03 July, 2013

CHILDREN CLOSE IN AGE, PART II: BABYWISE


One of the best parenting decisions we ever made was to implement the Babywise method (and yes, we are aware of all the controversy). 

Babywise has helped us get off to a smooth start with our newborns and prevented us from being frazzled and sleep-deprived. It’s also encouraged us to give our children what we knew they needed throughout the day-- structure, enough sleep and sufficient eating time, to in time enable them to sleep for long periods at night.

The gist: Babywise (BW) is basic parenting techniques with nothing far-fetched or too out-of-the-ordinary.  It follows a strict eat, awake, sleep pattern (strictly in that order) throughout the day. The BW method teaches babies to self-soothe, which often requires "crying it out" in the early weeks, but turns around to become invaluable when a second child comes along, or dinner guests are over and your child doesn't need put to bed via an elaborate bedtime routine that consists of nursing, rocking, singing, and fetching a star, followed by tip-toeing over the squeaky floorboards and out the door.

Let it be known, I love rocking my babies to sleep. We also allowed our twins to have bedtime bottles until they were 15 months. But when there becomes a dependency on these "sleep props", and they are necessary to get the child to bed, they've been misused. That is what we strive to avoid.


Babies on the BW routine thrive on regulated (and necessary) sleep time throughout the day, sufficient eating time to obtain a full feed, and stimulating awake time (thus avoiding the often common issue of "night owl" babies). They tend to sleep through the night much earlier than they normally would (ours were 8, 9 and 5 weeks old when they began sleeping 8 hours).


Though Babywise really isn't anything fancy, and some mothers even read the book and learn little to nothing new,  it does contain key elements for what we wanted to establish in our children. We’ve done it with all three of our babies and if we’re given more, we’ll do it with them also. Here are some reasons why:

  • It is healthier for babies to anticipate each feeding, which forms trust between baby and mother. It also builds security and confidence within the child, who never has to guess how long she'll have to go between feeds or if you'll forget she is supposed to go down for her nap in 10 minutes.

  • Parent-directed nap times and sleep times provide a nurturing, stable environment for a baby to thrive and grow.

  • Baby needs direction, nurturing, discipline, and structure and is unable to provide it for himself.

  • Baby (especially when very young) needs to eat and sleep often, but generally cannot regulate those needs consistently on his own. For example: some newborns can sleep through genuine hungriness, and some can scream through genuine sleepiness because of over stimulation.

  • Babies don't just cry because they're hungry - just like toddlers don't. BW discourages feeding to pacify and encourages parents to learn their baby's cries and determine his needs appropriately.

  • Babies need sleep, and so do you. Below is an excerpt from the book: 
"Imagine your spouse getting no more than three hours sleep at a stretch for one week. Would you expect this to impact his or her attitudes, actions, and overall accountability? Certainly the negative effects on his or her nature central nervous system are widely known. you would not be surprised to observe your partner becoming irritable and weak, having difficulty concentrating, perhaps experiencing partial neurologic shutdown. This is just the beginning. Now consider an intact child whose central nervous system is still developing. Even more is at stake. To what extent then does sleep deprivation negatively impact an infant's developing central nervous system?" (BW chapter 3, p. 55)

  • Your marriage needs your baby to sleep (and I would add, primarily in his own bed).

  • Your other children need your baby to sleep. 

  • In order to establish healthy nighttime sleep patterns, baby also needs a healthy daytime eating and sleeping pattern. 


Initially, Babywise can take some commitment and diligence on the parents' part. If you have a strong-willed infant, you could be looking at more than 30 minutes of cry time for several nights while the baby learns he can put himself to sleep.  But consistency and diligence pay off when you have a 3-month-old with a generally happy and content disposition, who gives you 8+ hours of sleep at night, and will potentially fall asleep wherever you are at nap time. 


As always, these are simply my opinions and part of what has worked for my family. I am happy to write more for any interested minds.

2 comments:

  1. I read BW while pregnant with our first, and implemented it with a generous pinch of salt. I was usually able to pop them in their bed and go on my way if need be. Yes, BW does have it's share of controversy, and the authors can come across as too militant, but it does provide some sanity and helpful structure to work within. Defensive parenting, I call it...

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