'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

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