did Baby Wise too.”

Others are thinking: “You’re terrible parents who starve your child.”

And others are wondering, “Um, what’s Baby Wise?” 

Let me first say, I’ve hesitated to write this post because anything related to parenting choices can easily become preachy, judgmental, cocky, arrogant, or all of the above. My intention is not to do any of those things but rather explain what Baby Wise is, why we chose to  try it, and how it’s worked (and not worked) for us.

Additionally, I’m leaving any and all faith based arguments for Baby Wise out of this summary. While there are faith based elements in the Baby Wise book, I don’t believe God advocates parents to one parenting technique over another when it comes to feeding, sleeping and loving on infants. As my friend Ashlee recently wrote, “At the end of the day, I’m going to do what is best for my family, and you are going to do what’s best for your family. One does not equal the other. It doesn’t mean one of us is right and one of us is wrong.”

What is Babywise? Babywise is a term coined by authors Gary Ezzo and Robert Buckman and comes from the book On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep. On a very basic level, Babywise is both a feeding and sleeping method. I like the way this blog summarizes it:

The Babywise method indicates you should feed on schedule every 2 1/2 to 4 hours (depending on age) rather than on demand after your baby is a week to 10 days old. It is also routine-based that indicates that you should eat-play-sleep, in that order, every time. This means that your baby wakes up, you feed him, your baby plays, then goes to sleep and repeat this all day long. The book outlines how long between feedings at various ages and indicates your baby should sleep through the night from an early age (around 8 to 12 weeks, for the most part).

The idea behind the eat-play-sleep routine is that your baby will know what to expect every day, providing predictability and security to both of you, will take a full feeding since he is not too sleepy falling asleep while eating, and will not associate feeding with sleeping (a common reason for baby sleep problems), and have a much better/happier awake period being both full and rested.

Why we tried Babywise: To be honest, all of my college girlfriends who had babies before me used  the eat-play-sleep schedule and had amazingly happy babies. When I spent time with these friends I noticed they were confident in their baby’s needs, and the babies weren’t as fussy or unpredictable as many other infants I’d been around. Happy babies, happy mamas? Sign me up!

Did we ever question Babywise? During our hospital’s labor and delivery class, the nurse instructor was VERY, VERY anti-Babywise. We left the class feeling judged about our decision to try this parenting technique but agreed that her warning meant we should do more research on the method. We found out why some people are critical, and called a few friends who advocated using this type of feeding/sleep training. What we discovered is that some die-hard-follow-the-rules parents did not pay attention to, or follow, their child’s actual needs for milk resulting in baby’s failure to thrive. We committed to not being those people.

Did Babywise work for us? In a short answer, yes, I think Babywise was a key part to us establishing a healthy routine with Anna when she was young that resulted in her being a healthy eater, and a great sleeper, at a young age. In a much longer answer, no, Baby Wise didn’t work perfectly…nor should it. My biggest complaint with Baby Wise is the author’s attitude and belief that all babies can and should follow identical patterns. I think the reason this book is both popular and hated is because it takes an absolute stance on the whens and hows of feeding and sleeping. I’d argue that other best-selling parenting books do the same. As a parent, it’s very important to read these books with an understanding that not all babies are the same.

What I’d recommend for people trying to implement Baby Wise, or any type of scheduling method with their children:

  • Read several different types of books and/or blogs on scheduling to get a varied opinion on how it can be done. Chronicles of a Babywise Mom is great because she has three very unique children, so one can see how the method varies per child.
  • Talk to other parents who have successfully used this type of feeding/sleeping schedule. I had many desperate late night phone calls with girlfriends where I said, “Babywise said do this, and this, and this, but it’s not working!” and they said, “Yeah, that didn’t work for us either. Here’s what we did instead…”
  • Know that scheduling is very easy for some babies, and takes longer for others.
  • Start early, but don’t start too early. Enjoy your newborn days without the stress of watching a clock every moment and never getting the sweet moments of rocking them to sleep.
  • When you start thinking, “I’m doing something wrong because she’s still not sleeping!” just know this: you’re not doing anything wrong. Babies are, well, babies. Sometimes they don’t sleep.

For more on this topic:

Babywise may not be right for your baby

The Great Baby Wise Update

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5 comments
Ashlee
Ashlee

Babywise worked with Everett initially, and I will absolutely try it with baby #2, probably sooner than we did with Ev. Without Babywise, I have no idea when he would have started sleeping through the night. We adhered to a 3 hour eat-play-sleep routine from 3 months-5 months, and it was great. Then around 5 months we switched to a eat-sleep-play routine because at the time, that's what Everett needed. He only napped on a full tummy and I wasn't willing to sacrifice good naps for the sake of sticking to Babywise. I guess I'm what you would call a wishy washy Babywise mom, but I'm okay with that. I hope you'll keep us (or at least, me) updated on how Babywise goes with baby #2!

Tim
Tim

We were more a Dr. Sears family, but not to the point he advocates of having a family-bed philosophy or even doing much of what he would recognize as attachment parenting. It's just that we are closer to that end of the spectrum than the cry it out end. I'm not sure where baby wise falls long the continuum, but it really doesn't matter. You know my wife's take on all this: do what you know is right for your family and ignore every one with an opinion. I'd add that ignoring opinions might even include ignoring this one! Cheers and blessings, Tim

Christina
Christina

I remember before Benjamin was born, I had read Baby Wise and after finishing it thought to myself, "Well of course we're going to do this. Sounds like a piece of cake". That was one of my many naive thoughts before becoming a mom! ;) We tried it when he turned 3 months and it was awful. He would scream and scream for hours and I was just so emotionally depleted (and feeling so guilty) that I decided to wait. Our issue wasn't him sleeping at night (that he was pretty good at from the get-go) but I wanted more of a consistent routine for us during the day in terms of napping and eating. I decided instead of letting him cry it out, I would rock him to sleep and that worked. When he turned 4 months I started trying to put him in the crib again instead of rocking him and something must have clicked (or maybe it was just the right age for him). Sometimes he cries a little bit, but for the most part he goes peacefully to sleep! I think a lot of the principles of the book are great, but like you said not all babies are the same and it's key to finding what works for you and your child. That's what ended up working for us! It took some experimenting, but as I'm realizing most things do in order to find out what works best! I really do like when other moms post about things like this though, and shares what works and what doesn't, because when something isn't working the first place I turn to is the web. It's there that I can read countless articles and blog posts trying to gain additional insight and much needed help!

Allison
Allison

One of the things I was most unprepared for when I became a mama was just how heated the "mommy wars" could be...even over issues like eating and sleeping! I expended so much energy second-guessing everything we tried (or chose not to try) that the first three months of Reece's life were probably more stressful and anxiety-ridden for me than they needed to be. We never really tried Babywise because, to be honest, it baffled me when I read it during pregnancy (on the most basic, practical level of "now when do we do what again?") and after Reece was born, we quickly realized that trying to follow a schedule that early was just NOT going to work for our baby. But I so appreciate your balanced and helpful perspective here. Thanks for sharing this today!

Katie
Katie

I am a babywise mom too....before I started doing it, I just didn't know exactly what he needed or when he should be put down for a nap. He sleeps so well now, after coming back from staying with you in September, that's when I really implemented it. The one thing that I never did do was the dream feed...I just couldn't chance the thought of him waking up, but he started sleeping through the night without it.. so I guess I just got lucky :)