There are pretty much two things that people always say to me about Lily. 1. “She’s beautiful!” I agree, masses, she is beautiful. She’s pretty much the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. As my very humble husband would say, “perfect genes.” 2. “She’s so happy!” Again, I agree. She’s a seriously happy baby. This comment is almost always followed by, “you’re so lucky so have an easy-going baby.” This is where I disagree, masses. Her disposition is the result of a lot of hard work on my part.
I’ve been debating pretty hard about whether or not to write this blog or not, because it’s about a fairly controversial topic. But then, as I was thinking, the purpose of my blog is to be a place of brutal honesty. I think brutal honesty is seriously lacking on the Internet as far as parenting is concerned, and I want to do my best to combat that. So here goes.
We do Babywise. As in, On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam. Now, before I get into the specifics about this, I really want to say: this is what works for our family. There are lots of things that work for lots of families when it comes to child-rearing, and this blog is in no way meant to be a judgment of other people’s choices as far as raising your baby. I more want to write it because there’s not a lot of good on the Internet about Babywise, and I want there to be, because for us, it’s been a really, really good thing.
Okay, so Babywise. It’s this super controversial book about Parent-Directed Feeding (PDF for short. I know, super confusing acronym). It’s meant to be an in-between of what’s referring to as “clock feeding,” which is when the feeding of a baby is determined by the clock, and the clock alone, and “demand feeding,” which is determined by the baby, and the baby alone. PDF is a combination of being mindful of the clock, but also paying attention to the baby. I like this because it allowed us to get on a schedule, but it also allows for parental intuition. One thing I like very much about the book is that they say over and over, “if you baby is hungry, feed him!” It acknowledges things like growth spurts and sickness, but it also allows for parental direction.
In addition to talking about PDF, it also works on establishing healthy sleep from an early age. It does this in several ways: establishing Eat-Wake-Sleep (EWS) cycles, understanding appropriate wake-times for the age of your baby, and getting adequate day-time sleep. To break it down a little further, I like the EWS approach for a lot of reasons, mainly because you feed your baby as soon as they get up from a nap, and while she’s awake, she’s happy, because she’s full. I also like the EWS approach because it teaches your baby to fall asleep independently of nursing (or bottle-feeding. Whatever you’re doing. Basically it helps teach your baby not to need to eat to fall asleep).
Another thing that I SUPER didn’t know before having a baby was that infant sleep is counter-intuitive, in that sleep begets more sleep. BUT, babies can get overtired/overstimulated pretty easily, so one has to be mindful of how long they’re developmentally able to stay awake before needing another nap. So, this combination of understanding that a child that takes good naps is a child that will likely sleep better at night, and a child that is not overtired will take better naps, makes for a pretty happy and well-rested kid.
Now, I’m not saying that it’s been necessarily easy. It is WORK. Even though I’ve been doing some variation of Babywise since Lily was about a month old, the four-month sleep regression hit us just like it’s hit every other parent with a baby, and it’s been a booger. Also, while we’re on the topic of sleep, I’d quickly like to clear up another misconception about Babywise: it doesn’t necessarily advocate Cry It Out (CIO), as a method of sleep training. The book doesn’t tell you how to sleep train your baby, just that you should sleep train your baby. Now, another time for brutal honesty, we’ve been doing CIO with Lily. It’s tough, but it works for us. But let me say again, just because that’s what works for our family does not mean that’s what you have to do if you choose to use Babywise. It’s compatible with all kinds of sleep training techniques, including gentle sleep training like The Michi Method or The Sleep Lady Shuffle. But that’s another blog.
I’m really a fan of Babywise because it allows me, as a parent, to make sense of my day. Lily has predictable nap times and a predictable bed time. It allows me to plan our outings with relative ease. I also like it because it pretty much allows me to interpret her cries. It’s easier for me to know if she’s hungry vs. tired, or if it’s something else entirely. When I first heard about the book, I was pretty adamantly against it because I’d read pretty much nothing but negative things about it. Among those things, I read that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) had condemned it because it was harmful to babies. As it turns out, that’s not true at all, and there are several pediatricians who recommend it to their patients. I’m a fan of this article (https://babywise.life/blogs/momtalk/aap-the-babywise-controversy-misattributions-and-corrections?gclid=Cj0KEQiAnvfDBRCXrabLl6-6t-0BEiQAW4SRUJCzBGik–2uHJd-4v2jtoJor4fh2dyrbNSynuxFCiQaAkq18P8HAQ) because it really does a good job of clearing up that misconception about the AAP.
Another common misconception of often come across about Babywise is that it advocates what’s called hyper-scheduling, that is, strict, unwavering, feeding and nap times. This is not at all the case. In fact, throughout the book is says over and over again to avoid hyper-scheduling, because it is good for neither the parents or the baby. It does encourage having a schedule, but I’ve found that the schedule allows for parental intuition, because it alerts me really fast if something is off with Lily.
So that’s Babywise in a nutshell. When the book came out it was controversial, and it continues to be controversial. I feel like most of this controversy comes from a lack of understanding about what the book actually is, and I hope that this helps clear some of that up, and hopefully it will be a resource for parents or parents-to-be. It’s been an invaluable tool for our family, and if anyone has any questions about it I would love to talk to you!