Monday, 13 August 2012

Book Review - On Becoming Babywise

This was the first, and for a while the only, sleep book that I read. An old friend had had great success with it when her little girl was born several years ago. I had heard a lot of other success stories from this sleep method as well so I gave it a good read while I was still pregnant and decided that it sounded like a great plan. I had no idea that sleep was going to be such a big issue once my baby was born and that it might be helpful to have a few different sleep books at my disposal.

The premise of the Babywise sleep plan is to set up a eat/play/sleep pattern to babys day (parent-directed feeding or PDF), rather than an on-demand schedule. Each cycle should occur every 2.5-3 hours for a newborn and 3-4 hours as the baby gets older, depending on how often your baby needs to eat. Your baby should eat as soon as she wakes up (from night time sleep and/or naps), then she should spend some time playing (length of time depends on babys age and tolerance for stiulation) and then go down for a nap. Based on this pattern a regular routine will naturally develop and you can plan out your days accordingly. Overtime, on this method, the middle of the night, late evening and early AM feedings would naturally go away as the baby got older. 

The book stresses having flexibility within the schedule/routine, especially during the first few weeks when the mothers supply needs to be properly developed and established and during growth spurts when your baby may need to eat more often. The book explains that by following a PDF plan you are making the baby a part of your family, instead of letting the baby rule your family. This sounded right up my alley.

Babywise also supports putting your baby to sleep while they are awake (but ready to sleep), which I have since found in a few other sleep books). It also mentions that you should learn your babies cry - ie how long they will cry for and what the cry sounds like when they are tired - more or less suggesting that you should let them cry it out (or CIT) until they fall asleep. I tried that a couple times but couldn't bear to hear her scream and cry for longer than 15 minutes (especially when she was still only a few weeks old), so I guess I never really "learned" her cry. Our pediatrician doesn't recommend using the CIT method until 3 or 4 months, so I had a hard time adapting this "rule". The book also discourages the use of a pacifier, rocking and nursing your baby to sleep (creating a "crutch" for the baby to lean on rather than learn how to put themselves to sleep). I didn't use a pacifier for the first two weeks and they were by far the worst of the worst. As soon as I started using a pacifier with Kaitlin our lives got a little bit easier. She still hasn't quite figured out how to self soothe but she's getting there (one of these days I swear her whole fist is going to end up inside of her mouth).

Overall I liked the method of Babywise but in our reality it wasn't as simple following one method in order to get Kaitlin to sleep. We followed this pattern for a long time, and most days still do. The problem I had with Babywise was that I couldn't get Kaitlin down for her naps. When she didn't take a nap, our routine got messed up, and she got even crankier. In the end I couldn't really find any tangible solutions in the book to help with our specific problems, which lead me to seek out other books.

Kaitlins night time sleep has always been pretty good. Her middle of the night feedings fell away pretty fast and she was sleeping 7-8 hours at a stretch regularly by her two month check up (though as I type this she has begun waking up twice a night, oy vey). Maybe this is because we were following the Babywise routine during the day,  or maybe she is just a good night time sleeper. But my problem was getting her daytime naps down and unfortunately that is not something that Babywise really covered. 

Since so many other people have had great success with Babywise and I do really like the eat/play/sleep routine,  I am still inclined to recommend it. This book is heavily criticized for reasons I won't go into here (if you're interested google Becoming Babywise and you'll see a lot of negative responses). As always though you will need to decide what is right for your baby and your family.

You can buy On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam here.


  1. You didn't ask my opinion but I'll share it anyway (because that's how I roll) - I HATE BABYWISE! Oh for so many reasons. The lack of soothing alternatives. The forcing of schedules on newborns. The fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics has come out against this book because too many newborns were becoming dehydrated because they were being fed on schedule vs. feed on demand.

    If you're going to only by one sleep book Dr. Karp (love) has a new book out which I've been reading and really like. Or Ferber.
    -Alexis from Troublesome Tots.

    1. Alexis - thanks for sharing, I LOVE when people put in their 2 cents :) A lot of people have the same feelings as you towards this book/method. The lack of soothing alternatives lost me too, the primary reason why I strayed away from this book. I was lucky and Kaitlin never really wanted to eat more often than 2-3 hours (for the first month I constantly had to wake her up to eat!), so she easily fit into the suggested "schedule". However when she did, I of course fed her. If your little one needs to eat every hour then this plan probably wont work for you.

      I would always hope that parents would trust their instinct/listen to their baby over adhering to any specific schedule but sadly some people dont. I definitely dont suggest ignoring your babies hungry cries just to stay on a schedule!

      What is the new book by Dr. Karp? I'm interested!