Every so often, among parenting circles, the term “Babywise” is brought up. For wide eyed, uncertain parents it seems like a miracle in a box. The promises of perfectly scheduled feedings, sleeping through the night soon, and smooth sailing easily sway new parents hoping to avoid the common pitfalls of having a new baby.

Unfortunately, for too many infants, Babywise means suffering, starvation, and possible death.

The Facts

Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo, the authors of the Babywise books, have no qualifications in child development or growth. Despite giving out advice on breastfeeding, infant health, infant psychology, and other topics, neither Ezzo holds any degree in these topics. Gary Ezzo holds only a master of arts degree in Christian ministry, one that awarded to him based on life experience rather than actual studies.

Anne Marie Ezzo was trained as a Registered Nurse, however she stopped work several decades ago. She has not appeared to have worked to keep current on research and findings recently.

In some editions, a Dr. Robert Bucknam is listed as a co-author for the Babywise book. It is not clear which sections he actually wrote for the book, as editions without his name appear to be exactly the same.

Breastfeeding Issues

One of the most dangerous pieces of advice given it the feeding schedule, or “flexible routine” as it is called in the book. The Ezzos ignored, or were unaware of, the known medical facts of both breastfeeding and infant growth.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends allowing an infant feed when hungry, rather than sticking to a specific schedule. And for good reason. Each mother-infant breastfeeding relationship will be different. Some mothers have more or less milk storage capacity in their breasts, some infants digest breast milk more or less quickly. Forcing a child that digests milk quickly to eat on a set schedule can cause that infant to experience hunger, and over a long period of time lead to starvation.

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Women with limited milk storage can also quickly begin to lose their milk supply as they are not emptying their breasts as often as needed. The less frequently a mother breastfeeds, the less milk she produces. Together, a couple can face drastic decreases in milk supply with a child not eating as frequently as needed.

Failure to thrive and a failed breastfeeding relationship is certain to follow.

The Babywise Warnings

Babywise and the teachings of the Ezzos have already come under scrutiny from officials. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued their own statement on the use of scheduled feeding and infants.

“Newborns should be nursed whenever they show signs of hunger, such as increased alertness or activity, mouthing, or rooting. Crying is a late indicator of hunger. Newborns should be nursed approximately eight to 12 times every 24 hours until satiety … In the early weeks after birth, nondemanding babies should be aroused to feed if 4 hours have elapsed since the last nursing.”

Unfortunately, this advice is not always followed after parents are tempted with the promises of the Babywise system. For too many infants, following the Babywise schedule has caused failure to thrive, severe dehydration, and other health problems. For mothers, the scheduled feedings and forced night sleeping has lead many to lose their milk supplies early and unwanted weaning.

But Babywise Worked For Me

In every group, there will always be some who speak out saying Babywise worked well for them and their children.

It is true, for some mother-infant relationships they will fit naturally into the schedule that Babywise suggests with little to no effort. Yet the few successful examples should not outweigh the risks. For every risky behavior there will always be some who survive without harm, yet the risks remain.

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Parents who are considering using the Babywise method should stop and research all of the facts. The promises of a happy baby come with a steep price, for some a price too high to pay.

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