Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No-Cry vs. Babywise

I got such interesting comments on my "NO, NO, NO" post that I wanted to write a little follow-up.

We do indeed have "The No-Cry Sleep Solution" by Elizabeth Pantley, recommended by Dr. Sears. I like this book, and what we are doing with Epu's getting her back down is the kind of thing she recommends in there.

As for "On Becoming Babywise," I have not read it. I heard some creepy things about it, like some kind of
idea that young infants are being rebellious and must be corrected if they refuse a scheduled feeding, and I thought that book was not for us. However, I wouldn't mind thumbing through a copy if I saw one around, because it could well be that I've gotten a skewed perception of the book by reading others' comments about it. After all, most attachment parenting types like us shudder at the mention of Dr. Ferber, and yet I recently checked out a Web site fromChildren's Hospital Boston where he works and found his recommendations in his own words to be much more reasonable than what I had heard.

To the pregnant reader who is thinking about "Babywise," I would urge you to look through both that book and maybe Dr. Sears' Baby Book or just www.askdrsears.com and really think about what approach you want to take when your child is born. I agree that you don't have to follow any one philosophy line by line. But you should be aware that there are two very different schools of thought about parenting young children, and this notion of "self soothing" is at the crux of the difference.

From what I have heard, "Babywise" is a book that promotes a parent-directed approach. The parent decides what the baby should do when and takes steps to condition the baby to do those things. Dr. Sears advocates a child-centered approach, in which the parent responds to the baby's needs.

I'm sure that in general, parents who follow either approach do just fine as long a they love the pants off their kids. Babies are obviously capable of soothing themselves from a young age; on the other hand some of us don't feel they should have to right away (as long a they are getting themselves off to sleep by the time they move into their college dormitories). Nutmeg was nursed to sleep until she eventually learned to put herself quietly to sleep and now, at age 3, she too goes to bed with little fanfare every night. I will probably change our approach a little with our second child, for instance we will probably night wean Pebbles earlier than 18 months because, damn, 18-month-olds are very opinionated and can cry really, really loud.

I would throw in one caution though: There are serious concerns about following a strictly parent-directed, cry-it-out approach with babies younger than 6 months old. From what I have read about it, the Ferber method is intended for babies OVER 6 months. For one thing, babies that young of course need to eat more frequently than older babies so you would not want to let your 2-month-old cry when she wakes up for a feeding. But also, one of the first things babies learn about communication and their relationship with their parents that they can get parents' attention with a cry. You really risk not developing your child's trust in you and in his ability to communicate his needs if you try a cry-it-out approach before that call-and-response is established.


Kori said...

I'm so glad you posted this. I wanted to comment in your last post once I saw "Babywise," but couldn't come up with something eloquent enough to add. Maybe it was because I was home with a sick kid, with only minutes to look at your site. Maybe it was because I couldn't get various baby-related permutations of the Amy Winehouse song out of my head ("they try to make me wear a sunhat, and I say, NO, NO, NO....)

Whatever the case, I'm glad I was hush, because you did a great job here.

My only additional comment would be that you need to go into parenting with a compass, but be prepared for the territory to dictate some of your hike. Every kid has their own preferences, and a good part of the journey is honoring those preferences. I know several parents who never thought they'd cosleep, and then their baby came, and there they all were in the family bed. I also know quite a number of parents who never thought they'd use an extinction method, but after awhile, they found themselves with an overtired baby and Ferber in hand to help.

I guess I'm just reinforcing a child-centered approach here, so I don't know how much I'm adding. I just think it can't be overstated how much flexibility is key in the whole adventure.

One more note: Babywise, from what I understand, is a secular adjunct to a religious child-rearing program. That's a factor for a lot of parents, too.

No one could convince me that a four-month old baby's middle-of-night crying shouldn't be answered with food, but I guess that if someone told me that Jesus wanted me to toughen my kid up, I'd have to pause for a minute. Then I'd remember Jesus isn't that type---I imagine he's a cosleeper, really.

TulipGirl said...

We used Babywise and even led the church-based class. We eventually discarded it, and really regret that we used those ideas.

While good parents can glean some good ideas (of course nurturing the husband/wife relationship is important!) in general, the information about breastfeeding, infant nutrition needs, sleep patterns, child development--all those very important areas, Babywise has so much misinformation it really isn't worth it for the few bits of encouragement.

But regardless of what approach we take with our children we WILL make mistakes--and I'm convinced that God's grace and a mother's love covers a multitude of mistakes.

Anonymous said...

Hi again--I'm the one who left the comment about Babywise. Thanks for your input. I realize that Babywise is not the bible, but like I said, there are useful pieces of information to take out of it. I read the entire book, and I am also reading Dr. Sears monster book as well, and thought that the idea of training your baby how to eat seemed as natural as training your baby how to potty in a toilet. Humans are products of our environments, training, natural responses and consequences--I wouldn't expect a baby to know how to properly feed itself anymore than I would expect it to do math. So we teach, which is how our species survives.

Like a commenter above, I also like how the book emphasizes the importance of the parental relationship--how that is the central piece of the family. I truly believe in that philosophy and have seen how when the child becomes the center, the family starts to erode and often divorce follows. Also, in contrast to Dr. Sears method of attachment parenting, I feel that having a baby constantly attached to the mother hinders the natural development of relationships between baby and father, baby and siblings, and baby and other important persons, such as grandparents. I think that the Sears family leaves Dad out too much.

The book also differentiates between little babies and older babies, which is important. For example, when a 6 week old cries, you gots to pick it up. Should you be picking up a 6 month old every time it cries? Judgment call, but I would say not always. As a nanny for several years, I can say that babies cry sometimes out of frustration, impotence, etc., and responding to every little whimper is detrimental to their ability to discover solutions on their own--like I dropped my rattle so I cry, but wait, I can pick it right back up. Viola! If mom always picks it up, then learning is stunted.

I won't take the time to list the things I didn't like about Babywise because you probably don't have that kind of bandwidth (such as the notion the breastfeeding after 9 months is not necessary, which contradicts almost every academic study I've read on breastfeeding). I also won't do the same for the Sears family (who's teachings make anyone who doesn't feel sleeping with their baby squished in between them selfish). Both schools of thought are entirely too rigid in their convictions to be used independently of other ideas.

Kori said...

I think emphasizing the primacy of the parent-parent relationship is very wise. Parenting should be flexible to adapt to the needs of children, but if you disconnect with your spouse in the process, you just become roommates who tag-team babysit. Agreeing on the style and emphasis of parenting is critical to staying connected to each other as parents, whatever path you choose (or rechoose, or try again, or discard, etc.)

I also agree that there is much dogma in both camps, and all of it must be weighed and measured in moderation.

Okay, second two cents now rendered. :)

Notta Wallflower said...

Hmm.. with K I did a combination. I really tried to listen to his cries, especially at bedtime, to be able to tell if he was in distress or if he truly needed something. I know it's not a foolproof approach, but I was afraid of him getting it into his head (especially around 1 year of age) that he could avoid bedtime by fussing. I don't think I've ever truly used just one approach when it comes to kids, either my own or someone else's. I'm not sure what H and I will do with our baby. H mentioned this morning that your previous post had gotten him thinking about how exactly we'll handle bedtime. I'm reading "The Nursing Mother's Companion" right now and basically she states something similar to what you assert - that under a certain age, you cannot spoil a child with attention (she was specific to the number of times you nurse a young infant). I'm learning a lot and will have to check out some of the books you mentioned.

TulipGirl said...

"I feel that having a baby constantly attached to the mother hinders the natural development of relationships between baby and father, baby and siblings, and baby and other important persons, such as grandparents. I think that the Sears family leaves Dad out too much."

It is interesting to look, though, at the end results with the Sears family and the Ezzo family.

Two of the Sears sons became pediatricians and work in the same practice with Dr. Sears. All reports are that the extended family is close.

Ezzo has very little, if any, contact with his daughters and grandchildren. At the least the relationships are disrupted, and Gary Ezzo described the relationship simply as "cordial."

Which do I want for my husband and sons?

C said...

Here is my Ezzo expose: