While I was a contact mom for GFI (for a year and a half), I never once met a mom who breastfed long-term (at least a year or longer) without modifying the materials. I did see babies who appeared listless and in a depressed state, who were smaller than average or scrawny. I met scores of moms who struggled with milk supply to a point that it completely removed the enjoyment of nursing their babies. I met babies who went one or two months without gaining any weight at all or who lost weight. I met moms who grieved when they realized that they had been systematically, albeit unintentionally, depriving their babies of food.
Even in the newest version of Babywise (2001) the messages are still there, scattered throughout the book, that minimum time frames must be met or babies will not sleep as they should and won't have the ability to delay gratification later. There is a subtle fear-mongering underneath the message of the book that if the routine in the book is not followed parents will not be "successful" with the program.
Many times while I was a contact mom, I heard the party line from GFI: If parents have problems (babies don't sleep well, gain weight appropriately, moms lose milk, babies cry too much, etc.) then it is either that they followed the materials too strictly or not closely enough. It is a catch-22 and either way GFI is never wrong in their own eyes.
I'm a really practical person who thrives with a routine and I did (while respecting my babies' needs) help my babies settle into one. I can completely understand a woman's desire for predictability in her day. It's comforting to realize that most babies tend to settle into a routine of some sort without the parents controlling it. I homeschool my three older kids (baby makes four), tutor at home 2 days (5 hours each), and have a wide variety of church and community volunteer responsibilities!
But even if Babywise and Prep may have a few helpful ideas, there is more chaff than wheat. As someone else has said, "What is good is not unique--you can find it in other safer books. What is unique is not good." In spite of the few helpful ideas I NEVER recommend the books to anyone. Why? Too much possibility that someone could be seriously hurt from them. I don't want that responsibility.
by Laurie Moody, Certified Lactation Counselor
submitted March 2003