Why does Baby Wise get such a bad wrap?


As I was approaching becoming a first time mom, I had heard all sorts of advice from friends and family about helping baby sleep through the night, helping me survive a baby who wouldn’t sleep through the night, some crazy remedies for sleep deprived moms, etc. Everyone is always quick to offer their advice, via their experiences. I’m OK with that. I understand people want to share. A reoccurring topic did come up though as I was about to deliver and that was Baby Wise. Just like anyone else who wants to know what something is, I Googled it. I soon realized that Baby Wise gets a lot of negative comments and views from those out in the Internet world and maybe even in your everyday world. Why does Baby Wise (BW) get such a bad wrap?

People hear controversy from the AAP associated with earlier editions of the book.
My guess is this is how all the conflict came about over BW. I can’t say much about this other than I’ve heard there may have been some things in the previous edition that parents took to extremes?

I have not read one, nor have I been able to come across a copy of one. From what I’ve read on the Internet (you know, profoundly trustworthy), there may have been some controversy over the book because a doctor associated with the AAP said that BW babies were a failure to thrive. You can find all sorts of stuff about this. I seriously do not understand this. When you read the book, there is absolutely nothing in there that would lead a baby to failure to thrive. They always say feed your baby when hungry. Hunger should be a first problem solving tip, etc. If anything, my little guy has been higher on the weight scale 🙂 Here is a link from BW discussing some of this controversy.

People hear the word SCHEDULE associated with BW.
I have found as a first time mom that when I use the words schedule and my little guy, that people immediately tend to shy away or maybe even shutter. Why is that I wonder? Sometimes people automatically assume that the clock dictates when you feed your child if you say he’s on a schedule. Yes, a schedule is an important part of BW but no where in the book does it say to let your baby cry until the next scheduled feeding, and if you do, then you have FAILED as a parent. Ha! Quite the opposite. According to BW, when your baby wakes early from nap, right smack in the middle of your “schedule,” they say “…by all means, feed your baby…by feeding sooner than normal, you are not going backward in your routine, but are making a healthy and proper adjustment to moving forward into the next phase of your baby’s development” (p 145). They encourage the parent to assess why the baby is waking early. If he’s still hungry, then is the baby getting a full enough feeding when he’s awake? Maybe he needs another feeding added to the day? Is he going through a growth spurt? By having a routine in place, a parent has a foundation to fall back on to help assess what the baby needs. There is nothing wrong if a parent decides to do child-led feeding. I think BW contrasts with this in a sense that they encourage parents to nurse baby when he wakes up, then have play time, then go down for a nap, thus naturally setting baby up for a eat, play, sleep routine.  This routine develops into certain times of the day for your baby. BW encourages parents to establish this routine to help the baby regulate when they eat and to provide them with the most opportunities during the day to get the calories they need, thus setting baby up to take a full nap, creating optimal wake times for baby to be fully alert when he is awake because he’s been able to sleep, got a full feeding and ready to take on new skills! This of course is not some kind of guarantee that your baby will never wake, etc. The book never says that. One reason BW works for me is because I found myself always wondering if his cry meant he was hungry or not and I was never sure what to do. Having a schedule worked better for me as a parent. In contrast, I have a good friend who leaned towards child-led feeding and she said that she felt her baby sort of created his own predictable pattern for her and she felt like she knew well when he was hungry or not.

People hear the phrase CRY IT OUT associated with BW.
When I Googled Baby Wise I came across an article of a mom discussing why she regrets doing BW and I remember in the article she talked about how her baby would bang his head against the crib and chew on the slats and seem to just be out of control and she attributed this to letting him cry in the crib because of something she read in the book? I’m not sure where she concluded this from in the book. The book has a whole chapter dedicated to “When Your Baby Cries” and how to assess what those cries mean. I have never read in the book to just let your baby cry for hours on end during the night until he falls alseep. If anything, the book says if your baby cries longer that 15 minutes, check on him. pat him, maybe hold him for a few moments, then put him back in the crib to try and fall asleep (p 147). They never give a window for how long to let your baby cry. This is up to the parent. BW encourages to let your baby cry/fuss when going down for naps, but this is encouraged when you know you’ve hit your baby’s optimal wake time and are putting him down during the sleepy window. I agree when they say “the crying should not last long if they child is truly tired” (p 146). Again, it is up to the parent to decide how to handle this. If anything, I feel like the book leaves a lot out on this topic which left up to the parents to decide how long they want the baby to cry, how to put baby down for naps, etc., which leads me to my next point…

First time parents might give Baby Wise a bad wrap, unfortunately
Let me explain. I know that when I became a parent, I was looking for help in a lot of different books, and friends, etc. When you are having a challenge with this new little life you’ve brought in to the word, you will most likely take all the help you can get, throw in sleep deprivation, and most parents are walking zombies. Why wont he stop crying? The book says if I do x + y then I should be getting z. Why isn’t this working?!?! It’s almost as if you forget you have the ability to problem solve. You are capable of just deciding what you want to do with your baby. If you want to rock them to sleep, then just do it. If what you thought you read sounded good, but now that it’s 3:00AM and you have been up for 24 hours straight, it’s probably not best to be trying to start sleep training on the spot, only to give up the next night. Granted, we’ve all done this. We all make mistakes. But if you’re trying to implement a philosophy that just isn’t working for you as a person with your personality, then don’t do it. Use your own judgement and go from there. As long as your baby is healthy and thriving and you eventually at some point feel like you’re not a total cave person who showers only once a week, then do what you think is best and forget the rest, and if that means not doing what you thought the book said, then that’s what you need to do. Baby Wise doesn’t work for everyone. 

Finally, people don’t read the book for themselves to decide.
If you are considering sleep philosophies for your baby and/or about to become a parent, I would encourage you to read the book entirely. Mark places that you might come back to read. Talk with other BW moms. Search for great resources on the Internet. My favorite is www.babywisemom.com. Valorie has so many helpful tips on that site. None of this of course should replace whatever natural instincts you have as a parent when you bring that baby home from the hospital. If you find that BW isn’t working for you, then certainly don’t try to implement something that will only end up being inconsistent and bring stress to your home. I have found many BW moms who don’t do all of the principles in the book, and even several more who do a blend of Baby Wise, Baby Whisperer and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Do what works best for you and your family.