With many apologies, I simply have to say one more thing before I move into my closing thoughts on Mr. Ezzo, Babywise, and something significant the Lord revealed to me about this whole topic in the past week.
I've noticed as I've read through the comments and feedback from the few brave and admirable souls who have shared their families' positive experiences with incorporating the Babywise methods into their approaches for baby care: most of the positive feedback had to do with the benefits of a feeding schedule. As I have shared earlier, I personally have little argument against this concept. I've seen it work just fine for my oldest child, and I know from my personal experience that demand-feeding can work just fine, too.
There is one aspect of the Babywise method that I simply and utterly cannot - will not - stand in agreement with, nor am I able to close this series without speaking to it: cry-it-out infant sleep training.
As I look over the past four and a half years and the passionate interest in all things parenting that has grown in my heart since I became a mama, I am filled with gratitude that God sent to me a high-needs, non-independent sleeper for my first child. Had He sent me Aliza Joy first, I know my thoughts on this matter would have been decidedly more smug. Ironically, AJ would have been a model Babywise baby. Although as a toddler she is gloriously wild and untamed soul, she was an extremely easy, laid-back, "angel" baby. I could have (and sometimes did) put her down to nap or for the night fully awake and she would have been content to drift off to sleep on her own. This was not a result of anything I did - it was simply her temperament.
It was with her big sister, however, that I earned my stripes in the trenches of infant sleep.
Beginning at two weeks old, she simply would not nap longer than forty-five minutes at a time. This threw our whole Eat-Play-Sleep schedule completely out of whack. I read every infant sleep book recommended to me - no kidding, every single one, except for The No-Cry-Sleep-Solution, which puzzlingly no one told me about - and I tried a myriad of suggestions to get her to sleep longer than forty-five minutes at a time. Had I been a veteran mom, I would have known that The Dreaded Forty-Five Minute Naps is actually quite common, and that I could just go with it and her naps would consolidate into longer stretches when she was an older baby (six months was the magic milestone for Dace).
So not only did we have the nap issue, there was also the going to sleep issue. Every single time I tried to lay her down to sleep when she was drowsy but still awake, absolute desperate screaming would ensue. What Babywise didn't prepare me for was the physiological reaction that would manifest itself in me each time I walked out of her bedroom as she lay there, screaming for me - my heart would race, my hands shook, I absolutely could not think about anything else other than the overpowering and overwhelming urge to go in and pick her up and soothe her. The only things that worked for Dacey were the three things that Babywise labels as "potentially harmful" - nursing, rocking, and sharing sleep.
You know, as a more experienced mama, I can look at that paragraph and think, "So what? So you have to rock her to sleep? Big deal. She was fine! Look at her - she is a totally normal, completely developmentally on track preschooler now. It's FINE!" As a brand new mama, as I rocked her in that rocking chair, an internal battle raged. I knew I could get her to fall asleep peacefully if I rocked her. Yet in my head, a voice-over reminded me of everything Mr. Ezzo had said about these techniques. Things like, "Parents don't need to be in bondage to their baby's sleep needs," and "None of the sleep manipulation methods offer any healthy advantages" and "Why use sleep association props in the first place, when a basic routine will naturally enhance restful sleep?"
Oh yes. There it was. The heart of my struggle. I was faithfully following our Eat-Awake-Sleep schedule. Faithfully. That part was working fine. Mr. Ezzo writes in the chapter on "Hunger and Sleep Cycles" that, "There is a direct relationship between regular daytime feeding periods and nighttime sleep patterns." Poor little Marissa, the demand-fed baby, will have great difficulty sleeping through the night because of the unpredictability of her daytime feeding. But, Chelsea, on the other hand sleeps great!
On page 51 of the 1995 edition of Babywise, Mr. Ezzo writes
One of the most obvious benefits of parent-directed feeding is the establishment of stable nighttime sleep patterns. That means your baby sleeps all night, along with the rest of the family. Healthy, full-term babies are born with the ability to sleep continuously for seven to eight hours during the night, usually within eight weeks. Much of your success will depend on your parenting philosophies and feeding practices. (emphasis mine)
I was following the schedule but having no success. The only part of his approach to parenting an infant I couldn't force myself to do was leave her to cry alone. It didn't work. There was no self-soothing, there was only increased hysteria.
I became consumed with sleep and lack thereof. Instead of treasuring what I now know are fleeting and precious days of newborn sweetness, I filled out painstakingly detailed sleep journals and read book after book and website after website that offered all manner of solution for her "problems." I was bitter and resentful of my baby and her inability to just do what the book said she would do and I was drowning in self-loathing for not being tough enough to let her cry it out.
I have written tons on this. Many of you have read it before from me. I just want to make clear that when many people hear Babywise, they think scheduled feeding. When I hear Babywise, I think baby screaming.
I now believe some of the advice and assurances Mr. Ezzo offers about leaving a baby to cry to sleep is misleading and dangerous. The main issue I have is that he makes absolutely no distinction between a nine day old and a nine month old baby. The methods he prescribes when it comes to infant sleep are developmentally inappropriate.
Some closing thoughts:
- Excessive crying (such as is produced by leaving a newborn to scream by himself) is dangerous.
- You can understand the importance of infant sleep without insisting on implementing cry-it-out m methods.
- Night waking in infants may serve important biological functions.
- Schedule or no schedule, breastfed babies will sleep different and have different needs than formula-fed babies. There is a body of research that supports this.
In all honesty, I could a series on cry-it-out infant sleep training itself, but I think I'll stop here. Just know that while there are parts of Babywise that I find no argument with, this is one area where I wholeheartedly disagree.
I welcome discussion on this topic, but as always, please remember to direct your thoughts towards the practice of sleep training, NOT TOWARDS PARENTS WHO PRACTICE IT. This means please refrain from using words like "barbaric," "unloving," and "cold-hearted" to describe parents who choose this practice. It is fine to disagree with a concept. It is not fine to attack or be hateful towards other parents.
photo courtesy of Kekka