'Babywise': The Most Controversial Parenting Book Ever


There are a million and one "ways" to parent. Some with labels, some without. Most people don't fit any label entirely, but can often find they fit better with certain types of moms.

There are parenting books that mesh with these different styles, and in most cases, it's best to go with what you're comfortable with, and what feels right and best for your baby. However, there is one book that has earned a special reputation, and it's the only parenting book that the American Academy of Pediatrics has said is dangerous to babies.

Yet, it's still being sold and used.

The book is called On Being Babywise, or better known simply as Babywise, by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo. Gary Ezzo and his wife, Anne Marie, began teaching parenting classes at the church they attended and were pretty successful initially. Anne Marie worked as an RN for a short period of time, and Gary ... well, Gary has absolutely no training in anything remotely related to children.

Their book Babywise and their 18-week workshop Growing Kids God's Way focused on putting the parental relationship as the important factor in the family unit, and warned against letting children come between the parents or interfere with the parents in any way (because, you know, life as a parent shouldn't change your life, right?).

The Ezzos believe that old saying about an idle hand being the devil's plaything, even when it comes to children, shunning the notion that free play is imperative to children's development and self-esteem. They say that children are welcome members of the family (so they claim) but are not to ever be the focus, nor should you befriend your children until they're adults, which didn't work out so well for them as their adult children are estranged.

According to Babywise,
I should have slapped her.
They have "High Chair Infractions" that state if a baby wants to feel the food or blow raspberries, they should be punished -- they deserve a roughly squeezed hand, a slap to the hand or the mouth, or are to be removed and contained alone in their crib.

But the reason why this book was deemed dangerous is because it is said to cause breastfeeding failure and failure to thrive. Babywise says:

Before we can expand on the benefits of the parent-controlled feeding plan, we first need to put to rest the second misconception stated at the top of this chapter: that a non-scheduled baby is happier, healthier and generally more secure when the parents react to his or her cries rather than a plan. Specifically we are referring to the practice of demand feeding. We desire to make our position very clear: demand feeding is not the medicine for the problem; it is the problem!

However, the AAP states:

The best feeding schedules are the ones babies design themselves. Scheduled feedings designed by parents may put babies at risk for poor weight gain and dehydration.

To deny an infant food when their bodies tell them they need it is just a recipe for disaster. To claim that every single baby is exactly the same, eats the same, and every mother is the same is like saying every single adult has the exact same metabolism and should respond in the exact same way to the same diet, every single time. It's just ridiculously naive and untrue.

Babies seem to be seen as something bad that happens to parents -- an invader that has entered your home that needs to be kept in check. The books say that babies -- even newborns -- are trying to manipulate and blackmail you.

Now, I know what a lot of people are thinking: "Just use the parts that work for you and leave the rest." The Ezzos say that if you do that, it's deviation and shows weakness on your part. Their word is GOD. They threaten that deviation from their plan will result in destruction of your marriage, lack of sleep for the entire family, an unhealthy and unruly child, and generally, complete failure. Their scare tactics are so convincing to some that, even when the child is suffering, parents are often reluctant to go against it.

A lot of parents have come forth with their experiences using the Babywise methods, some of which were close to tragic. One mom said that her baby almost went into a coma. Another said she almost inadvertently starved her baby.

According to the Ezzos, stories like these were just from stupid women who misunderstood the books.

It's worth noting they've been excommunicated by two churches, their accounting firm dropped them, their children and grandchildren wanted nothing to do with them, and yet the Ezzos continue to self-publish books on their own.

Anytime I see these books in stores, I hide them and I am not ashamed to admit that.

Have you read the Babywise books? Have you tried them?


Image via Jeremy Burgin/Flickr; Christie Haskell

baby development, breastfeeding, books


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molly... mollymae09

I found this article interesting....mainly because my cousin read the book and feeds her daughter on a very strict schedule (I believe every 2 hours and her daughter is 6 months)...and her daughter is rather overweight. She tried to get me to do the same but I refused. I feed my son when he's hungry... He's thin, but well within the normal range, and the doc says he's very healthy.

JenBr... JenBrooks76

I did my research, and I do agree with you wholeheartedly. A while back co-worker was interested in getting this book for her daughter, and I highly discouraged it (she ended up not getting it). It truly irks me that these people force their view points on others, they basically are bullying parents to do it their way or it is the wrong way, when in fact their way has been proven to be ineffectual for most families (and it is hard to say how effectual it is for those it 'worked' for).UGH.

nonmember avatar TulipGirl

Read it, tried it. Thought is was great. Promoted it to other moms. Felt --sorry-- for other moms who weren't using babywise.

Then after we experienced the typical breastmilk supply issues (including FTT with one child and delayed growth with another) I did my research. I found that what is promoted as "fact" is really opinion.

Babywise is not supported by evidence-based research. Sure, some moms can glean a few good ideas or encouragement from BW. But it has so much medical misinformation -- the good can be found elsewhere without all the harmful ideas.

0Jenna0 0Jenna0

Wow... I can't believe this crap is being sold. It should be banned.

Pishyah Pishyah

Wait... I can't believe a baby of 6 months can be "rather overweight". I mean, 40lbs at 6 months would be a concern but how are we classifying babies as overweight? Babies gain fat and weight for a biological reason and burn it when they're older.

Stefan Lewis

Shame it's still being sold...  means people are still buying it.  Hopefully the realities of their methods keep spreading.  Only way to shut them down is to get everyone to stop purchasing.

Poste... PosterOfAGirl

Thank you for writing this, Christie. I hear WAY too many people talking about how babies need to learn to soothe themselves, and it makes me want to vomit. That poor baby did NOT come out of your vag waiting to be left alone in a cold, dark room where they don't understand that you're coming back and that they should continue to try and communicate their needs and desires during the day, but not at night. That's WAY too much for an infant to understand! Expecting a baby to just fit right into your life is practically torture, they have so many needs and emotions and are barely figuring out what life IS let alone how to handle the emotions from it alone. Heck I can't stand laying in bed by MYSELF and trying to soothe MYSELF when I'm upset, I want my husband to be here to help me. I'm not about to expect my infants to be able to handle being hungry, tired, lonely or scared ALL BY THEMSELVES. Sheesh people, life is hard as it is...why make them suffer as infants as well!?

CherB... CherBearCM

Oh yea I remember a few people mentioning this book in CM forums while I was pregnant and just after my son was born, people who said this is what they were doing.  When I looked it up I just cringed and thought maybe this is a book that should actually be banned even though I never believe in banning books.  I never saw it on our bookstore looking for baby books but if I did I think I would have hidden them in the toilet and flushed them!  LOL

mavri... mavrickchick

I read it over and over before my baby was born.  It seemed like a great plan.  Mostly I was drawn to it because it told me what to do, when to do it and how to do it, making it all seem so easy.  Needless to say my baby with acid reflux couldn't go 2 1/2 between meals.  She barely makes it to that now and she's nearly 6 months old.  I'm glad you posted this because I'm looking forward to hearing other mom's experiences!   The only good thing I gleamed from the book is making sure my husband and I take a few minutes each day for just the two of us.  That's a lifesaver for us.

manda... mandaschelle

Wow I am a first time mom and received this book as a shower present. I'm so glad to have read this article. I wonder now if I can return it even though I don't have a gift receipt.

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