Saturday, August 28, 2010

Babywise: A Parent's Wish Come True or a Baby's Foe? Part 3, Meddling with Mommy's Mind

Note: This is the third installment in a series on a controversial topic. In no way do I seek to offend or attack the well-meaning, loving parents who use Gary Ezzo's materials. Instead, it is Ezzo's philosophy and methods that I criticize. This series will be presented as a project for Dallas Seminary's wives training program.

I politely request that comments be limited to the issues raised in this post only. Of course, tie-ins with my last post, "Problems Theological," are welcome, too. It is important that I complete my argument before additional issues are raised by my readers.

Quotations and paraphrases from the 2006 edition of Babywise are noted with just a page number instead of a full parenthetical citation.

* * *

The 2006 edition of On Becoming Babywise boasts "Over 2 Million [GFI] Books in Print" (front cover). What makes Gary Ezzo's methods so popular? Certainly a book that promises to get baby into a predictable routine and sleeping through the night quickly is appealing. But I believe there is another factor getting parents "hooked" on Babywise: Ezzo's manipulation of mothers (and fathers, too!) to convince them that his plan is necessary and to keep them committed to it. Babywise is dangerous due to its possible psychological effects on parents.*

Babywise is dangerous because Ezzo psychologically manipulates parents by creating mistrust of the medical community. His own parent-directed feeding (PDF) program, which strives to feed baby at regular intervals based on both baby's hunger and a parent's determination of true need and that lets baby cry-it-out if he lacks the ability to fall asleep unassisted or if he continues to wake for middle-of-the-night feedings after two months, conflicts with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations. To convince parents that the advice of medical professionals is flawed, Ezzo first traces demand feeding back to roots in psychology, which many Christian readers mistrust already. Even if demand feeding stems from psychology (the feeding practices of other cultures suggest otherwise), its roots do not make the practice invalid. Ezzo ignores the fact that the study of lactation is still a developing science^ and that much research supports demand feeding as the most healthy breastfeeding philosophy.

In addition, Ezzo creates suspicion through his choice of definition. Rather than using an accurate definition of demand feeding, Ezzo erroneously equates demand feeding with attachment parenting. He defines demand feeding through a fictional character, Allicin: "'I nursed my babies whenever they cried or began to fuss. On average, I was told that mothering attachment required me to nurse every two hours around the clock for the first six weeks'" (33). At least Ezzo is honest about his choice of definition: "For the purpose of this book and because of its extreme nature, Allicin's definition of attachment parenting will be used when referring to demand-feeding rather than the other . . . moderate forms described by [two other fictional characters]" (33). Childbirth educator Patty Donohue-Carey states, when referring to "Allicin's" definition, that "none of the above anecdotes reflect[s] the standard definition of demand feeding by medical and lactation experts" (1999, 23)** Finally, about thirty pages later, Ezzo does give an appropriate definition of demand feeding: "feed[ing] . . . babies every two or three hours based on the baby's hunger cues: putting fist toward mouth, making sucking motions, whimpering. (Crying is a late signal of hunger)" (65). However, he continues throughout the book to mischaracterize demand feeding.

By equating demand feeding with attachment parenting, a parenting philosophy that may be too "child-centered" to mesh with many Christian parents' religious beliefs, Ezzo leads parents to view a doctor's or lactation consultant's advice with suspicion. He tell parents that
as a result of their training, members of the lactation industry are heavily biased in favor of the attachment parenting theories. PDF is a major paradigm shift for the industry and not all consultants have a working understanding of the associated breast-feeding benefits. . . . Do not be surprised if the concept of putting a nursing infant on a "flexible routine" is questioned (100-01).
Additionally he states
If you are getting more parenting philosophy from the consultant than breastfeeding mechanics, or if you are told to feed your baby every hour, carry him in a sling, or anything else sounding extreme, consider looking elsewhere for help.

If you come across a consultant offering advice such as above share her name with other moms as a warning, especially Babywise moms. . . .

If you hear something that does not sound right or sounds extreme, consider getting a second opinion, keeping in mind what is normal for attachment-parenting babies is not necessarily normal for PDF babies (101).
Again he promotes suspicion of lactation consultants on the next page:
Consider taking a breast-feeding class at your local hospital or renting a how-to video. You can attend a class and learn proper techniques of breastfeeding without accepting the instructor's personal parenting philosophies that sometimes accompany such classes (102).
Note that he limits the acceptable advice from a lactation consultant to "mechanics" and "proper techniques." Other advice is viewed as "parenting philosophy," not sound medical advice supported by research. One Christian lactation consultant reported that a PDF mother told her, "On one side I have God . . . on the other, you" ("Specific Examples", 4). Clearly, Ezzo succeeded in creating suspicion and mistrust in this mom.

The mistrust created by Ezzo is necessary to ensure parents follow his program. The average parent would follow a pediatrician's or lactation consultant's advice on how to keep a child healthy. But by insinuating that lactation consultants are steeped in psychology and attachment parenting and are leading them astray, he has parents in his pocket. Donohue-Carey agrees: "They [Ezzo and Bucknam] discredit a parenting concept by defining it as an extreme that is then decried as invalid and/or harmful. . . . In order to champion Parent-Directed Feeding, demand feeding must first be disparaged because it is supported by the vast weight of professional opinion" (1999, 24). Only through this psychological manipulation can Ezzo convince parents to follow him instead of medical professionals.

Babywise is dangerous for a second psychological effect, the fear Ezzo creates. According to Ezzo, the consequences of not following his PDF method and choosing demand feeding instead are devastating. Babywise is presented as the morally correct choice, "a mind-set for responsible parenthood" (17). Supposedly, "much more is happening during feeding time than just filling up a little tummy. How you choose to feed your baby will have a profound effect on your child's . . . basic disposition" (30) and "a feeding philosophy represents more than just passing on nourishment to a baby; it represents a complex value system" (43). Of course every parent wants to act responsibly toward his child and to pass on proper values, but these comments lead parents to fear permanent damage to their child's character if they do not follow Babywise. Ezzo asks,
Is the parent's job simply to respond to an infant's demands? When then, would this concept switch over to allow the parents to direct the child? Toddler years? Preteen or teen years? Hardly. By then you've missed the boat, and your child sails full speed ahead oblivious to fundamental skills like falling comfortably asleep alone. That's only the beginning (46).
What fear this statement rouses! Is demand feeding and responding to baby's cries equal to allowing the child control? No! Many (most?) mothers who demand-feed in infancy are committed to guiding their children and disciplining them when age-appropriate. Hasn't every mom had an experience, usually once baby starts crawling, when she knows that baby understands "no"? This is the moment mom decides who will take control. Will she let baby reach for the dog's tail or the neatly stacked pile of papers? Or will she assert her own authority? Responding to a child's need for food and comfort poses no threat to parental authority. Plenty of opportunities will come in the future for junior to be shown his place in the family hierarchy.

Fears about a child's character development are not the only ones Ezzo creates. He also presents detrimental physical and sleep-related problems that will result from demand feeding. He claims that "from birth onward, infant hunger patterns will either become stable and regular or move towards [sic] inconsistency. When infants are fed on the PDF plan, their hunger patterns stabilize . . . . This happens only where feeding periods are routine" (47-48). When speaking of sleep-training the infant, he uses this scenario:
Imagine your spouse getting no more than three hours sleep at a stretch for one week. . . . Certainly the negative effects on his or her mature central nervous system are widely known. You would not be surprised to observe your partner becoming irritable and weak, having difficulty concentrating, perhaps experiencing partial neurologic shutdown. This is just the beginning. Now consider an infant whose central nervous system is still developing. Even more is at stake (55).
And this next statement alone is enough to make a mother reject demand feeding out of hand:
Chelsea, our [fictional] PDF baby, will establish healthy and continuous nighttime sleep sometime between the seventh and ninth week. She will probably be sleeping ten hours a night by week twelve. Her [fictional demand-fed cousin] will still be waking two or three times a night to snack. To her mother's dismay, this pattern is apt to continue for two very long years (44).
I can hear a parent's thoughts after reading these unsubstantiated^^ claims: It's my job to regulate my baby's metabolism. Oh, the damage that will occur to his nervous system if I don't take control and let him cry himself to sleep, no matter the duration of crying! I won't get a full night's sleep for how long if I demand-feed? The picture of an infant Ezzo presents is far from a "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14 AV) creation of God. Without sarcasm, I ask, "Did God mess up when he sent a helpless infant to a set of young parents without sending an accompanying 'owner's manual'?" Far from it! Babies are not so delicate as this. Pediatrician Matthew Aney cites the AAP's Caring for Your Baby and Young Child (CYB) to contradict Ezzo. (I quote Aney at length and have bolded particularly helpful statements.)
CYB states, “By three months, most (but not all) infants consistently sleep through the night (seven or eight hours without waking)” (CYB p. 187). The reasons that babies at this age are able to sleep through the night are given: “By two months your baby will be more alert and social, and will spend more time awake during the day. This will make her a little more tired during the dark, quiet hours when no one is on hand to entertain her. Meanwhile, her stomach capacity will be growing, so that she needs less frequent feedings; as a result she may start skipping one middle-of-the-night feeding and sleep from around 10:00 P.M. through to daylight” (CYB p. 187). Also, “As she gets older and her stomach grows, your baby will be able to go longer between feedings. In fact, you’ll be encouraged to know that more than 90 percent of babies sleep through the night (six to eight hours without waking) by three months. Most infants are able to last this long between feedings when they reach 12 or 13 pounds, so if yours is a very large baby, she may begin sleeping through the night even earlier than three months” (CYB p. 38). For the babies that do not sleep through the night on their own by this age, CYB does offer advice that the parent can do, but this ability of the baby sleeping through the night does not wholly depend on what the parent does. “If your child does not start sleeping through the night by three months, you may need to give her some encouragement by keeping her awake longer in the afternoon and early evening. . . . Increase the amount of her feeding right before bed” (CYB p. 187) (2001, 9).
What reassuring information! Clearly, as baby grows she tends toward predictability, not instability as Ezzo proposes. Mom and Dad need not control her eating times or leave her sobbing in her crib for her to learn to sleep through the night. Perhaps even the successes Ezzo attributes to the routine and structure of PDF are really the result of baby's natural propensity to settle into a routine. As the typical baby matures physically, she will establish routines on her own. There is simply no reason to fear otherwise.

Other fears implanted in parents' minds regard possible obesity due to demand feeding (140) and creating a fussy disposition in baby: "If you want a fussy baby, never let him cry, and hold, rock, and feed him as soon as he starts to fuss. We guarantee that you will achieve your goal" (131). On this point, Dr. Aney's comments are again reassuring: "The advice in CYB is to respond promptly to the cry, and the result is that baby cries less and the baby is not spoiled" (2001, 8). What to Expect the First Year echoes and adds to Aney's statement:

Not sparing the comfort won't spoil the baby, at least not until she's at least six months old. In fact, studies show pouring on the comfort now--by picking her up within a couple minutes whenever she cries and catering to her needs--not only won't turn out a spoiled brat, it will turn out a happy, more self-reliant child who in the long run will cry less and demand less attention. She will also have a closer attachment to you . . . and be more trusting [emphasis mine] (Eisenberg, Murkoff, and Hathaway, 1996, 130-31).
The unwarranted claims of Ezzo create much fear and anxiety in parents--fear that is completely unnecessary.

A third potential psychological effect of Babywise is an undermining of a mother's commitment to breastfeeding. Make no mistake, Ezzo does make several statements about the superiority of breast milk; however, he seems to want mothers comfortable with the possibility of bottle feeding. "Bottle-feeding is not a twentieth-century discovery," he writes, "but a practice in existence for thousands of years" (80). In the same chapter he says, "One advantage of bottle-feeding is it allows others to participate. Feeding time for dad is just as special for him as for mom. Fathers should not be denied this opportunity to nurture" (81). Even his descriptions of the benefits of breast milk downplay its importance:
We know the nutritional and health disparity between breast milk and formula over the first twelve weeks of baby's life is substantial. By six months of age, this disparity remains. However, it is to a lesser degree than in the first twelve weeks. Between six and nine months, the difference between what is best and what is good continues to narrow. This is partly due to the fact that other food sources are now introduced in your baby's diet. Between nine and twelve months, the nutritional value of breast milk drops and food supplements are usually needed. Going beyond a year in our society is done more out of a preference for nursing than an absolute nutritional need. Nonetheless, the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages mothers to breastfeed at least a year [emphasis mine] (79-80).
Given the universal acceptance that breast milk is best, why would Ezzo undermine its importance? I believe the answer lies in this statement: "Are you willing to risk a challenge to long term breast-feeding for the benefits gained with the order and structure derived from routine feedings? While most moms can satisfy both with Babywise, we recognize that not all moms can because in parenting no philosophy comes without trade-offs" (64).Though Ezzo has never conceded that his program has caused insufficient milk production and failure-to-thrive, as observed by many medical professionals who have cared for babies fed according to Babywise, this statement insinuates that the plan may cause some difficulty in the continuation of breastfeeding. Perhaps Ezzo wants mothers comfortable with bottle feeding so that they do not think much about the cause of their difficulty and remain loyal to the program. True, Ezzo does continue his statement with "it is okay to deviate from either your routine or breast-feeding philosophy to accomplish whichever priority is most important to you," but the likelihood of a mother choosing continued breastfeeding over Ezzo's plan after the frightening claims he makes (my previous point) seems small. Since Ezzo has undermined the mother's commitment, she is now perfectly comfortable switching to bottle feeding because, after all, generations have bottle-fed and the benefits of breast milk quickly decrease. I suspect many mothers are not aware of the subtle psychological de-conditioning that Ezzo is performing.

The final psychological danger I perceive with Babywise is that its advice may distance a mother emotionally from her baby. Even the terminology Ezzo uses to describe his program, "infant management" (16), suggests emotional distance. Yes, he does tell parents to love, nurture, and show affection; but to present a plan of management connotes control and fitting a child into a predesigned mold instead of allowing him to develop more naturally as an individual.

What is far more serious than Ezzo's management concept is his view of maternal instinct or mother's intuition. In 1989, Ezzo wrote, "Mothers do not possess special instincts--there is no need for it [sic] since God created us as rational beings" (1989, 48). Though the statement is not repeated in the 2006 Babywise, he does instruct parents to "listen, think, and then take action [emphasis mine]" (153) and to "determine when you should intervene and when you need to hold back. . . . It is called parental assessment [emphasis mine]" (150). The focus is on reason, thus leading me to infer that he still holds to his 1989 belief. I agree that mothers should evaluate their babies' cries. Once mom has figured out baby's complex communication system, she can tell a true "I need you" or "I'm scared" cry from an "I'm angry that it's naptime because I want to stay in my exersaucer" cry. But denying that maternal instinct exists has no biblical basis and may cause a mother to suppress her emotions when, in actuality, she may need to heed them.

Ezzo is correct that God created man as a rational being. Our reason separates us from the animals, but so does emotion, itself a gift from God. In fact, God often conveys his emotions toward mankind in maternal language. Nowhere in the Bible is the idea of maternal instinct denied; interestingly, some biblical stories demonstrate its existence. Think of Moses' mother: is putting an infant in a basket, in a river, with only his young sister to watch out for him rational? I think she was motivated, not by reason, but by emotion and maternal instinct. What about the two women Solomon encountered, both claiming to be the mother of one child? The real mother, rather than presenting a well-reasoned argument to prove her maternity simply surrendered her parental rights to save the baby's life. What led her to this split-second decision? Listening, thinking, and then taking action? No. Her maternal instinct which valued the child's life over her own happiness.

What can happen if a woman suppresses her mother's intuition? She will follow Ezzo's advice to a tee, particularly in regard to baby's crying. Ezzo writes, "There may be a brief period of fussing or crying when you put the baby down for a nap. Don't be deterred from doing what is best for the child. Some crying is a normal part of a baby's day and some babies will cry a few minutes in the process of settling themselves to sleep" (131). Many babies do fit this description, but others will not stop crying after a few minutes but will continue, if left alone, for a long time. One Babywise mom told me that when she first implemented Ezzo's sleep-training advice, her son cried for over an hour before finally falling asleep. Ezzo offers no time limit after which mother should get baby and rock him to sleep: "There is no precise time limitation for normal periods of crying" (150). He does later advise,
In the event that you have listened, waited, and determined that the crying is not subsiding, gather more information by checking on the baby. . . . There will be times when your assessment calls for picking up and holding the baby. You simply may need to reassure the child that everything is all right. . . . Your assessment may produce many options" (152).
But, since Ezzo does not limit crying's duration, after how much time can one make the determination that the cry isn't subsiding? What is the parent to do if comforting the baby for a few minutes doesn't solve the problem and he returns to crying once put down again? Since Ezzo has indicated that too much holding and responding to cries will make baby fussy, wouldn't it seem Ezzo expects parents to let the baby keep crying? I think many mothers probably cast aside Ezzo's advice in these situations and give in to maternal instinct, but others do not. Dr. Aney reports the following case:
Two mothers conversed on the internet about desensitization to their children’s needs while on the Ezzo program. One said when her second child was about six months old, she noticed she “did not have any feelings of empathy towards my children” and became very “irritated with their needs.” Another responded that she, too, had noticed a lack of bondedness with her son at around four to five months. The first mother responded, “I am ashamed to say that I could let them cry for over an hour without giving it a second thought. Eventually they did stop, and go back to sleep—or sometimes just lay down with a glazed look on their faces.” These two women had eventually decided this was wrong, and were making efforts to be more responsive to their children ("Specific Examples," 2).
This is not an isolated case. Similar stories abound, and I refer my readers to ezzo.info's "Voices of Experience" section for more real-life examples.

A baby's cry, especially for an extended period, is traumatic for a mother. The only way she can deal with the emotional stress it causes, other than responding to the infant, is to suppress her emotions and distance herself from the child, as the mothers in the above example did. How else could a mother follow Ezzo's 1995 advice regarding a two-week-old baby who falls asleep during a feeding? "If your daughter doesn't eat at one feeding, then make her wait until the next one. That will probably only happen once. Don't feed her between routine mealtimes; otherwise, you are teaching her to snack, not eat" (Ezzo, 1995, 180). Ignoring her maternal instincts harms a mother by robbing her of the joy of motherhood and stripping her of a unique characteristic of womanhood. In turn, her baby is harmed as well. The Christian Research Institute's 1998 article on GFI told the following heartbreaking story:
Katherine West, a registered nurse and lactation consultant who has been working with GFI followers for 10 years, acknowledged that although many of the children turn out well, depression is not unusual. She said of a baby on the Ezzos' program who was not gaining weight well: "I'll lay dollars to donuts this baby is clinically depressed and somewhat withdrawn (has already learned that the world does not come when needed, so no longer cries when there are needs) yes? I've seen it too many times" (Terner and Miller, 1998, 8).
Could it be that this child's mother, by following Ezzo's advice, had suppressed her maternal instinct? Never is the benefit of a baby who sleeps through the night worth such risk.

Babywise is harmful to parents for its potential to create mistrust and fear, to desensitize a mother to the importance of breastfeeding, and to break down the emotional bond between mother and baby. Why Gary Ezzo feels so strongly about his medically unsupported*** program that he psychologically manipulates his readers I cannot presume to know. The fact is, this manipulation is often successful and has harmed many. To conclude this post, I want to share a personal story, one that is not easy to admit to but that I hope will help other mothers.

I've shared in this series my exposure to and rejection of Babywise and my decision to stick to doctor's orders by demand feeding my daughter. In truth, forgetting Babywise did not prove easy. What I'd read had infiltrated my mind and implanted a quickly spreading virus of anxiety. What if the doctors, nurses, and lactation consultants are promoting an agenda?Maybe Ashley's frequent hunger cues are her way of manipulating me. What if it really is too late to take control later? I sometimes thought. We'd try putting Ash to bed when she was sleepy yet still awake, as nearly all the books and magazines suggest; but she'd only cry and, instead of settling down a few minutes later, would be crying louder and harder and was roused to full wakefulness. My maternal instinct told me that this baby needed my help to fall asleep for now, and my mom promised me that Ashley would learn to self-soothe. But maybe, just maybe, Mom is wrong, the book whispered. Perhaps Ashley's just asserting her self-will and you're enabling her in her rebellion.

One day, when Ashley was seven weeks old, my fears reached their climax. "Ashley's still not on a nap schedule," I sobbed to my mom on the phone.

She wasn't at all concerned about Ashley. "Have you told Dr. Epps that you're still so weepy. I think you should be over this by now."

I knew what she was insinuating. "There's nothing wrong with me," I responded. "I have a legitimate concern." True, there was nothing biologically wrong with me. My problem was that I, even as an "anti-Babywiser," had fallen victim to Ezzo's psychological manipulation. I can almost laugh about my "legitimate concern" now, knowing that a seven week old's lack of routine is nothing unusual; but the agony I felt, all due to a book I wanted no part of, isn't funny.

I'm not sure what finally freed me of my Babywise-induced fears. I guess that as my demand-fed, rocked-to-sleep-for-a-few-months baby did settle into a routine, started sleeping through the night around three months, and began to display a winsome personality (What joy she brought to the folks at the retirement community where we ministered!), I had in my arms the proof that Babywise's claims were false. I truly thank God that these psychological strongholds have been torn down and look forward to demand feeding my coming addition, free of fear, guilt, and suspicion. I wish the same for all mothers.

__________________
* I feel it is important to reveal a bit about Gary Ezzo. He is not a doctor (medical or otherwise). He has no training in medicine, lactation, or psychology. In fact, the only academic degree he holds is an M.A. in ministry from Talbot School of Theology (California), a degree designed for students without a bachelor's degree and giving credit for life experience. I am not resorting to an ad hominem attack by sharing this information. Ezzo readers must be aware that the man they are taking medical advice from is not qualified to give such advice.

What about Dr. Robert Bucknam, the M.D. named as co-author? He is a pediatrician; however, his contributions to the book were limited. As I stated in my second post, "Problems Theological," Babywise is a secularized version of Preparation for Parenting (now titled Along the Infant Way), a Christian book written by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo. Other than the removal of religious references, the original Babywise was nearly identical to Preparation for Parenting. Dr. Bucknam wrote the foreword to Babywise but little, if anything, else. Additionally, at the time he was added as co-author (when Ezzo self-published the first edition of Babywise in 1993) Bucknam was in no position to be writing a book on infant care: he was a novice pediatrician, having just completed his pediatric residency in 1992. Due to Bucknam's limited input, I refer to Ezzo as the author.

^ My lactation consultant in Pensacola said that, prior to the last thirty years, lactation as a science had not received much attention. My mother's experience in nursing school in the late '70s seems to confirm this claim as she was not taught many of the scientific discoveries I learned in Baptist Hospital's one- or two-hour breastfeeding class. When my mother had her own children in the late '70s and early '80s, almost no breastfeeding advice was provided by the hospital nurses. Rather, the instruction was basically limited to "here's your baby, now feed him," with no teaching of technique offered.

** Donohue-Carey cites the 1998 edition of Babywise, but the definition of demand feeding remains unchanged in the 2006 edition.

^^ Ezzo provides no footnotes or references for these very scientific-sounding claims.

*** My next post will substantiate this claim.


BIBLIOGRAPHY


Aney, Matthew. "Analysis of GFI VS. AAP Comparison Chart." http://ezzo.info/Aney/gfiaapcompchartanalysis.pdf (accessed August 28, 2010).

Aney, Matthew. "Analysis of GFI VS. AAP Comparison Chart." http://ezzo.info/Aney/gfiaapcompchartanalysis.pdf (accessed August 28, 2010). Quoting Steven P. Shelov and Robert E. Hannemann, ed., Caring for Your Baby and Young Child. n. p.: American Academy of Pediatrics, 1998.

Aney, Matthew. "Specific Examples--Problems Associated with GFI's Program." http://www.ezzo.info/Aney/casehistories.pdf (accessed August 28, 2010).

Donohue-Carey, Patty. "What to Make of Babywise." Childbirth Instructor (November, December 1999): 22-27.

Eisenberg, Arlene, Heidi E. Murkoff, and Sandee E. Hathaway. What to Expect the First Year. New York: Workman Publishing, 1996.

Ezzo, Gary and Anne Marie.
Preparation for Parenting: A Biblical Perspective. n. p.: 1989. Quoted on ezzo.info. http://www.ezzo.info/Timeline/preparationforparenting_89quotes.htm (accessed August 17, 2010).

Ezzo, Gary and Robert Bucknam. On Becoming Babywise. n.p.: 1995. Quoted on ezzo.info. http://ezzo.info/Aney/unsub.htm (accessed August 28, 2010).

Ezzo, Gary and Robert Bucknam.
On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep. 4th ed. Louisiana, MO: Parent-Wise Solutions, 2006.

Terner, Kathleen and Elliot Miller. "More than a Parenting Ministry: The Cultic Characteristics
of Growing Families International." Christian Research Journal (Spring 1998). Reprint. n. p.:
n. d.



6 comments:

Sarah said...

A friend posted this link on facebook - I have only had time to skim your posts but I agree with you! I just told a friend with a new baby that if she'd read _Babywise_, she should throw it out. I hope to sit down and finish reading throught these without interruption . . .

When you say the series will be used at DTS, do you mean your posts or the Ezzo's work? I hope it's your posts.

Heather said...

Sarah, I will be presenting my posts in hard copy form to my adviser for the Marriage and Family section of my wives training program. (My husband attends DTS, and wives are encouraged to complete an independent study program to be equipped in helping their husbands in ministry.)I know that my posts have been rather long, so I understand it may be hard, especially for moms, to get through them, but I hope you will have the time eventually. Thanks for commenting. : )

Mommy to five! said...

I hesitate to leave a comment b/c I am not one for public controversy and I consider the whole Babywise debate very controversial. It's like many debates among mothers today: to stay at home or not to stay at home, to breastfeed or not to breastfeed, to babywise or not to babywise. The debates are endless. I am a stay at home mother or five children. I used the babywise "system" on all of my babies. I was rigid with the first (I have some regrets) and very loose by the fifth. I do understand the controversy surrounding the Ezzo's. I have an uncle on pastoral staff at GCC and am very aware of what went on. I don't disagree with anything you have said. However, there is something to be said about putting a baby on a schedule.

I like the IDEA of babywise, but I certainly think there is much room for improvement in the way the Ezzos present it. It is popular b/c new parents are looking for answers and help during a very exhausting and emotional time. I could write volumes about what I have learned about the first year of a babies life, but the most important thing I have learned is that EVERY BABY IS DIFFERENT, EVERY MOMMY/DADDY IS DIFFERENT, and GOD GAVE US MATERNAL INSTINCTS THAT ARE STRONGER THAN ANYTHING YOU CAN READ IN A BOOK. To adhere strictly to the "Ezzo system" would be a mistake, but I also do not believe in on demand feeding outside of six to eight weeks. There is a balance b/w the two, at least there was in my experience. It is different for every family. What worked for my family may not work for yours. Suggestions are helpful, but judgement certainly is not. I have to remind myself of that b/c I can be very quick to judge.
We know that a 12 month old (or even a six month old) is capable of sleeping through the night w/o feeding, but you would be nieve to think that isn't happening to many people. Those are the people that need a little dose of babywise or at least a schedule. Just b/c your child naturally fell into sleeping through the night doesn't mean that happens for all people. It can be a very frustrating thing and I cringe when I hear of parents telling how they give their one year olds bottles in the middle of the night. On demand feeding at that age in my opinion IS child centered and unecessary, but again I must go back to the fact that every baby/child is different. As a parent with only one child, I thought I had all the answers and walked around secretly judging people for not doing it the "right" way or the way I would've done it. Now, I know better.
I never started the babywise schedule until my babies were 6-8 weeks old. And putting them on a routine of feeding and naptime worked great for me and if they required an extra feed than no problem - just common sense. A liberal following of Babywise worked for me, but I do understand all of your points in this blog and I don't disagree with most of it. I like the idea of being scheduled - that is just my personality. I wish there was another book similar to the babywise book/method that was a little more balanced and with far less controversy in the Christian circles. I can no longer recommend Babywise to new mothers as I used to. It saddens me, b/c I think there is valueable information in there, but I no longer agree with the presentation and attitudes. It can easily lead people astray not only with their babies, but spiritually too, as you pointed out.

Sorry for my longwindedness. I just feel passionately about this topic, but hardly have a forum to express it.

Thank you for sharing your hard work and thoughts on the subject.
Hope my ramblings shed some light from the other side. : )

Blessings!

Mommy to five! said...

I hesitate to leave a comment b/c I am not one for public controversy and I consider the whole Babywise debate very controversial. It's like many debates among mothers today: to stay at home or not to stay at home, to breastfeed or not to breastfeed, to babywise or not to babywise. The debates are endless. I am a stay at home mother or five children. I used the babywise "system" on all of my babies. I was rigid with the first (I have some regrets) and very loose by the fifth. I do understand the controversy surrounding the Ezzo's. I have an uncle on pastoral staff at GCC and am very aware of what went on. I don't disagree with anything you have said. However, there is something to be said about putting a baby on a schedule.

I like the IDEA of babywise, but I certainly think there is much room for improvement in the way the Ezzos present it. It is popular b/c new parents are looking for answers and help during a very exhausting and emotional time. I could write volumes about what I have learned about the first year of a babies life, but the most important thing I have learned is that EVERY BABY IS DIFFERENT, EVERY MOMMY/DADDY IS DIFFERENT, and GOD GAVE US MATERNAL INSTINCTS THAT ARE STRONGER THAN ANYTHING YOU CAN READ IN A BOOK. To adhere strictly to the "Ezzo system" would be a mistake, but I also do not believe in on demand feeding outside of six to eight weeks. There is a balance b/w the two, at least there was in my experience. It is different for every family. What worked for my family may not work for yours. Suggestions are helpful, but judgement certainly is not. I have to remind myself of that b/c I can be very quick to judge.
We know that a 12 month old (or even a six month old) is capable of sleeping through the night w/o feeding, but you would be nieve to think that isn't happening to many people. Those are the people that need a little dose of babywise or at least a schedule. Just b/c your child naturally fell into sleeping through the night doesn't mean that happens for all people. It can be a very frustrating thing and I cringe when I hear of parents telling how they give their one year olds bottles in the middle of the night. On demand feeding at that age in my opinion IS child centered and unecessary, but again I must go back to the fact that every baby/child is different. As a parent with only one child, I thought I had all the answers and walked around secretly judging people for not doing it the "right" way or the way I would've done it. Now, I know better. (continued in the next line)

AllRusty said...

I think I musn't have read this one when you posted it. But it makes me mad! Not at you, at the book. Especially the paragraph about the benefits of breastmilk. Truly an un-educated description! That's as far as I've gotten so far. :)

AllRusty said...

I fell prey to the same psychological disillusionment that you recount with Ashley. Sadly, I still struggled with it with Edith...partially because I've always struggled so much with peer pressure, even as an adult. I would be interested in a follow up now that you're going through round 2. :)