Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Is Babywise a Trick or Treat ?

Trick or Treat ? It's Babywise !

OK, so it's Halloween week and it doesn't surprise me that one of my pet peeves seems to be raising it's ugly head, kind of like a vampire or zombie that refuses to die or Glenn Close jolting up out of the bathwater in Fatal Attraction.

But as an advocate of healthy and safe parenting, I am here today with my "Wac-a-Mole" mallet to beat this menace down, yet again.  "How militant!" you might say. Let me be clear. When I see this book for sale, I have made it my personal mission to buy it JUST  for the sheer pleasure of throwing it away.

Growing Families International [GFI] has been controversial within the Christian church for a long time, but more recently within the secular realm. With the publication of Babywise, Gary Ezzo extended his controversial parenting method into the secular world. 

Many, many keystrokes of parents and professionals have been logged on the internet about this controversy, and I am only nicking the surface of it in my blog post today. For more than you would ever want to know, please visit these sites.

Here's a little history.
Circa 1985 -- Anne Marie Ezzo, Gary's wife, authored and circulated a 4-page paper titled "Parent Controlled Feeding". Although contradictory at some points, it included:
  • a sample timetable for "the first four weeks" which laid out feedings at 4 hour intervals
  • advice to consider formula supplementation if the baby, by three weeks of age, isn't able to go 3-4 hours between feeds
These practices are not based in scientific evidence and have not been endorsed by leading authorities in infant feeding and health.

1989 -- The version of Preparation for Parenting that was circulating at this time including teachings which:
  • criticised demand feeding (the practice endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics),
  • criticised mothers who respond to their babies' cries, calling these practices incompatible with scripture, practiced by an "extreme fringe," primitivistic, humanistic, based in evolution, emotional, idolatrous, unhealthful, harmful to marriage, and the cause of health and developmental problems.
  • advised parents that by three weeks the baby should only be feeding every three to four hours, with formula supplementation as necessary to achieve those intervals.
  • instructed that the baby was to be sleeping through the night by six weeks, enforced by letting the baby cry it out if necessary.
    Source: quotes on file from Preparation for Parenting c 1989

1993 – 1st edition of Babywise was self-published by Growing Families International. This edition was nearly identical to Prep for Parenting, except that:
  • The explicit religious language was removed ( thank God )
  • Dr. Robert Bucknam added a foreword, praising the earlier Ezzo material which had so impressed him, and denigrating "instincts," advice to feed more often as a solution to hunger, and the practice of feeding at two hourly intervals (p.11)
  • For babies from 0-8 weeks of age, the book recommended 3 to 4 hour feedings.
  • This edition touts a benefit of fewer feedings: fewer diapers to change. (pp. 133-134.)

May 14, 1996 –The Child Abuse Council of Orange County appointed a  task force to evaluate following complaints by area health care professionals who had observed dehydration, slow growth and development and failure to thrive among babies on Ezzo programs.
The Ezzos also published so called "Christian" Parenting materials called : Growing Kids God's Way.
First of all, many Christians, myself included, find it odd that Gary Ezzo should pontificate and define for the rest of us what "God's Way of parenting should look like, especially in light of all of the bad outcomes which have been reported. Critics who have evaluated Growing Kids God's Way, Childwise, Babywise, Reflections of Moral Innocence (the Ezzos' sex ed curriculum) and other Ezzo books and curricula have shared several concerns about the expectations of child behavior these books promote.

  • Lack of age appropriateness. Requirements of child behavior do not consider age appropriateness or basic principles of child development.

  • May support parental failings and selfishness. Warnings against being "child-centered" are insufficiently balanced by acknowledgment of the extent to which parenthood involves self-giving and self-sacrifice or by awareness of the parents' own fallibility.

  • Lack of proportion. Big issues and small are treated as equally urgent matters over which parents must have control. Insisting on tight control over all matters can lead to power struggles.

  • Limited interpretation of behavior. Behavior is viewed through the lens of obedience/disobedience without adequate consideration of factors such as teething, illness, developmental stages, and emotions such as fear, loneliness, etc, that might cause or influence the behavior.

  • Undermines the developing relationship between parent and child. The level of control required by the program tends to create an adversarial relationship between parents and child, which may interfere with attachment.  Experts regard attachment as the foundation of mental health and say it develops as parents respond to the baby's cues, rather than in the context of parental control. 
Secondly, Ezzo's warped theological perspective produces this "jewel" of exegesis.
When using the crucifixion of Jesus to justify letting an infant cry. ``Praise God that the Father did not intervene when His Son cried out on the cross,'' in Preparation for Parenting.

Here are some quotes I have found from mothers who have used the program.

"I, being a first-time mom, terribly unconfident, and eager for something structured and quantifiable, bought into [the book], wholeheartedly. It was a disaster. The first three months of my firstborn's life were filled with frustration"

""My frustration is that it seems the Ezzos never took into consideration the moms who suffer from PPD. My depression was pretty debilitating and when my son wasn't "following the program" so to speak, it created a lot of additional stress."

"I took her to the hospital where she was diagnosed as FTT ("failure-to-thrive").   She spent three days in hospital.  I was told to burn Babywise and that babies should be fed on demand, that breastfeeding was a supply and demand process."

"In my mind, I knew that I should call La Leche League for help, but after reading the warnings in [Babywise], there was no way I wanted to get mixed up with those "attachment-parenting types," so I chose to give up and exclusively formula feed."

"When J. was about 3 and a half months old, I started thinking he looked a little skinny."

"I remember laying on the couch listening to her cry and cry thinking motherhood wasn't supposed to be like this."

"I would have said that we were happy following Ezzo, but I can honestly say that we are much happier now. I am so much less stressed out! I didn't realize how much stress Babywising put on me until I quit..."

"I want to share our story in the hope that it may perhaps help to warn others who are heading down the Growing Kids God's Way path. We still ask ourselves, how could we have been deceived for so long?..."

"I would give anything in the world to be able to turn back the clock and learn about the concerns and controversy surrounding Ezzo's methods *before* my dear daughter was born..."

"But even if Babywise and Prep may have a few helpful ideas, there is more chaff than wheat. As someone else has said, "What is good is not unique--you can find it in other safer books. What is unique is not good." In spite of the few helpful ideas I NEVER recommend the books to anyone. Why? Too much possibility that someone could be seriously hurt from them. I don't want that responsibility"

"Please, don't just take our word for it. Do your own research. When you are finished, we be-lieve you will draw the same conclusions we have. We thought we were following sound parent-ing information and doing what was proclaimed to be in the best interest of our son. We could not have been more wrong, and we will always live with that knowledge. We now believe nurs-ing on demand, especially in the early months of life, is among the most critical things one can do for the long-term health and well-being of their child. The harm that has been associated with the Ezzos' parent-directed feeding schedules is not always easily undone, and is simply not worth the potential risks. No other child or parents deserve to endure what we have suffered."
"With both boys I lost my milk between 4 and 5 months. I was unable to get it to come back, I tried all the tricks. Every 3 hours is not enough stimulation for my milk supply in the early months and it affected my supply later on. We were also very heavy into using punishment
(spankings) but now we are not. Our children are now better behaved since we stopped using those tactics with them."

"What was the worst we suffered from the materials?
Believing that every night waking, every phase, everything our kids did, was because they were trying to manipulate us or control us, or defy us. That everything had to be "handled". It's a twisted, sick mindset against your own children - and it's simply not true. We have come a long way - and still have a long way to go. We are far removed from that mindset now, but it haunts us. We find more and more that the truth is that children are new, all that they do is experimentation, and normal. A good dose of guidance, understanding and teaching goes 10 times farther than one punishment."

If you have questions or are frustrated with infant feeding issues, especially breastfeeding, please talk to a qualified professional, and seek the time trusted advice of someone like Dr. Sears.  

Dr, Sears has authored numerous books of preganancy, birth, breastfeeding and parenting, including great books on nghttime parenting, fussy babies, discipline and many, many more.

Here is an excerpt from Nighttime Parenting by Sears  published on the La Leche League website that talks about SIDS. ( Sudden Infant Death Syndrome )

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