Parenting Experiment

by Mary Ann Griffin, RN, CNM and Jan Barger, RN, MA, IBCLC

reprinted by permission of The Compleat Mother

Intrigued by the claims in Babywise?  Being encouraged to take a Preparation for Parenting Course?  Given the books/tapes by someone who has "perfect" children?  Before you leap, take a few days to try an experiment to help you decide if this is the best way for you to parent your newborn.

Both mom & dad must do this:

Days 1 and 2:

Each time you put something in your mouth, write it down.  Note the time, what it was, and how much.  When you eat a meal, note how long it took you to eat. Don't forget to document every drink of water, piece of candy, donut, cup of coffee, snack and meal.  At the end of day two, add up the number of times you put something in your mouth.  Also add up how long it took you to consume a meal, a leisurely cup of coffee, a quick drink of water, and divide by the number of times you put something in your mouth to get an average.

Now you have an idea of how much time you spend eating, how often you have something in your mouth, and how much food you consume.

Days 3, 4, 5:

This part of the experiment is best done over a long weekend, as it requires three days.  This is not too much time to devote to understanding an experience your child will endure for several months.  You should be able to get to Sunday services, if you come late and leave early.

1.  The experiment requires two parents; one to the be "caregiver" and one to be the "baby."  Pregnant women or persons with health problems should not be the "baby."  Ideally, both parents should try this experiment before pregnancy so they can decide if they really want to even HAVE a baby.

2.  The "baby" will be fed at six hour intervals only, three times a day.   All clocks, watches, or other timepieces must be removed from the "baby's" view so he has no way of knowing when the six hours has elapsed.  This is longer than is recommended in Babywise and Prep, but as an adult with adult metabolism, the "baby" should have the ability to wait six hours during the day and to fast overnight.   The "baby" may have one other drink of water before he goes to bed, but otherwise, no liquid is to be consumed outside of these three mealtimes.  Mealtimes are to be limited to 10 minutes.   Baby must try to eat and drink everything put in front of him because at the end of 10 minutes, the plate must be removed.  The "baby" must eat the food with the non-dominant hand using only a spoon. A newborn may have trouble with latching on, early breastfeeding, and getting enough milk in timed feedings. NOTHING is to interfere with this schedule — not the baby's perceived wants, nor anything you believe you have to do.  The schedule must be adhered to at all times.

3.  The "caregiver" may not speak to the "baby" in any language that the "baby" is fluent in.  The caregiver can speak in an unknown tongue, or use sounds and touches to communicate.  No sign language.  The "baby" may not speak for the entire three days.  The only way the "baby" can communicate with the caregiver is by tapping a pencil.  The "baby" can attempt to signal the caregiver by varying the tapping, but is not allowed to write, point, or gesture.  Be careful not to break or drop the pencil as you only get one.

4.  The "caregiver" should go about the usual daily activities in the house during the day.  Time will be needed to prepare the food, "walk" the baby from place to place, provide clothing (baby can dress himself — too hard with an adult) and can take the "baby" to the bathroom (once every three hours during the day).  For a period of time after each meal, the caregiver can play with the "baby."  Otherwise, the "baby" must wait where the caregiver has placed him and in about the same position.  In addition, the caregiver must devote some time each day to a significant other person through letter writing or phone conversation.  This time must not be interrupted by the "baby's" needs. The "baby" needs to understand that the caregiver's relationship to something or someone else is often more important than him.  If the "baby" gets uncomfortable, he can tap his pencil and hope that the caregiver will be able to figure out the problem.  If the "baby" gets hungry, he can tap the pencil.

Hunger pain, no matter how severe, and thirst are considered normal.  In order to help the "baby" understand that he is not the center of the universe, any food or drink must be postponed until the next scheduled meal.

5.   For at least 3/4 hours twice a day, the "baby" must be put in his room with the door shut.  This "roomtime" will offer a structured learning center which will develop mental focusing skills, create a sustained attention span, give the "baby" the opportunity to entertain himself (no TV or books allowed), and create orderliness.

5.  The "baby" should be put to bed in a separate room from the caregiver shortly after the last drink of water.  The "baby" should tap the pencil if he has any nighttime needs, but he may not be fed or taken out of bed. Loneliness at night is a normal part of the experience  Under no circumstances may baby be brought to bed with you, as this may be considered "passively abusive emotionally."  You can use a baby monitor to hear the tapping, but if you can't sleep through the tapping, just turn off the monitor.  After all, you need your sleep so that you will have plenty of energy for the next day's activities.  It would be wise to take the "baby" to the bathroom before bed so there won't be any accidents.

7.  Do not be tempted to end the experiment before the three days are up. This will be considered a failure and may have long lasting implications.  If you find the process contrary to your instincts, try to control yourself. Above all, do not let anyone outside the system, baby expert or not, try to talk you out of continuing.  After all, you are only doing what is "right" and best for you and your "baby."

8.  If the "baby" should have any profound personal or spiritual insights during the time of the experiment, he should be sure to remember them.  He can write them down at the end of the three days.  (That is, if there is any pencil left.)

One last thought.  Presumably, the two of you discussed the experiment before you started so that the "baby" understood what was going to happen. Your newborn will not have the luxury of understanding the process.

Good luck!

Double Messages

  • To Feed
  • Or Not
"But Ezzo says to feed a hungry baby": Yes, but this is trumped by warnings about the baby's metabolism if feedings aren't spaced properly. I remember being worried that my baby's metabolism and everything else would be screwed up when I fed her early. How sad to RELUCTANTLY feed your baby, because you're scared that the feeding will damage her!

--former user

[Babywise] does say to feed them if you really think they are hungry but twists it in a way to say that if you think they are hungry before 2.5 hours you are probably wrong, and if you are wrong and feed them anyway, you are failing.

--former user