Book Review - Babywise
I'll preface this post by saying that I always had a bias against this book and everything in it. I used to be a die-hard attachment parenting subscriber but the more experience I gain as a caretaker of others, the more open minded I've become.
I didn't really expect to learn anything from Babywise, I read it because I was curious. I wanted first hand knowledge. I was pleasantly surprised.
I laugh now at how far I've come and how I'm able to receive information objectively rather than from a place of emotion and judgment.
The Good - Babywise claims to come from a place of middle ground. It explains the history of the two schools of thought when it comes to caring for infants. Behaviorism or clock feeding emerged in the early 1900's and was boosted in the 1920's with the women's movement and the use of formula. Babies were to be fed every 4 hours around the clock, no exceptions.
In the 1940's, neo-primitivism gained popularity - the process of re-attaching the baby emotionally. We know this style of parenting today as "attachment parenting".
Babywise repeats many times that loving and holding your baby is important. They say "As authors, we believe that human touch is a baby's first language, communicating love and security through the portal of the senses. Touch is as important as proper nutrition, and the lack of either will lead to failure to thrive."
They coin their method of baby rearing as "parent directed feeding" or "PDF" which makes me chuckle.
PDF is nothing more than putting your baby on a developmentally appropriate and flexible schedule so they naturally sleep through the night - when they are ready. They remind the reader many times that babies are individuals and not all of them will be on the exact same timeline.
Overall, the book has great information and I'd recommend it to parents. It's got sample schedules and practical information. I don't find anything dangerous or negligent about the information shared in this book.
It says "A hungry baby should always be fed. Withholding food is never a way to fix a sleep problem."
The book talks about different types of crying and how/when to respond to each cry.
The Bad - Some of the information about letting your baby cry is not well written and I can see how it evokes an emotional response. It's difficult to stay objective unless you have a deep understanding of how babies are capable of learning when they are given the time, space and support to learn on their own. There needs to be more talk of observing the baby's behavior. But to be honest, I'm not sure I would have ever truly grasped this concept without an in depth Montessori training and years of working with babies.
I can see why it's instantly polarizing without the ability to observe the behavior before putting it into practice. I recently took a Montessori sleep course and the instructor likened it to watching a 2 year old put on their own socks. It takes a lot of restraint on the part of the adult in the room. We feel very compelled to intervene and just do it for the child, but understand that do so only interferes with their ability to do it themselves and hinders their development.
In the same way, going to the bed of the sleepy baby and picking them up to soothe them every time they whimper also hinders their ability to learn to sleep. A baby's cry doesn't always mean they need something from us and if given a little bit of time, they will often solve their own problems and soothe themselves to sleep. This isn't "cry it out". It's simply giving them space and lovingly observing behavior to see if they are able to do it without a 'prop'.
Other turn offs of this book - it's not inclusive. It's very much written for the nuclear family and references "mom" and the "mother" almost as if she is the only caretaker. There are undertones of mommy blame for just about any issue, and lots of references of breastfeeding causing baby's digestive issues or not enough milk and just assuming that breastfeeding is happening in the first place. Yet, it lacks practical breastfeeding information.
The concepts in the book are not well organized and skipped around quite a bit.
It's not a complete parenting book but there's enough information that someone could make the mistake of thinking it is. They would be lacking information. It's just not comprehensive.
There's no talk of sleep hygiene and how to create a sleep environment for success. (Of course I realize the book was written before we had a good understanding of all this but it's been edited and reprinted many times and could do with a healthy dose of updating)
A couple of times they mentioned giving juice or cereal before bed. That's a big nope and a juiced up baby isn't going to sleep well.
Overall - I thought it was a good read. The concepts in this book do work but I wish it was either shorter and straight to the point - like 12 hours sleep by 12 weeks (I can do a review for that too!) and had easier to digest information about the crying part, and step by step information starting from birth on sleep conditioning.
It is NOT the hardcore scheduling - cry it out book that I used to believe that it was. I'm glad I read it and decided for myself that it's not all bad, or even close to it.
Abbey is a birth and postpartum doula and placenta specialist in Dallas/Fort Worth and a mom to 4 children between the ages of 25 and 12.