Ezzo, Gary. On Becoming Baby Wise. Hawks Flight & Association, 2001.
Of all the decisions new parents make, perhaps the most controversial is the style of care and feeding to use. There are a lot of competing ideas out there, some of which are strongly opposed to one another, although at times it seems they have more in common than folks are willing to admit. The two ideas that you will most often encounter are demand feeding and schedule feeding.
We have used schedule feeding for our children, and are very happy with the results. We have no experience with demand feeding, though I have heard cogent criticism of it. There is also criticism of schedule feeding, though I think much of it misses the point. Schedule feeding is not blindly clock-driven, but appropriately moderates regularity in service of the baby’s needs. Much of the underlying difference between the two methods is the question of whether babies are autonomous and able to accurately judge their needs; or whether babies are under the authority of parents who are able to wisely balance their child’s felt needs and desires with their child’s actual needs, the family’s needs, and the goal of developing good habits. Schedule feeding is the method that is presented in Baby Wise.
Some caution is needed in approaching Baby Wise. Ezzo frames schedule feeding as the only proper way to parent, which I think is an overstatement. Feeding style is an important decision that has broad influence, including even character development. But it is nonetheless a matter of personal preference, not a matter of religious importance.
Baby Wise has a lot of ideas to digest. We found three points to be of central importance:
- No snack/pacify feeding. This generally means to feed on a schedule, but with some flexibility.
- Follow a pattern of feed, wake, sleep. Avoid letting feeding becoming a crutch for sleeping.
- Establish a fairly consistent morning feeding time.
There are three corollaries that we also found helpful:
- It’s ok for a baby to cry, provided their diaper is clean and it’s not time to eat.
- This approach requires significant discipline, patience, and consistency on the parents’ part. In particular, the father should be committed to leading, encouraging, and helping through this.
- It does not matter whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding. We only have experience with bottle feeding, but we know families that have successfully used these methods when breastfeeding. The main challenge with breastfeeding is that it’s more difficult to know how much food the baby is receiving.
While using these principles, all of our children slept through the night by about 12 weeks, and as babies were always at least 80th percentile in weight. Even more importantly, they have been generally sweet and submissive. While we cannot know how much of this is due to schedule feeding, this is what we practice and recommend.
Lisa has also read and recommends Tracy Hogg’s Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, whose approach is similar to the above.