I’ve had this post mulling in my head for years. It seems like mamas are either on one side or the other: love BabyWise or think it’s terrible. I’m not going to debate whether it is the right choice for all babies; there is no such thing. What I am here to share is how I successfully used the BabyWise routine (as discussed in the book BabyWise by Gary Ezzo) to raise an exclusively breastfed, 75+%ile, excellent sleeper for a daughter. Whether BabyWise is the right choice for you is something only you can decide for yourself. There is plenty of information both against and in support of the method. I found it to be the single best decision I made for both me AND my baby during her infancy. Well, maybe second best, after choosing to breastfeed. :)
I make no secrets here about my love for order & routine. I like things in their place and schedules calm me. It was no surprise that when picking up BabyWise I was instantly drawn to the promise of the scheduled, sleeping child Ezzo described in the book. Knowing that I’d do 100% of the day & nighttime feedings by myself, I knew I needed something that provided me the structure that I had in the rest of my life, and luckily, for me, it did work out as beautifully as he described. But I approached BabyWise with a flexible mindset. & I think that is why it did work for us. Let me explain.
ROUTINE vs. SCHEDULE
I think the misunderstanding of these two words leads to a lot of criticism of BabyWise. Whether Ezzo meant for there to be a difference or not, my interpretation of BabyWise was heavily based on a routine, not a schedule–at least at first. My understanding:
Routine, to me, means that there is a specific order of events. I operate on routine. As it pertains to BabyWise, routine meant my baby was on an EAT-WAKE-SLEEP cycle. All events were conducted in that order. She ate, we played, she slept. At night, we skipped the playtime. But our routine was solid. This routine started at about 2.5/3 hour cycles, and eventually lengthened over time to 4ish hours each cycle.
Schedule, to me, means that something happens at a specific time during the day. As it pertains to BabyWise (and where I think parents run into big trouble) is when they choose, too early, to set their infant on a rigid schedule. (for example, baby will only eat at 8am, 11am, etc. & eating will not take place before those times) A rigid schedule was not something I was interested in (at first).
With an infant, I did not follow a schedule; I followed a routine.
How it Worked: You can look through my original stylebabyLOG week by week to see how & when my routine shifted into a schedule, but you will also notice that there was a lot of flexibility on any given day. At about 9 weeks, I began shifting towards a “goal” schedule, and you’ll notice that it is written at the top of most pages, something like 8, 11, 2, 5, 8, 11. BUT…my “schedule” always began when the baby woke up in the morning. I did not wake her to start the day. Once she was awake, we started our eat-wake-sleep cycles, which were of duration appropriate for her age. If her naps extended beyond the expected cycle duration, I would wake her up (example–as a newborn she was on 2.5/3 hr cycles, & if her naps took her past the 3 hour mark between feedings, I’d wake her up to nurse). This prevented her from getting too hungry and cranky and kept my milk supply up because we had consistent frequency. It also assured me that she’d go back to sleep the next cycle, because she did not get too much sleep. If she did wake up before the “cycle” was over, we’d play for a bit & I’d try to keep her on track for eating. For me–this worked beautifully.
By 13 weeks or so, we had it down. It was smooth. Looking back at my notes, it looks like I started a really regular schedule at about 6 months old. We never left the house in the morning for about a year–that morning nap was far too precious. It was one thing I insisted stay consistent. She went down at 10 & slept until about noon. Afternoon naps, back then, were a crap shoot. But the morning naps were my sanity. :)
Eventually, at about a year and a half old, she dropped the morning nap and went to a long afternoon nap only. As of now (she is currently 28 months old) she is up at about 8:30am, naps at 1:30/2 for at least 2 hours, and is in bed for the night at 8pm. She is an excellent nighttime sleeper. She always has been. This is why I am so productive–more on my “work hours” & how I balance it all here: mama the nightowl!)
BREASTFEEDING & BABYWISE
Part of the major criticism of BabyWise is from those who practice and believe in on-demand nursing. Don’t get me wrong, I never refused to feed my baby, but I drew a line at the very beginning that I was not to be used as a pacifier. I need boundaries & consistency. I was not one to just offer the boob if she seemed a little fussy. I offered a pacifier & stuck to our routine once I determined all her needs were met. & because of this–I loved nursing. I was completely committed and we made it a whole year without supplementing with formula and my daughter was 75+%ile for height & weight. She weaned herself at about 15 months.
One of my secret weapons, which I credit to at least partially influencing my excellent nighttime sleeper, was the concept of the DreamFeed. I picked this idea up from a book called The Baby Whisperer (which I also recommend–it was a good compliment to BabyWise). Basically, a dreamfeed occurs at 10pm-ish every night. Mama gently arouses the baby from sleep & offers a feeding before she goes to sleep for the night. Once the baby has eaten, the baby goes right back down to bed. No awake time. It’s like topping off the tank for the night. & it worked like a charm. BUT…I tweaked it to suit my schedule.
Since I am such a night owl (and usually go to bed at about 1-2am) I decided to offer a bottle of breastmilk at 10 pm, and add in a pumping session at about midnight every night. This allowed me more time between the last daytime nursing session (about 7pm) and her last feeding (10pm) before I went to sleep for the night. By pumping later than she ate, I also shortened the amount of time between the last nighttime feeding & the first morning feeding, which I think helped keep my milk production up. Despite my problem with excess lipase, I was able to store my fresh milk for about 24 hours before it spoiled.
I knew right from the start that I was not born to be a co-sleeper. I couldn’t let go of the worry that I was going to roll over on my baby and that alone kept me from ever being able to get adequate rest while she was laying next to me. I know this is a hot topic too, and there certainly is plenty of research that supports co-sleeping–but it is just not for me. I kept caroline in our room until I finished decorating her nursery, which was about 10 weeks. The transition from pack and play to her crib was seamless (I started with naps) and she spent a lot of time napping in the bugaboo during the first few weeks too.
I was never good at the “sleep when your baby sleeps” idea…so I refused to let myself become a sleep prop for my baby–I needed (and still need!!) that time away from her to recharge my mommy batteries & tackle my own to-do list. She happily went down on her own from a very young age, and still does–in her own bed.
RESPECTING PARENTING CHOICES
The thing that drives me the most nuts about sharing my success with BabyWise is always the “controversy” and criticism. I was recently reading a post from the amazing Tara Whitney (the topic was her special needs child, but the message was perfect) discussing judgment. We all judge. It’s just the way we are. But for some reason, parenting choices seem to bring out the *best* in us. Right? I loved her quote about right & wrong:
Why is is that when something works for us, and it doesn’t work for someone else, we assume they MUST be doing it wrong? The I’m right, you’re wrong mentality is so frustrating to me. & not looking at things as right/wrong or good/bad it is one of the greatest lessons that I have learned since becoming a parent–because every child is different. Who knows, maybe BabyWise will be a total failure on my next baby. I don’t know. So I am not going to judge you because it is what you choose to, or not to do. I’m happy to share what made it work for me–but maybe, just maybe, it was my baby. It was what she needed. Maybe the next won’t respond that way. You are going to get what you get–and on top of all the pressures and comparative thinking that we deal with as mothers, who needs anyone criticizing us for the way we feed/nap/wake our babies?
Each of us is entitled to make whatever parenting choices we want when it comes to our child (assuming, of course, that the child is not in danger). I know my way will not work for everyone, but it worked for me. & as someone who questions EVERYTHING before I believe it, I wanted to get my BabyWise success story out there. So you can look at it. See what might work for you. & create whatever it is that works in your home. I took tidbits from mommies that I admired and made them all part of my way. This is my hope for you–maybe something, a little tidbit or two–will bring you just a little more peace.
NOW…whew…did you make it this far? Well if you did–I want you to know that a big part of my success with BabyWise & what kept me sane was my stylebabyLOG. I created this product out of necessity and while you certainly don’t have to practice BabyWise to find it to be a useful tool in your home, you BabyWise mamas should LOVE the organization of the pages–because it does work so well with the method. SO….I am going to give one away! :)
To enter, leave me a comment with your BEST piece of new mommy advice.
Giveaway has ended.
If you are just now reading this post & are struggling because babywise is JUST NOT WORKING, you are not alone. Babywise was a dream for my caroline, but everett was a completely different story. For more, head over to: WHEN BABYWISE FAILS.