Before my son was born I really hadn't given much thought as to "how" to feed a baby; I knew that I wanted to breastfeed and all of the mainstream parenting books I had read made it seem so easy. I figured it would be as easy as Baby Cries, Baby Latches On, Baby Eats.
I was in for a rude awakening once he was born. I had a very hard time getting the hang of breastfeeding, and had very little support. I only had one friend who breastfed, and she had given me a copy of Preparation for Parenting while I was pregnant. I didn't read it at the time because I figured I would wait until baby was born before I adopted a parenting method.
After the first five days of motherhood, I was at my wits' end and had no idea how to make my baby happy; he always seemed to be upset no matter how often I fed and rocked him. Breastfeeding was off to a rocky start because my milk took so long to come in after my c-section. I was supplementing with formula and pumping what little milk I could because my son had such nipple-confusion that he couldn't get the hang of latching on.
In desperation, I called my friend for help. She asked if I had read the book she had given me. When I confessed that I hadn't, she said to read through it to help me get started. Considering that she had exclusively breastfed all of her children using these methods without any problems, and that the Ezzos are Christians, I figured I couldn't go wrong with this advice.
I read through the beginning of the book and learned all about the evils of attachment parenting and bought into concept presented there: that parent-directed feeding equals godly children.
I mapped out an eat-play-sleep routine for my son, and sure enough, it seemed to be just what he needed. Within a few short days he was calm and contented, and sleeping very well for a one-week-old baby.
But there was one major problem: since I was already having such troubles with breastfeeding, following PDF completely devastated my milk supply and I gave up trying to pump and feed. I had been keeping track of how many ounces I was pumping at each session so I could see my supply building, but by the end of three weeks, I was barely able to extract 10 ounces per day, and that was with pumping every few hours.
At the time, I didn't understand what went wrong. The book gave what seemed to be sound breastfeeding advice, noting that it is a system of supply and demand, and that feeding at regular intervals keeps your milk supply up, so I figured that I just couldn't breastfeed.
The book does not mention that supplementing with formula can cause a mother's milk supply to diminish and that pumping isn't as efficient for milk-removal as putting the baby to breast. I thought I was doing a good thing by pumping myself dry and supplementing the rest! In my mind, I knew that I should call La Leche League for help, but after reading the warnings in the book, there was no way I wanted to get mixed up with those "attachment-parenting types," so I chose to give up and exclusively formula feed.
We continued on with Babywise and my son thrived on having a routine. It seemed to suit his personality and made things a lot more convenient for me! He slept through the night at 7 weeks old, just like the book said a good baby would do, and we congratulated ourselves for our good parenting and being "in control" of our baby from the beginning.
I will say that by the time he got to around 3 months old things got a pretty difficult with the daytime nap situation; he just wouldn't sleep enough during the day, and it caused him to be very cranky from the late afternoon until bedtime. I realized that the eat-play-sleep routine wasn't working for him because he didn't need those long naps throughout the day, so I really didn't follow Babywise too closely any more. I followed more of a eat-play-sleep-play routine, which suited him much better.
A few months later, I decided to purchase the Ezzos' book, Along the Toddler Way, to get a jump-start on the next stage. I didn't get the warm-fuzzies that I had once gotten from their material, because this book focused so much on early discipline and I wasn't crazy about the suggestions given.
What really sent up the red flags for me was the section on mealtime behavior. I wasn't comfortable slapping a 7 month old's hand for throwing food. Nevertheless, I was so blinded and afraid that he would turn into an unruly toddler that I felt I had to do it. After all, Ezzo says that we can't let our emotions get in the way of parenting.
At the next meal I did indeed slap his little hand, which he thought was a new game but it left me feeling awful; it just didn't seem right to hit him for normal baby behavior.
That is when I started to see these books in a new light. I started to ask myself, "Who is Ezzo to call his way God's way?" So many of the behavior standards Ezzo sets are completely unrealistic, like teaching a mobile infant to sit in one spot on a blanket until you decide he can get up.
Shortly afterwards, we finally got the Internet and by some odd coincidence one of the first sites I stumbled upon (while looking for some scheduling tips, ironically) was called Gentle Christian Mothers; I was shocked and outraged at the "Unprepared for Parenting" forum on their message board, but for some reason I just couldn't stay away!
I started out vehemently denying the information posted, but eventually it started to sink in that these were Christian women too, so what were they seeing that I wasn't?
I read the stories of damage done by these methods but I was thinking to myself, "Well, if the method is followed properly that won't happen." However, one visit to Ezzo.info completely changed my mind! These were real live mommies who started out just like I did, and I realized the difference was that my son was one of the lucky ones.
I started to reflect on how Ezzo's books stripped away my natural God-given instincts, and wrote them off as something I needed to overcome. I re-read some sections of Prep for Parenting and the same words I had read enthusiastically months before, I now saw for what they were: degrading and condescending to both parents and their babies.
My husband and I made the decision to completely stop using Babywise ideas and to try our best to forget about it. We kept a routine going because our son was happy with it, but as we found ourselves crossing over into attachment parenting territory, the routine gradually faded away. We no longer saw co-sleeping as something that only weak and indulgent parents do.
By our son's first birthday he wanted no part of a routine; his eating habits changed so drastically when he finally started teething there was no way we could have kept any kind of routine, unless we resolved to "show him who was in charge" and force a routine, which seemed unwise under the circumstances.
We became an AP family in every sense, with the exception of breastfeeding. I can't say that there was a drastic change in our son because I now see that without realizing it, we were attachment parents all along!
However, our view of our child had changed; he was no longer a little sinner who was out to manipulate us with crying, and who needed to be kept in control from the beginning and not allowed to change our lives too drastically. Instead, we came to see him as our flesh and blood who we brought into the world; a future brother in Christ, who needs our loving response and comfort just as much as he needs food and shelter.
While I thank God for His sparing my son from what so many other babies have suffered (failure to thrive, attachment issues and worse), the one thing I truly regret is how following these methods destroyed any hope of giving my son the breastmilk he needed and deserved. The more I learned about breastfeeding, the more I could pinpoint the bad (and outright false) advice given in these books.
Yes, we did get some good out of the books, but the books are designed to benefit parents and their needs, not babies. A few extra hours sleep is simply not worth what can and does result from these methods.
by C. R.