On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep

On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep

On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep

My first-born will be turning six in about a week, a fact most people in our corner of the state have become privy to. I think back to her newborn days, to her beautiful long lashes and her ferocious cry.

The first weeks after her birth couldn’t have been more different than what I was expecting. Everything was infinitely more difficult, emotions impossibly high, than I had previously thought possible for human existence. My daughter slept at all the wrong times, nursed erratically, and cried every evening well into the night.

Six weeks after she had been born, with no improvement among anyone in the house, my sister-in-law gave me a book that truly saved my sanity. It ordered our days and gave us goals to shoot for. Within days our daughter was in a lovely routine, and my husband and I were overjoyed and so very relieved. With the basics down, we were able to take better care of her and ourselves, and we’ve followed the same structured day with the rest of our children. God blessed us with three more little ones, and I know that I would not have been able to open myself up to them so quickly if we hadn’t found this manual on how to create a peaceful day at home.

So, I wanted to introduce to you On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nightime Sleep. Written by Gary Ezzo and Dr. Robert Buckman, it offers solid advice and guidelines to parents on how to structure their baby’s days to help facilitate nighttime sleeping, promising that the little one will be able to sleep through the night by eight weeks. As the infant grows, the schedule changes to adapt to his needs until the child naturally transitions into a typical day with three meals, normal naps, and continuous sleep at night.

As a new mom with approximately zero experience with babies, this book was a God-send. It helped me anticipate my daughter’s needs, care for her with confidence, and help me incorporate her little life peacefully into my husband’s and mine. And, of course, it brought blissful sleep to us all. If you’re struggling with an infant, I recommend this with my whole heart.

Copyright 2013 Meg Matenaer


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    • Thank you for commenting Deltaflute – not having read the book, I am relying on Meg’s information – I will consult with a physician who writes for us on this book. Thank you for taking the time to comment. We truly appreciate it.

  1. If readers are tempted to follow the advice in this book, I highly encourage them to check out these links first to fully understand the dangers of what this book advocates. I’m not judging parents who have used this book, but please do your research first.






    • Elin, thank you for sharing this information. As I mentioned above, I will be consulting a doctor who writes for us. I thank you for taking the time to comment.

  2. This book is highly controversial because it recommends structured eating and sleeping patterns for infants. The attachment parenting movement uses an opposite philosophy of very limited structure and learning to respond to infant needs.

    From an academic medical perspective, I know of no data that shows that sleeping and eating structures are harmful to infants. There is one recent study about elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol in infants who were sleep trained, but I feel that was a poor study. It is highly criticized by the scientific community. I discuss this study in my post Stress, Cortisol, and Getting Your Baby to Sleep: http://childrensmd.org/browse-by-age-group/newborn-infants/stress-cortisol-and-getting-your-baby-to-sleep/

    Our best pediatric research continues to show that infants who are sleep trained actually have a lower incidence of behavioral and psychiatric disorders compared to those who were not sleep trained. Mothers who did not sleep train infants had a higher rate of depression compared to those who sleep trained their babies.

    In general, the conservative Catholic parenting/mom communities are very supportive of attachment parenting. And I understand why– we are trying SO hard to be lovign, gentle, good mothers. Some authors have gone so far as to imply that Theology of the Body supports attachment parenting, something JPII NEVER said or implied.

    As a mother of 4 (soon to be 5), I also fell into unstructured parenting, largely motivated by the other very committed Catholic moms that I know. I’m now convinced that you can have structure while still showing persistent unconditional love. I have seen many Catholic moms go rather crazy and become sleep deprived because they are afraid to implement structure in their family lives.

    I got so much push-back from the Catholic parenting community about my criticism of some aspects of attachment parenting that I decided not to write about it anymore. After prayer and consultation with Catholic leadership, I was strongly encouraged to bring the scientific data to the table and press on with my perspective. Hence, my post on attunement parenting: http://childrensmd.org/browse-by-age-group/toddler-pre-school/attunement-parenting-the-new-attachment-parenting/

    Thanks so much,


    Kathleen M. Berchelmann, MD
    Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
    Washington University School of Medicine
    Pediatric Hospitalist, St. Louis Children’s Hospital
    Director, Children’s MomDocs Media Initiative

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChildrensMomDocs
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/MomDocKathleen
    Google+: https://plus.google.com/b/109635803885562968049/109635803885562968049/posts
    Blog: http://childrensmd.org/

    • deltaflute on

      With all due respect, our criticisms of Ezzo’s book are in conjunction with criticisms from the scientific community.

      Dr. Ferber, a leading expert of children’s sleep, has stated that it’s unrealistic to for a child to be able to sleep through the night by 8 weeks (as promoted by Ezzo). Dr. Ferber’s own book doesn’t address sleep training until age 3 months.

      The WHO, AAP, and LLL all have said that Ezzo’s PDF (parent-directed feeding) has led to failure-to-thrive issues with children and milk supply problems in women. In fact the AAP did not even begin to address these issues until member-pediatricians repeatedly presented failure-to-thrive cases directly related to Ezzo’s principals.

      This doesn’t even begin to address theological concerns that are found in Mr. Ezzo’s evangelical version of the book “Growing Kid’s God’s Way.”

      It’s a bit insulting to assume that reason we are concerned about Catholimom.com’s promotion of the Baby Wise book is because we are all attachment parents. We have looked at the body of studies and existing literature ourselves including personal testimonies from other physicians, physiologists, and former Baby Wise Parents. Please do not dismiss our concerns because you have a problem with attachment parenting and instead address what the AAP, WHO, LLL, and Dr. Ferber have said in light of research into children’s sleep and breastfeeding.

      • Deltaflute thank you for continuing the conversation – I do want to be clear that me deciding to allow Meg’s column to run and our having a conversation here in the comments about it is not “CatholicMom.com promoting” this book. I have not read the book. We invite our contributors to write on a variety of topics and to discuss many books, many of which I have not personally read. I’m not endorsing this book in any way (because I haven’t read it), but I do think we can have a respectful conversation about the topics raised in Meg’s column. Again, thank you for commenting.

        • Also, just to say that if you’d like to write a guest article on this topic for our site and to recommend alternative resources, I would be happy to run that too. Thanks.

          • deltaflute on

            I would love to write something as a rebuttal to baby wise or parenting philosophy in general. But I’ll have to take a rain check as we’re in the midst of moving to another country.

            Oh and i understand that you dont endorse a particular philosophy but Ezzo promotes evangelic Christianity. Its the basis of his book. Naturally i wouldnt think a Catholic website would agree with his beliefs. But as you said you havent read his books. Unfortunately i have.

  3. I had severe problems with this book after I read it before having my first child. I proceeded to do more research and found my hesitations and problems were not unfounded. While I admire some aspects of attachment parenting we are far, far from being attachment parents, so to insinuate that only attachment parenting followers have issues with this book is simply untrue. There are many problems with the baby wise philosophy that are based in medical science and the book should be read cautiously with that in mind.

  4. Thank you for bringing up the issue of infant age as it relates to sleep training and parent-directed feeding. This is a very important issue.

    Please note that I am not commenting on the specific recommendations of the Baby Wise book, nor specifically recommending it. I am commenting on the concept of structured sleeping and eating patterns in newborns.

    I agree with Dr. Ferber that sleep training, as per his method, is not appropriate under age 3 months. In fact, if you read my own writing on sleep, stress, and cortisol (linked in above comment), you will note that I generally don’t recommend sleep training before six months.

    Parent directed feeding can lead to milk supply problems in SOME women and consequent failure-to-thrive in infants. This is usually among young infants, under age 4-6 months. Other women are able to do parent directed feeding successfully without losing breast milk. Personally, I have never tried parent directed feeding, and I recommend feeding on demand until at least age 4-6 months, especially with breast-fed infants. I agree with WHO, AAP, and LLL on this issue. I also think we need to change our society’s attitude about breastfeeding such that women are more comfortable breastfeeding in public and thus don’t NEED parent directed feeding.

    We have to recognize that these recommendations by large organizations are based on large population studies. Every individual doesn’t fall into population-based averages. There a bell curve, and some people always fall into the tails of the bell curve. In other words, there are SOME babies who can be sleep trained by 8 weeks and there are SOME women who can successfully breastfeed with parent directed feeding. I have a hard time criticizing families who choose these approaches if they are working for them. You are correct to note that there are some risks associated with instituting structured feeding and sleeping before age 4-6 months.

    Regarding attachment parenting, I am actually a big supporter of most of the practices this philosophy promotes. I join the larger pediatric community in voicing a few concerns with attachment parenting, especially regarding sleep. For full details of what I love at attachment parenting and where my concerns lie, please see my post on Attunement Parenting (linked in above comment).

    Writing for CatholicMom.com as a physician is very hard, harder than I thought. Many moms are insulted by my writing here, and also at CatholicPediatrics.com. Those insulted feel that I am presumptuous, or don’t recognize that moms can do their own research. I recognize that moms are highly educated and very motivated to research parenting and pediatric issues themselves. I also know how hard it is to sift through the huge body of information on the internet and try to figure out what is accurate. I find this hard myself. I feel the gift I have to offer to other moms is my ability to critically read peer-reviewed medical literature (much of which is subscription based and funded by my university.) Then, I try to make recommendations in common language for other moms. My goal is to bring the most medically accurate information to the mom community, primarily for St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University at http://ChildrensMD.org. Here on CatholicMom and on my personal blog CatholicPediatrics.com, you will see much of the same writing, but with my added perspective as a Catholic mom.

      • Delataflute – thanks for responding and best of luck with your move. That’s exciting. Please know that the offer stands – you’re welcome any time it’s convenient for you. Best wishes with all you have going on!

  5. Thank you Dr. Berchelmann.
    I am very thankful for your contributions here.
    I feel that, the Internet gives us so many options these days. These options and opinions that are added in the comments at the end are, in many cases, very adamant. Most if the individuals reading and contributing comments here are very capable of reading a lot of the available information out there and making their own educated decisions based on this information for their families. I appreciate your addition of medical based knowledge.
    I have used baby wise for all six of my children. Having started it very early with number one, I have learned with each of my babies that the book is a great starting point. Every child and family is different. I have recommended it to many friends, and have been very adamant that it has been a Godsend to us. And I have been very adamant that it is a great tool to have in your arsenal, along with many other tools. As a brand new mom I had ABSOLUTELY no idea where to even start with breast feeding. This book gave me that starting point. I have never (and have breast feed 5 of my 6 for a full year) had any issues with dehydration or milk supply.
    That being said, Babywise is not for everyone. I think this is just another case of “what worked really well for me, may not work for you, and may not be something you ever want to even try”.
    Please don’t try to push homeschooling, vegetarianism, gluten free, and 5k a day running down my throat, and I won’t push Babywise down yours. I truly believe that each and every one of your readers are very capable of making their own educated decisions. As am I. Thank you again for contributing your medical knowledge.

  6. A note to Meg: thank you for sharing your experience with us. You started a great conversation. Please keep sharing your stories with us. God bless!

  7. Nice article, Meg!

    My sister-in-law (devout Catholic mom of 8) gave me this book when I was expecting my first. She raved about it, and since I respect her opinion (and I had nothing else to go on!), I read the book and followed it word-for-word! And, my baby slept :). I breastfed for a year, and I never had a problem with milk supply, thank God.

    I used the general philosophy (eat-play-sleep) for my next four babies also, but I had to tweak the technique a little according to each individual baby. They were all breastfed for a year. They are all great sleepers (my friends are amazed how easy bed time/night time is at our house!).

    I would also recommend the book and general philosophy it to new moms and dads (my husband read it to so that he was on board)! I think that I have a very strong attachment with each of my children (starting from day one), so I don’t think that these philosophies are “instead of” attachment parenting! Sleep is just so important and it really makes for a happier baby (and happier mom!). But, of course, moms need to read it and decide for themselves. I believe that we all have our baby’s best interests at heart (and we need to make sure that we stay sane and healthy too!).

  8. As a Protestant I jumped right on this Ezzo bandwagon when I married 27 years ago. This method was just surfacing. After converting to Catholicism 4 years lateri also started a conversion of how I parent. I can’t tell you how much I regret how I parented my first 2 children because of what I learned from the Ezzos and others like them. It grieves me to this day.

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