Parenting books put to the test – ‘On Becoming Babywise’

With so many baby books on the shelf, it can hard to pick one that’s right for you. Our mums take a leaf out the experts’ books and report back on the approaches…

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‘On Becoming Babywise’ by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam

On Becoming Babywise aims to find the balance between child-led feeding times and the avoidance of a new baby dominating family life. The ‘scheduling’ of feed times is not intended to be inflexible, however. The aim is that parents set boundaries for the baby, while also understanding their child’s individual needs – thus enabling baby to sleep right through the night as quickly as possible.

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Mum tester

Helen Shields, 29, is a secondary school teacher. She is married to Philip and they have a daughter Charis, who is 6 months old. She followed On Becoming Babywise ‘to the letter’ and although it gave her confidence in the early weeks, she has reservations about some of the claims it makes.

What our mum thought…

“I didn’t plan to follow a particular childcare philosophy. I naively thought I’d know what to do when the time came. However, Babywise was recommended to us by 2 couples we highly respect.

Babywise treads a middle ground between child-led feeding and clock feeding, or scheduling. The thinking is that the child should not dominate family life to the exclusion of other priorities, such as your partner and your friends. Equally, life should not be dominated by the clock.

Parent directed feeding (PDF) is what the book recommends; suggesting that a combination of hunger cues from your child and reference to the time should guide the parent as to when feeds are due. The parent should mediate between these 2 and make an assessment. You should be aware of the clock but if the child is grisly, feed her and recalculate.

Described as a ‘classic sleep reference guide’, the aim is to get baby to sleep through the night as soon as possible. The book shows you how to get your baby to take full feeds at each sitting to stop her ‘snacking’. The time between feeds is gradually lengthened, until eventually she is able to go all night without a feed.

As a new mum it is easy to assume that when your baby is grisly, she must be hungry. Using the book gave me confidence. Secure in the knowledge that Charis had fed well, I could look at other factors to see what might be bothering her. But people were surprised to see me wake Charis from a nap to feed her, which could often make me feel embarrassed or guilty.

The emphasis in the book is on getting your baby into a routine – but babies can also get into bad routines. Charis got into the habit of waking at 2am every night and it became a really hard habit to break.

The big negative is the claim that 97% of breastfed baby girls will be sleeping through the night by 12 weeks. When Charis didn’t achieve this, I had feelings of guilt and failure. According to the book I was one of the 3% of failures, and this made me feel thoroughly despondent!

A friend of mine broke all the Babywise rules with her baby and yet she was sleeping through at 6 weeks. My friend had no set routines, she allowed her child to snack feed, enjoying the flexibility that gave her, while I stuck rigidly to the rules – and yet Charis didn’t sleep through until she was 5 months old. Since then, however, I’ve met people who struggled to get their babies out of the habit of snack feeding through the night, so with hindsight I am really glad I took the approach I did.

I followed the book to the letter from the day Charis was born. I should have lightened up a bit during the first 6 weeks but I was so afraid of ‘getting it wrong’. By the time she was 2 weeks old I felt we ought to have cracked it!

Because the approach is parent-directed, it does stop you from being lazy. It doesn’t tell you what to do; it gives a broad structure within which you work out your own way of doing things, which is what parenting is all about. Different people will take different things from the book.

But don’t take too seriously the book’s claims that it holds a magic formula for getting your child to sleep. There are many factors other than feeding that determine whether a child will sleep well, because they are individuals.”

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See what our mums thought about The New Contented Little Baby Book, Continuum Concept and Secrets of the Baby Whisperer.

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