Monday, November 22, 2010

BabyWise vs. Attachment Parenting


This topic got brought up in my Bradley class I am currently teaching. I can't stop thinking about it and decided maybe this is a better venue to express my thoughts on this topic.

Most of the people I know, or have known, that have "done" the Baby Wise method of parenting have gotten into it because other couples at their church do it. The people I have encountered have been interesting for me to observe. They tend to watch the clock instead of their baby. For example, baby is fussy, and instead of putting the baby to breast, mom looks at the clock and announces that he shouldn't be hungry yet, not for another 20 minutes! By the time she feeds him, he's hysterical.

I had someone in class explain how the method is actually suppose to work, and I must admit, if I didn't have children, I might think it sounds like it makes a lot of sense. Here's the idea: You want your baby to learn to get good sleep and sleep for longer periods of time, because, like adults, they will learn better, grow better, etc., if they get good rest. They talk about the possibility of developing ADHD and having learning difficulties when the child doesn't get enough rest. (Have you been to Walmart at 10:00 at night and seen all the crying kids and frustrated parents? I'd have to say that I agree -- kids should be in bed when they have school the next day.) You are not to let the baby fall asleep at the breast, but keep the baby awake longer so that he will sleep longer. Baby Wise also does not want baby to always breastfeed to go to sleep.

My favorite part though was not having a baby that is a "snacker." The idea is that if you "let" your baby breastfeed whenever he wants to, he isn't getting "good protein" -- WHAT?! Whoever came up with that has no idea how breastfeeding actually works. Baby gets "good protein" at every nursing, long or short. They advocate for the baby to have "meals" instead of "snacks." Dr. Sears, in The Baby Book, talks about all the different types of nursing babies. Having breastfed 4 babies for more than 7 years of my life, I will tell you that all babies are different. My first did not ever nurse for less than 40 minutes at a time. His little head would sweat like crazy. I'd have about an hour, maybe 1 1/2 hours, before we'd do it all again. He is my healthiest child!

My 2nd baby was finished with nursing five minutes after it began. She would go 3-4 hours between feedings. I could never have made her nurse longer. I would have had a very frustrated baby, not to mention a very frustrated mom. She slept more than any of our other babies. She was the only baby who would not fall asleep nursing. She wanted to be left alone to go to sleep. Sounds like what every parent hopes for, right? Think again. She was not a cuddler. She has been my only child prone to ear infections. She is almost 10 years old and very smart, a very deep thinker. She likes to spend her time alone and has lots of self-soothing techniques that have become very disruptive in her life -- so much so that we are seeking counseling. Don't leave your child to soothe herself. My "squeeky wheels" seem to have more "normal" ways of dealing with life. I don't want to see parents do this type of parenting on purpose.

My other two babies were more in a classic category, as far as breastfeeding.

Some babies, especially newborns, will want to breastfeed every 20 minutes! This is a good thing. You will establish a good milk supply. It is the frequency of breastfeeding, not the duration, that stimulates your milk-producing hormones. So, snacking is great! Babies have very intense sucking needs those first few weeks. This is not a coincidence. It helps establish a good milk supply if your baby is at the breast very often. You absolutely cannot spoil your newborn baby! What will spoil this wonderful relationship is giving your baby a pacifier or bottle. Babies are built to breastfeed and so is the mother! Let yourself enjoy this time by following your baby's cues. He will let you know exactly what he needs if you will listen to him and not some kooky book that tells you your baby needs to teach himself how to go to sleep.

As far as sleeping goes, you cannot force a baby, or anyone, to fall into certain sleep cycles. Sleeping is an absolute basic need. Food, water, sleep, shelter. Honestly, no one needs to be taught how to sleep. Babies have very different sleep cycles from other age groups. A good book to read on this topic is "Sweet Dreams" by Dr. Paul Fleiss.

I was completely obsessed with sleep with my first baby. And then one day, I was trying to make him take a nap, and my aunt said to me, "You know, he will sleep when he's tired. He must not be tired. Let's go play!" This was so freeing to me. He was 3 years old at the time. He quit taking naps shortly after that, but his bedtime was moved to an earlier time. He is such a great sleeper since I quit obsessing over it. He's 12.

We had a big sleep progression over the years. I wish we could have just started with baby #4. We never even set up a crib with her. When we had a crib, we felt obligated to use it. (Dr. Sears tells a story of being in a foreign country and was asked, "Is it true that American mothers put their babies in cages at night?) Yes, it is true.

Let me tell you about sleep with Darcy: I nursed my baby to sleep every time she was sleepy! I would never recommend not doing that. It was stress free. I knew she'd fall asleep and if she didn't, we'd try again later. I knew this was my only time of her life that we would have this opportunity. I loved to nurse my sweet baby to sleep, to smell her milky breath as her mouth opened once sleep came and extra milk ran down the side of her cheek. I never had to pick her up and take her to her bed. Our bed was her bed. I simply laid her down and felt her body mold to mine. Unless you have experienced this closeness to your baby, you just cannot understand or imagine the sweetness. David and I both treasured that time, knowing it is too short.

Darcy was never afraid of sleep. It was a comfortable, safe, warm, happy place to be. What is wrong with nursing your baby to sleep, even every time your baby is tired? Why is this frowned upon in our society? I promised, it will not last forever! You will not create a monster.

Our bed sits high up. We taught her early on how to get off the bed -- "feet first" was a phrase all of our kids learned early on. When she was very small, we would put a monitor on the bed and get there as soon as we heard her wake up.

There were some sleepless nights. Sometimes, she'd be wide awake in the middle of the night and want to talk. Sometimes she'd kick David in the back. Sometimes we slept in the "H" position. This would have happened no matter what bed she was in. It would be very easy to ignore her if she were in another room. Usually, however, she would simply nurse back to sleep. I was her mother in the daytime as well as the nighttime. We have a king-size bed, and really, that is a better investment than a crib.

I hear parents say they are afraid the baby will never leave their bed. Of course they will. When Darcy was about 20 months old, we were trying to get her used to sleeping in another bed in our bedroom. We were going on a Tim McGraw cruise in a few weeks and wanted things to be easier for my mom who would be staying with the children. That was such a stressful time to try to make her sleep somewhere she wasn't comfortable with. After a few weeks of trying, I decided it just wasn't time for her to be out of our bed. What a relief.

She moved into her sisters' bedroom when she was 28 months old. We talked about it beforehand and felt that she was ready. She did not try to come out of the bedroom even one time! Again, sleep was never scary for her. It was an easy transition. She quit breastfeeding around the same time. She'll be 4 in March and is still a great napper, which always takes place on my bed. It's my favorite time of the day to snuggle up with her and feel her breathing sync with mine as we drift off to sleep.

Let's go back to the Baby Wise idea of not letting your baby fall asleep at the breast. First of all, I say this is nearly impossible. There are some major problems with this philosophy. When I am talking with a breastfeeding mom who has a baby that is not gaining weight, the first thing I ask her is, "Who is ending the feedings?" The baby should be the one ending it, usually because he falls asleep! Mom should not be ending it because the longer the baby stays at the breast, the more hindmilk the baby is getting. This is the fat, or "dessert," after dinner. Baby needs this to grow. Second, mom's body produces a hormone called prolactin which the baby also receives during breastfeeding. It is often called "the mothering hormone" because it causes her to be calm, even sleepy. Same effect on baby. Why would any mother not want to have this wonderful hormone surging through her body and her baby? Again, I ask, why is it bad to let your baby fall asleep at the breast?

Follow your baby's cues. Don't be a clock watcher. Don't schedule your baby. Together, you will fall into a natural routine. Routines are great. Schedules, not so much. Think of what is best for your baby. If it's best for your baby, it's most likely best for you too in the long run, even if it seems inconvenient right now.

26 comments:

Melissa said...

I found your blog via a google alert I have set up for "attachment parenting", I must say - bravo momma! This is a very good comparison and real-world experience is what people need to read.

Monica said...

I could not agree with you more (no surprise really)! With my first I felt pressured to get him on a schedule. I was told he had to learn how to sleep and comfort himself. I ALWAYS felt like it was wrong and when I had my second child I did it my way and it was much less stressful and easier on everyone.

Nursing them to sleep only lasts so long and I plan to do it as long as possible!

Lena said...

My advice is to not read any book at all. Just watch the baby and go by instinct if you can. I haven't read either of those books but found I probably wouldn't fit into either one of them from what I've heard either. Our kids have never slept in our bed with us (unless they have a nightmare or are scared of course!) but have generally been great sleepers. I can't imagine not allowing your baby to fall asleep in your arms- think of all that you would be missing out on!!

I remember in the hospital they wanted me to keep track of how often and how long the baby nursed. Whatever! I think I made up every single time I gave them. I would go crazy trying to keep track of the exact time my baby nursed. It's all I can do to remember which breast I started on last, lol.

Christina Pond said...

Oh gosh, you know me, I have SO much to say!

I love attachment parenting. It feels normal, it feels instinctive. Schedules and cribs are for sure not our thing. Chaylie's favorite place is in my arms, at the breast.

At night, it is the happiest time of the day for me. I have my husband, baby and cats all cuddled up next to me, and it is wonderful.

It just feels normal to parent this way. Attachment parenting helps build a secure child. A child who has a deep established trust in you as a provider, and a confidence and security within themselves because of that love and trust built from your selfless giving to that child...

It roots and connects you deeply to your baby!

Nerida said...

I think you make an excellent point:
"Routines are great. Schedules, not so much."

I always say that parents need to go with the advice and techniques that work for them as a family.

But, if there was one thing I could get everyone to do, no exception, it would be to have a gentle, loving, consistent bedtime routine.

No foot tapping or stopwatch, just the same series of calming events leading up to bed, books and cuddles.

I get so frustrated when I meet parents who are all over the place in the evening then suddenly get fed up with the kids, chuck them into bed and leave them to cry to sleep.

Loved your post. You describe a very loving and warm way of bringing up your children.

Kate's mommy said...

If anyone is interested, I have a few web links to info about possible side-effects of following the babywise program, including obvious attachment problems, and problems associated with breastfeeding and just feeding in general such as weight-gain issues, dehydration, depression etc. Also, there is a link between 'failure-to-thrive' babies and this program. And, for the record, those that think this is a "Christian" program need to know that Ezzo was excommunicated from his church after receiving church discipline.

RandyPaige said...

I love this. I have a very busy baby, so she really just stops to 'snack' during the day. Feedings are very short and frequent. However, at night, she's ready to lay in my arms for much longer periods of time and nurse. So, nights for us are times to slow down and enjoy each other. I tried the schedule thing for about 2 days, and we were both miserable! The best thing about attachment parenting is that it caters to each babies individuality instead of trying to force them all into the same way of doing things.

Baby Nursing Mom said...

Well said!!! The only thing I find with my newborn is sometimes I do need to wake him up or he will sleep longer then I like him to between feedings. Other then that if he wants a snack, I give hima snack and when hes ready for a meal, im ready!

Mandeville Family said...

Donna,
I love everything you wrote about attachment parenting. You are awesome, it is because of you that my children all slept with Jonathan and me in our California King bed, nursed to sleep, "snacked", and are healthy sleepers and very social and secure people. Thank you for everything you stand up for and do.

Anonymous said...

When my first was born (November '07), we started out on Baby Wise. Like you said, we'd be recommended to try it from others in our church. For the first few weeks it drove my husband nuts. He just didn't under why I'd wake a sleeping baby just because the clock said so. After about a month of doing this, I realized it was getting us nowhere fast, so I stopped. Then came the time when everyone said she needed to start CIO. I just couldn't wrap my head around how it was good/natural/safe to let a 3 month old cry for hours. So, we obviously didn't go that route. Granted she didn't start sleeping through the night till she was 11 months, we did exactly what we felt we all needed. Now she sleep 11-12 hours a night. Can't beat that with a stick!

http://lovedlikethechurch.wordpress.com/

Anonymous said...

I am so glad for you that you found what works for your family. I do want to say for the record, Babywise is absolutely wonderful for my family. Every baby is different, and my son, who was little when he was born, is thriving. We all get wonderful sleep as well, and he is down the hall in his crib sleeping soundly! He's a snuggler, and I adore him and snuggle him all day long. When it's bed time, he snuggles down, I tuck him in, and he goes to sleep. So, if you're out there reading this and considering what to do, do what is right for your family--and don't let anyone make you feel bad for doing so. ;-)

Faith said...

A friend of mine whose kids are 9 and 8 mentioned Babywise to me just this past Easter Sunday. I hadn't heard of it but as she explained it it just didn't sound right to me, a breastfeeding mommy of a two month old. When Gemma would cluster feed I was confused because I thought she should be going 2-4 hours between feedings and couldn't possibly be hungry. But this was "New-Mommy-Ignorance" and I quickly learned she needed to eat when she was hungry. Babywise seems like "New-Mommy-Ignorance" in a book! And my daughter was such a SLEEPY baby- still is! Sometimes just putting the breast to her mouth would send her to sleep! It was impossible in the beginning for her not to nap a bit from 20 minutes to 6 hours after a feeding. But now that she's older she falls asleep less at the breast and things are just happening naturally. She's in her own groove and routine and when she tells us she has needs we meet them. I cringe thinking about babies screaming to be fed and parents not feeding them! It seems it would go against every fiber in your Mommy-body.

And honestly, who can justify ignoring a newborn because of God or Jesus? This just seems crazy and using religion to justify whatever weird thing you're into. Seems to be a total contradiction...

Attachment Parent or not the American Academy of Pediatrics says feed your baby when she's hungry! Try everything to try to get her to stop crying that you must because hysterical babies are not happy babies- obviously!

Bethany said...

Great post, thanks so much for taking the time to write this! I agree with everything you said!!!

Stephanie said...

i know this post is 2 years old, but i just came across it and if it wasn't 10:45 p.m. i'd be calling all of my friends to read it and say, "SEE!?!? THIS IS WHAT I'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT!" My third child just turned 1 and she's the only one that has nursed this long and that has co-slept with us. I love every single minute of it, and only wish things had worked out this way with the first two.

THANK YOU for putting my thoughts into words for me. :)

Carolynn said...

I think this is so true. Chelsea is the only baby of all my friends who sleeps through the night, and I swear it is because she sleeps with us and has "set her own schedule". I really believe she will sleep when wants to and eat when she is hungry, and she does! She was sleeping all night by 4 weeks old and I love nursing her to sleep. So many people have told me it will be easier to put her on a schedule, but just because something is easy for me, doesn't make it best for my baby. She will be this small for such a short time, the least I can do is be there for her when she needs me. The other day a classmate told me he and his wife let their three week old baby feed herself by propping the bottle between her clenched fists. That makes me feel so sad for that baby. Somehow people think that is more normal than carrying my tiny baby in a sling and letting her sleep with me. Incredible!

January said...

LOVE IT AND SHARING IT!

AngelaKnits said...

I nursed both my kids at demand until they were done, 13 mos for my oldest, 15 for my youngest. They were still waking up at least once a night until after they self-weaned, but it's really not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. My youngest was harder because as cuddly as he was, he didn't like to sleep in the same bed as I did, so I had to get up when he wanted to nurse. Now that he is almost 3 (!), I go into his room to cuddle with him when I can't sleep. Talk about attachement parenting! Really, though, trust your gut, research everything (there's nothing worse than just taking someone's word for it just because they said so), and know that whatever you do, you're a good mommy!

Anonymous said...

I would like to point out that it is stated in the Babywise book over and over 'if your baby is hungry, feed him!'. I have used the method not strictly but as a guideline. It specifically says that it is not a schedule, its a routine. Its an order of eating, waketime, and sleep time. I use this routine with my daughter. I experiment all the time with letting her set her own schedule, and every time I do she gets SO crabby. I have a happy healthy 3 month old who is in the 90th percentile for height and weight. When I rock her or try to nurse her to sleep she gets really fussy and actually goes to sleep faster when I just lay her down when she's tired. My point is I don't think its bad to try different things to figure out what works best for each baby. If I didn't have the book I would have had no clue what I was doing. I don't think anyone should do any 'method' blindly but I don't think that all of the guidlines in the book are entirely bad.

T said...

You know I am working on raising my first. I can say that the pressure to keep your child on a schedule or to let them cry it out is immense. So many of my friends and family have pushed in that direction.

But I know that by being an attached parent I am doing the right thing. I type this while on hour 10 of an 11 hour road trip with an 8 week old, who has not shed a single tear the entire ride. Simply because before it turned into tears I knew what he needed and was able to give it to him. It was not hard work it was just about being in tune with my baby and giving the small amount of care he needed. Nobody wants to see their baby crying, much less hysterical, but everybody sure does want to give advise that leads to that.

Karen Joy said...

I feel a need to comment rather down the middle.

I had really zero support with my first child, other than my husband. I was *SHOCKED* at how lost I felt as a brand new mother; I kept expecting my mothering instinct to kick in so that I would "know" what to do. It just didn't happen. The one woman who was really supportive of me was a friend who, at that point, had one child, a daughter, who was a year older than my newborn (this was in 1997). I loved her dearly -- still do -- and figured I would just do what worked for HER. That turned out to be Prep for Parenting, which was the predecessor of Babywise, by the same authors.

My husband and I didn't do everything 100% as suggested, and didn't agree with everything 100%. I now have five children, and must say that as I have increased in my confidence and ability as the mother of a newborn, the LESS I follow Prep/Babywise. HOWEVER, looking back, I don't regret that I did it. I really NEEDED that structure, so that I wouldn't go crazy. I don't say that lightly, either. I felt so adrift and in need of input that really, it was an absolutely scary place for me to be. I didn't have a close relationship with my mother. My sister wasn't really an adult at that time. My other friends either didn't have children, or... frankly, I didn't like the way they mothered, or I didn't like the "fruit" of their mothering. So, I did what my most respected/admired/loved/appreciated friend did, which was PfP/Babywise.

And, of my five children, my oldest is my healthiest now, and was most certainly the fattest as an infant. He was rolls of fat!! Precious child.

The lone thing that I regret is that I didn't listen to my husband enough during that first year. Since my husband agreed even less with many of the things in "the book", we were in conflict over a number of issues, and I very much regret that. I have since learned that it is so much better to have peace with my dear hubby than to follow "the book", whatever the book might be at the time.

So, I do think that there CAN be a time and a place for Babywise, especially for a mother such as I was -- the sort of personality who needs some direction, some structure, and who (perhaps, like me, due to dysfunctional childhood) doesn't have a lot of mothering instinct.

It's not universally evil.

That said, I have also IMMENSELY enjoyed learning better how to be a mother, and to "allow" myself things that I never would have, with my first, like rocking my sleeping baby at the breast, or co-sleeping, or other taboo Babywise stuff, and I have been happy to go by what I've learned "in the trenches" as a mother, rather than what "the book" teaches.

I hope all of that makes sense.

Cassie said...

Question for anyone willing to answer:

How do you co-sleep without going to bed at 6pm?

My older son (30 months) was like Donna's 10 year old daughter as a baby- naturally nursed 5 minutes every 3-4 hours, never fell asleep at the breast, etc. He is a great sleeper and started sleeping 12 hours straight at night by 12 weeks. He was born small (5 1/2lbs) but doubled his birth weight by 2 months so I know he wasn't deprived. He self-weaned at 13 months and I fought for those last 2 months because once he was walking, I was history:). He is now the cuddliest sweetheart I know.

My younger son (8 months) has nursed every 1-2 hours during the day since birth. He was a glorious, unmedicated afternoon VBAC, fell asleep at 10pm that night and didn't wake again (even through the nurse's prodding) until 6am. He has NOT ONE DAY slept less than 6 hour chunks at night. On day 17 he slept 12 hours straight and has been doing it ever since (sometimes 13-14 hours).

My kids naturally sleep very long periods at night. I have them both on baby monitors and there isn't so much as a peep out of them. I tried co-sleeping with each of them, but I couldn't sleep well and they were not able to sleep the same either, there was much tossing and turning for us all (except my husband who slept in a different bed, he just couldn't ignore the two of us). And if I tried to nurse my second down (never worked at all with my first) he would wake when I got up and he would be CRANKY but not sleepy anymore. I just don't know how anyone does it.

I did not do babywise (though I did read the book) they probably would be confounded that my "snacker" sleeps like a dream at night. However it seems it was just better for us all to do the crib. My first would only fall asleep once he was alone. My second falls asleep at the breast sometimes and not other times, either way I lay him down afterwards and he falls to sleep. Both wake up happy, giggly, and VERY cuddly after 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep (as do I!)

Considering it has been different for my two, I think parenting has as much to do with their personalities as with my instincts. So I just say- don't let anyone make you feel bad about doing something they think is "crazy" if it works for your baby. No one else has to live with it!

Cassie said...

Question for anyone willing to answer:

How do you co-sleep without going to bed at 6pm?

My older son (30 months) was like Donna's 10 year old daughter as a baby- naturally nursed 5 minutes every 3-4 hours, never fell asleep at the breast, etc. He is a great sleeper and started sleeping 12 hours straight at night by 12 weeks. He was born small (5 1/2lbs) but doubled his birth weight by 2 months so I know he wasn't deprived. He self-weaned at 13 months and I fought for those last 2 months because once he was walking, I was history:). He is now the cuddliest sweetheart I know.

My younger son (8 months) has nursed every 1-2 hours during the day since birth. He was a glorious, unmedicated afternoon VBAC, fell asleep at 10pm that night and didn't wake again (even through the nurse's prodding) until 6am. He has NOT ONE DAY slept less than 6 hour chunks at night. On day 17 he slept 12 hours straight and has been doing it ever since (sometimes 13-14 hours).

My kids naturally sleep very long periods at night. I have them both on baby monitors and there isn't so much as a peep out of them. I tried co-sleeping with each of them, but I couldn't sleep well and they were not able to sleep the same either, there was much tossing and turning for us all (except my husband who slept in a different bed, he just couldn't ignore the two of us). And if I tried to nurse my second down (never worked at all with my first) he would wake when I got up and he would be CRANKY but not sleepy anymore. I just don't know how anyone does it.

I did not do babywise (though I did read the book) they probably would be confounded that my "snacker" sleeps like a dream at night. However it seems it was just better for us all to do the crib. My first would only fall asleep once he was alone. My second falls asleep at the breast sometimes and not other times, either way I lay him down afterwards and he falls to sleep. Both wake up happy, giggly, and VERY cuddly after 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep (as do I!)

Considering it has been different for my two, I think parenting has as much to do with their personalities as with my instincts. So I just say- don't let anyone make you feel bad about doing something they think is "crazy" if it works for your baby. No one else has to live with it!

Natalie said...

My motto was always that you cannot spoil a newborn. I managed to benignly ignore everyone's suggestions and do my own thing.

I am proud that not one of my four boys ever took a bottle. They were each different in the nursing department, but I let them tell me when it was time to eat. They fell asleep at the breast all the time. I loved that. It is still one of my fondest memories of having a baby.

They are four very healthy and happy boys. I wish everyone's breastfeeding experience could be as wonderful as mine was.

So keep getting the word out! Moms need the support :)

Janie said...

babywise SAVED my life. sorry to soooooooo strongly disagree with you, but I do.

piscesrenewed said...

I, too, could not disagree more. Also, I have to ask, have you actually read On Becoming Babywise? I ask this because you have seriously misrepresented many of the Babywise principles to make them sound illogical and callous. This assessment is not based on memory or what I heard from someone else, but rather the book itself, which I literally have in front of me as I type this. I'm not trying to start any trouble, but your representation of Babywise sounds a lot like someone whose understanding of the method is based solely on a second-hand account from someone who read the book, or an intentional demonization by someone who is committed to a method diametrically opposed to Babywise, such as attachment parenting, and therefore could not provide an objective or viable synopsis of this style of parenting. I hope anyone who reads your blog will read the book, On Becoming Babywise, for themselves—and Dr. Sear’s, The Baby Book, which I assume you ascribe to; I hope they’ll make a decision based on their first-hand readings of these approaches. Babywise has been a miracle for my daughter and I, and I’m so glad I read the book. However, if my only exposure to it was your biased overview, I would probably have never even tried it. I think, in general, people need to investigate things for themselves, and not rely on the reports of others.

Kathryn said...

I had to laugh while reading this (recently found your blog and am reading through the archives) because I am currently sitting in what we call the "big chair" with my laptop, my 7-week-old asleep across my belly with her head in the crook of my left elbow, and my 31-month-old asleep curled up on my right side under my arm...and BOTH of them nursed to sleep!