My Biggest Parenting Regret: Babywise

148

I don’t have many regrets in life.  But, I sincerely wish I could rewind time and have a do-over with my firstborn.  Why?  In a word (although technically it should be two): Babywise.

In fact, I’d be so bold as to say that Babywise (a method of sleep training found in a book by same name by author Gary Ezzo) made my first six months of motherhood miserable and may have contributed to some of the insecurities I see surfacing as the child I subjected to this method ages.

My perspective on this subject is somewhat unique in that I had four babies within a window of five years.  Though I have friends that claim both “victories” and “failures” using the system, I feel my condensed childbearing timeline gave me a special opportunity to test Babywise’s methods against others (mainly trusting my instincts).

My story is a common one.  A friend recommended the book because it worked for them.  I was entering unchartered territory and desperate.  So, I’d read anything I could get my hands on.

To a brand new mom, sleeping through the night is that big elusive milestone.  It seems the sooner your children reach it the bigger the “motherhood merit badge” you earn.   The concept of following a method to meet that goal sounded delightful. 

That’s what Babywise offered.  So, I bit.

There was a certain degree of logic to it.  The book knew exactly how to appeal to me.  It lured in the part of me that desperately longed to have a child without changing my comfortable “childless” life at all.   

It also convinced me (temporarily) that the problems in the world today are created by how “baby-centric” parents become.  Since I didn’t want to raise a selfish child, it only made sense to demand this creation of mine to fall in line.  

The problem was Babywise didn’t work at all like it should have.  Instead of realizing that maybe the system (or the author and his theories) were at fault, I blamed myself.  Already struggling with some degree of post partum depression,  I faced a rough reality check.  Parenting was going to be a lot harder than I ever dreamed.

My first few months with Babywise resulted in a stressed out, frazzled, demoralized, depressed new mom whose perceived failure at having the Babywise method work was just another strike against her.

I had acquaintances that swore by it…touting the only way they could do it (turn off their instincts to follow Babywise that is) was to go outside and talk on the phone or get in the shower and turn on music.  This would drown out the cries.  They encouraged me to do the same…it would be “hard” on me but “good” for the baby.

In my opinion...Just say no to Babywise...
In my opinion, you should Just Say No to Babywise

Now, I think about this advice as preposterous.  If my four-year-old needed me because he was hurting or scared and I went outside so I couldn’t hear him crying…that would be cruel, right?  Or, better yet, if I was sad, lonely, hungry, or just feeling insecure and I was crying in bed and my husband got in the shower to tune me out, that would sound like abuse, wouldn’t it?

The challenge for most new mothers (myself included) is that I didn’t know whether or not I could, or should, trust those instincts.  I was paralyzed with fear that I would do it wrong.  Simultaneously I was concerned that I didn’t even know what “wrong” was in this arena.  I was more tired than I had ever been in my entire life.  So, I bounced between reading the book desperately to figure out what page I must have missed or what I must have been messing up to get it to work correctly and cursing the book for making me so miserable.

After encouragement from my mother (who read the book and thought it was insane) to experiment with things like feeding to sleep, napping in the swing, and co-sleeping, things started to go a little better.  Oh, and my almost three month old son–who had gotten so frustrated he had taken to head banging–stopped that behavior as soon as I gave up the Babywise method and started answering his cries.

It was very hard to quit though.  I felt tremendously guilty for not following the book and was concerned that like the book promised, once I put the baby in our bed he’d be in there until he was at least 12.  But, I was at the point of desperation. I needed some sleep. He needed some sleep. And, (shockingly) her suggestions were working better than Mr. Ezzo’s.

I also recognized that my son had some digestive issues.  (Four children later I’m able to diagnose exactly what they were better than any of my firstborn’s pediatricians ever could.)  In addition to his problem with acidic foods and dairy, because of the Babywise feeding rules, I was way over feeding the little guyTruth is, it’s impossible to know this stuff as a new mom.  I was so concerned about him gaining weight and going to bed full that the thought of him eating too much and that causing digestive issues never crossed my mind.

Baby two came just 16 months after baby number one.  This time I followed my gut.  She slept in the swing frequently.  If she fell asleep while eating I’d put her down.   She slept through the night at five months old and, although we co-slept when needed those first few months, never slept in our bed after six months of age.

Is Babywise completely ineffective for everyone? No.  I do have friends that will still swear that it worked for them.  (I know some of you reading this are thinking you had no troubles with it.)

But, mommy friends, looking back I think this method is scary dangerous.  And, although it may be getting some children to sleep through the night faster, the long term consequences are real and far more important than that first “sleeping through the night” milestone.  You can’t think about what your child will be like at six or seven when all you want is to make it through the first year. But, let me encourage you that your parenting isn’t finished when they start sleeping. It’s only just begun…

Some recent studies have come out about the consequences of having infants cry it out and what happens when our newborns don’t attach well. Beyond that, this study explains how you aren’t really training an infant to sleep when you don’t respond to cries. Instead, the baby’s neurological system shuts down from frustration and sleep follows.

These reports cite correlations with more stressed out and anxious children later.  I can attest to this. I see differences between my Babywise baby and my other children.  My oldest displays more fear, has a more difficult time with expressing emotion, and is very guarded.

Of course, I understand that each child has a unique personality and that maybe that’s his natural bent.  But, as I read the reports like this one on the impact of systems like this, I can’t help but see some similarities in my now-seven year old.

Being a mom is the hardest job I’ve ever had.  And, like most new moms, I was desperate for some guidance on how to do it “right.”  But, I think we moms, at all stages, have to free ourselves of that pressure. There isn’t a right way or a wrong way. There is your way and there is my way.

Every child we have added to our family has done some degree of messing up the rhythms for the rest of the family.  Everyone has had to adjust as each new baby has come along. The Babywise method of make the baby fit you just doesn’t make any sense to me, at any level, anymore.  Scheduling has some merit…routine has lots of merit… But, Babywise as a comprehensive system to be followed to the tee, is a bad idea.

Now, on the other side of newborns, I certainly wish I had researched more about the author, his background and lack of credentials before I put my child through his system.  I’m embarrassed that I trusted this unknown man to tell me how to raise my newborn.

I hope you’ll do the same and avoid my regrets.

 

To read a counter opinion, check out Why I Stuck With Babywise.

SPONSORED

148 COMMENTS

  1. We had triplets 16 years ago and another child 13 years ago. They are thoughtful, smart and respectful children and I credit so much of that to Baby wise and its philosophies. They slept through the night the first week. We literally woke them up to feed them and followed the schedule.
    I kept my sanity. They were well fed and rested and the schedules were wonderful. We teach to the heart of our children. We continue to refer back to it for examples, etc and it works beautifully. Our NICU nurses laughed kindly when I told them that we planned to put them on a schedule. They were also amazed when it worked. It takes initial patience, trust and prayers but wow… I’ve even bought it for multiple parents the last 16 years and have only heard good things.

  2. It doesn’t sound like you followed the Babywise method properly. My husband and I did and our daughter (now 14 months) is and has been thriving. 98th percentile and healthy as can be. We started the method when she was 5 weeks and she slept through the night at 11 and is an AMAZING sleeper now. Anyone reading this considering the book, just read it and then see for yourself if you want to practice it. Just because you read it doesn’t mean you have to do it. Also, don’t skim. Read it all and you’ll find a very balanced method that will ensure your baby is fed, well rested, loved and tended to. -A Babywise fan

  3. Heather, Thank you for writing about your experience on your own blog. Geesh! I wish some of the commenters would lighten up a bit. You, Heather, are entitled to your opinion on your own blog for sure. This isn’t a news article or an article in a periodical publication.

    I personally hate Babywise and have witnessed the ill effects in my friend’s children who have used it. I myself was a cry it out baby with a detached mother and it has negatively affected my whole life. My husband and I have 8 children from ages 9 up to 22. We started our family in 1995 when the original Babywise was popular. I briefly tried scheduling my baby and I was a wreck. My baby had GERD which wasn’t discovered until he was 5 years old! I am embarrassed to say that but I just thought babies spit up a lot and that kids threw up a lot. Duh, that’s not normal. Screaming crying babies make me very anxious and then irritable.

    I am very blessed that I found The BabyBook by Dr. William Sears. He has a medical degree in pediatrics and knows what he is talking about. What certification does Ezzo have anyway? Also, when I read mothers here say, it worked for “me” or “I” think it was a godsend, I think well what did your baby think? What do your teenagers think? Do you even care? Detached babies grow up into detached children with detached parents. I have seen this in my friend’s kids who were Babywised. They feel like their parents don’t care about them, or don’t care to hear their opinions. They grow up into anxious adults.

    Natural Mothering is the best for babies. Stop looking at the clock. Get to know your baby. You cannot over love your baby. You cannot hold your baby too much. Babies thrive on human contact and interaction. Every time I see a child with a flat spot on the back of their head, I feel sad for that child because it is likely to be flat because the child spent a lot of time in their crib crying their heads off then when that did not get them the attention they needed, they just fell asleep exhausted or laid there staring into space feeling abandoned.

    Here is a couple of articles that I read in the 1990’s that explained why Babywise is babybad.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1999/02/27/a-tough-plan-for-raising-children-draws-fire/292a3f87-45d6-4463-bb16-7a07529e7d91/?utm_term=.6290dbdccefb

    http://www.ezzo.info/Aney/crjpartone.pdf

    http://www.ezzo.info/Aney/barbarafrancisphd_critique.pdf

    I hope the Babywise fans can wise up! Lord have mercy.

    • Our 22-year-old son came home from college this weekend and last evening he and I had such a nice long conversation in our living room catching up on each other’s lives. At one point, he said, “Mom, I am glad you are so chill.” I am glad our children like talking to us about their lives. We haven’t had a rebellious teen yet although I am aware of the possibility. I am extremely grateful to God for steering us away, far away, from Babywise.

      To the parents who have used Babywise and regret it, remember that God can use all things, in our lives, for the good of those who love Him. I think it is healthy to learn about how Babywise could have been harmful and look for signs in your children of those effects. Be open to getting help for your child if he or she has problems with anxiety/detachment.

      It is true that all moms have regrets about something. I have my own about other things. Try not to beat yourself up about it. Be humble seek out advice from experts on how to make it better. I really like articles and advice from the Psychology Today website. (They also have articles that talk about the harms of crying it out for babies.)

  4. My friends son is 5 yrs and displays symptoms of RAD. And he was on the CIO method at 2 months. I was shocked when they said they did this method at 2 months.
    They refuse to believe they caused his behavioral problems. Cognitive dissonance has taken over and they are struggling to deal with their choice of using this method.

    Other friends who have tried this method also have children with behavioral issues, I’ve seen anxiety, nervousness, stress, aggression, extreme tantrums and unresponsive behaviors in their children.

    Maybe there are well adjusted children out there who had this method used on them, I just haven’t come across any of them.

    I think many who have used this method get very defensive when someone criticizes it because they cannot accept that may have harmed their child and denial kicks in.

    In my groups of friends who have done this method, I can always sense that they are never 100% sure they did the right thing and they live with the question on their mind.
    The topic has come up so many times brought up by themselves in fact.

    I don’t tell them I think they made a mistake because it’s not my place to tell them how to raise their children plus they’re already dealing with some level of guilt.
    Even if they don’t say it they feel guilty, you can always sense the guilt lurking.
    I do feel sorry for their children’s struggles because of this method. It hard to see the effects in action.

    IMO, if you expect to have a baby “fit into” your lifestyle instead of the other way around then you shouldn’t have kids.

    IMy comfort is not more important than my kids’ comfort, happiness and trust.
    Especially when they are infants.

  5. Thank you, Heather, for sharing your experience, your truth. Yes, the cry it out method, whether recommended by Ezzo or someone else, is borderline child neglect. It is no different than what happens to children in orphanages who suffer from failure to thrive because their needs are ignored, whether out of necessity due to lack of staff, or no. Heather’s desire to help other mothers, (it is clear plenty mothers had similar experiences to Heather’s) who might have similar sad experiences to hers does not deserve shaming. I followed the cry it out recommendation and sleeping schedule with my first for two weeks and it was a nightmare then and the effects are discouraging now. I’ve read every comment and most commentors who praise BW used a variation of the guidelines, not the exact schedule Ezzo prescribed originally. The success was not BW but individual variation of it so why give BW all the credit? Those who follow the original recommendations with exactness will do damage to the child and their relationship with the child, no question. I would not doubt if so much of the depression, anxiety, and social disorders we have in our day is linked back to this notion of “parent’s convenience is priority over the child’s long term needs.” In the end it’s all about, you do you. You follow your instinct, I’ll follow mine. I’m grateful the author shared her experience, its something that needed to be said. Thank you, Heather. Thank you everyone else for your contribution to the discussion. 💛

  6. I can’t believe I didn’t search co sleeping vs Babywise until my son was 3 years 7 months and my twins 15 months. It takes a while to put the puzzle pieces of parenting together. My experience is all too similar with yours and I should have read more articles on the subject of co sleeping and at least given each side an equal chance. I desperately read Babywise late into the night and I thought it was working for us. He slept through the night by 1 year old and was a great sleeper until a. No more crib and b. We moved. He’s been climbing into bed with us ever since. The biggest thing too is he has SPD (sensory processing disorder) and has anxiety and had to go to a theraputic preschool because he was excessively aggressive. I just wish I had studied attachment theory because that’s we are doing now. Lots of play therapy and positive discipline and co sleeping. He is such a good boy, I just hope to do better by my kids now that I know better. Babywise brought up a lot of mom guilt for me too that I am so over now. Again, all too similar an experience! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Heather, I’m wondering if you have any advice for a mom of a now 6 year old who was Babywised and we’re experiencing the extremely negative long term affects? My son has a level of anxiety I’ve not even experienced in many adults (including myself and I was raised in a physically abusive home).
    I’ve been searching for ways to reverse the lack of attachment and even trying to get an appointment with a therapist to no avail. His anxiety is causing chaos in our home with his siblings and other relationships.
    I’m open to any kind, helpful advice.

    • Anybody who defends this inhumane cruel and barbaric program developed by a narcisstioc psychopath named Ezzo is simply brainwashed. The 20-minute cry-it-out rule is at the crux of the program. Show me a baby that this has been used on and I will show you an adult with RAD, abandonment rage, panic disorder, tactile sensitivity disorder, anxiety disorder, major depression, PTSD, fibromyalgia, and a host of other disorders. All of these disorders were developed when the baby was left to itself to cry-it-out in panic, fear, and rage. Infants cannot calm themselves… they need a caregiver to help soothe them in order to develop the ability to self-calm. Show me an adult who cannot handle stresses of any kind without going into panic and I will show you a baby raised on Ezzo’s program. The window of time to learn to self-soothe is from 0-36 months. After that it is too late.

  8. Thank you for posting this. I have nights I cry wishing I could turn back time and redo my first few month with my first born son. This book ruined my mothering experience. I hate this book and anytime I find it at garage sales I buy it to burn it so it doesn’t fall into the hands of another new unsuspecting mother. Definitely a ridiculous book that goes against A mother’s instinct. My second and third child were nurtured using Dr. Sears methods, not controlled as Babywise teaches. Worst book to ever be published!!! After 22 years, trying this absurd method is still my number one parenting regret! Reassuring to know I’m not alone. I wish this book could be banned!

  9. I’ve heard a lot about babywise, and someone recommended it to me when I had my first baby. I was too busy looking after her to try reading it, however. I was scared of bedsharing and used to stay up all night with the baby until I started sleeping in the rocking chair while feeding her. She was constantly feeding, like a newborn usually does. After I went to sleep on the rocking chair like that I sort of came to my senses and listened to my mum and went to sleep with the baby in the side-lying feeding position. Life got so much better after that. I had my second baby 2 years later and was very confident. I used the sling a lot which helped protect the baby from my little genius climber! She could climb in and out of cots, and over the stair gates! The early days were so much easier and I got a lot of sleep which I needed after a very difficult birth. The baby was so happy and would sleep through the night, waking just enough to feed. She is 2 and I’m glad to say I am still breastfeeding.

    A friend gave me a copy of Babywise this week, which I read and I was shocked by the bad breastfeeding advice and how Ezzo tells you in the book not to listen to lactation consultants who don’t follow his methods. There are lots of logical fallacies in there, and outdated information. He may have good intentions but not good advice. The American Academy of Pediatrics actually says the Babywise method is linked to failure to thrive. I have the 2001 revised edition of Babywise by the way.

    All the advice I can give is please listen to your doctor, your midwife and your lactation consultant when it comes to breastfeeding advice, and don’t follow this book! The main thing is that your baby gets enough milk, and he/she will have very long feeds and cluster feed, and have growth spurts. It’s not snacking, it’s establishing your milk supply in the early days and if it happens later on it’s likely a growth spurt or baby needing extra fluids during illness or warm weather. Babies have tiny stomachs and digest their milk very quickly. Many don’t sleep through the night untill at least a year and it’s normal.Look on Lulluby Trust website for safe bedsharing information; it really is safer than going to sleep in a chair accidentally with baby.

    To all the mums who followed Babywise and have healthy children, well-done for not following it to the letter! It really can ruin your breastfeeding if you do.

  10. Following Ezzo’s teaching ruined our daughter. She is 25 years old and stays locked in her room all her waking hours playing games on her phone. Her anxiety and panic is so bad that she cannot work a job without having panic attacks. All of this is due to us following Ezzo’s parenting methods which are pure evil and cause severe attachment disorder. Our lives are ruined while this psychopath enjoys his mansion on the ocean at our expense. Gary Ezzo is a narcissistic coward psychopath and should be in shackles on death row for all the lives he has ruined. If there is a hell he will burn in it for sure.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here