Friday, February 1, 2008

Babywise vs. Attachment Parenting

So, my post about Audrey's sleeping habits brought up an interesting debate, one that has been hotly contested for years.

Babywise, as I understand it, contains these points:

-Strict scheduling that should not be "cheated" on - babies must be allowed to cry if it's time to sleep and they don't want to, they only eat at certain times, etc.
-Babies sleep all through the night very early
-Some of you can probably add other points

Attachment parenting, as I understand it:

-Focus is on developing a deep connection with the child, almost meeting their needs before they have them to gain their trust
-Many people have "family beds" where their children sleep with them until they are at least 2
-Focus is on breastfeeding whenever the child is hungry

These two ideas are drastically different. As a side note, the longer I have kids, the more I realize that there are SO many different ways to parent children. And here's the shocker: most kids turn out okay! We can fret and worry about the ways we choose to raise them, but when it comes down to it, if kids recieve love, attention, and Godly wisdom they will probably be fine, however you choose to do it! That's so freeing to me...

With that said, I think both of these parenting styles have merits. I tend to respond to the attachment parenting ideals because that's more the way I was raised and I think my mom and dad did a great job. However, we don't do well with our kids in bed with us.

Obviously this week, I learned that Babywise has some major pluses: sleep, for example. Ha! (My kids slept all night in their own room last night, by the way. I can hardly believe it!) However, I have objected to Babywise very strongly because I know SO many people who attempted to breastfeed on that plan, and either didn't have enough milk or their babies didn't gain weight. That is a major issue, because for me there was no other way - I was going to breastfeed. I didn't see formula as an alternative.

If you've never read about the benefits of breastfeeding for babies, here's a link. And here are some benefits for the mother. I know of so many children who have reoccuring ear infections on formula. That signals an allergy - either to the dairy or soy protein in their formula.

I know lots of women try to breastfeed and are heart-broken when it doesn't work. This is SO sad to me. You must have the right kind of support if you are struggling. When I was in the hospital with Hannah, she really struggled to "get it." The hospital lactation consultant hovered around saying things like, "if she doesn't get it, we can always give her a bottle with some formula." I finally said to her, "this is the way we're doing it." She said, "good for you!" and then left me alone. :) That kind of "breastfeeding support" has been what I have seen from hospital lactation consultants in other people's experience as well, at least around here. If you struggle, here's some ideas - is a fantastic resource, and La Leche League provides fantastic support either in their support groups or by calling a leader. When Hannah struggled with nursing after being sick with RSV, I called a LLL leader and she walked me through exercises for Hannah's tongue that fixed the problem. It was pretty amazing, really. Find somebody who can help you do it - it can be done. I have the benefit of being from an extended family who nursed all their children, so I had the emotional support as well as many many women with experience to help support me. But even if you don't, you can still do it.

Sorry. Little soapbox there. Returning to the point. I guess the point is, find what works. This is my opinion - what works for me with my particular children. The one thing I do try to avoid is being selfish with my decisions - doing something because it's just easier for me, with no regard for what's best. However, that must also be balanced with what I can withstand! :) And so is the balancing act that is motherhood.

What has worked for you?


  1. Hey - I would recommend checking out the Babywise book at your library and reading just the second chapter. It talks about most of what you're asking. It sounds like your ideas about Babywise are responding to the "popular myths" about it, instead of what it actually teaches. I had some of the same ideas before I read it. It sounded so harsh!! But Babywise NEVER teaches to let your baby cry if they're hungry!! It always says that if the baby is really hungry, nurse - no matter how long it has been. It just says not to respond to every cry with nursing, but to assess what the real need is, and to slowly over a period of time help the baby to stretch out their feedings to a point where they are about 3 hrs. apart. (give or take 1/2 an hour). There's a philosophy of strict scheduling, there's a philosophy of demand feeding - Babywise falls in the middle. The idea is to help regulate the baby's hunger so that they get a good full feeding every 3 hours or so instead of "snacking" all day. This method, if done right, guarantees a larger milk supply and better weight gain for the baby than smaller feedings every hour or so. If they are doing smaller feedings, they aren't stimulating the milk supply and getting the more nutrient dense "end milk". I did Babywise from the time my daughter was born, and she was almost 20 lbs. by the time she was 4 months! And that was on exclusive breast milk. I've never heard of someone who did this method fully (actually read the book and implemented it the way it teaches) where it didn't work wonderfully. I am such a research person - I love to read up on everything and see actual results before I do it. That's how I ended up with the Bradley method for childbirth, and Babywise for sleep training. Both had scientific studies showing amazing results that no one else could match. And now after doing them, I'm stuck for life on both!! (Sorry for the long comment - more than you were looking for, huh?)

  2. Sarah - that's really interesting. I probably should read it. I have known so many people who have read it and done it that I felt like I had. Why do you think it gets misinterpreted so often?

  3. I started reading baby wise when Chan was 13 months. I started late but the book reassured me that a baby does not NEED to eat during the night. Which was my biggest issue. I didn't want to not feed him if he was hungry. I felt guilty about it. Eventually I was convinced that he would be okay, and like I said before he started sleeping through in one night. I started usuing the schedualing methods with him during the day because I was making him so many bottles because I "thought" he was hungry and ended up wasting a lot of expensive formula. It taught me to read his signals and assess and he got into a perfect 2 naps at the same time every day schedual. Bed time was every night at 7 but was able to flex it every once in a while when we needed to go out without disrupting his routine. The routine and schedualing really helped me feel a little more at ease and made things a lot easier for me after I had Skylar. I think honestly the book is so misinterperated because people only hear the "rules" and don't ever actually read the book to find that there is a lot of was to flex it and meet your and your baby's needs.
    Now about breast feeding. I had a lot of trouble with getting Chandler to latch so I ended up pumping then feeding for 6 weeks. It was much more painful than breast feeding and had severe cracked and bleeding nipples (sorry if it's tmi) so I stopped after that and swiched to formula. I felt guilty about it every day for many months. Skylar didn't have a problem latching but I went to work when she was 4 months and working on the ortho/nero unit which honestly left me no time to pump despite what the "law" said. This time I was okay with switching her to formula and realized my son was fine he didn't struggle with ear infections and wasn't sick more than any other kid and to this day it's the same with both of them. They don't struggle with allergies and are healthy. Granted they get colds and stuff but no more than others. So this time I'm going to chose to only formula feed. I turned out fine and wasn't given breast milk a day in my life. I'm not doing this because it's selfish and it's easier but I'm doing it because I want to give my other kids the attention they deserve and let them also be involved in feedings and those kinds of things. I'll be doing school and have to put my energy in so many places. I think that Mom's who chose to formula feed should have the same support as Mom's who nurse. It's like you said before, there are so many ways to raise our child and honestly if they are loved, and raised in Christ they will be just fine. This post called for leghthy comments I suppose!

  4. Irene - I knew this would bring up long comments. :)

    I think there is a reason God gave certain kids to certain parents. God gives you and me the wisdom to raise our own children in the way He directs. There are also many many different issues to take into account when making these kinds of decisions - I don't doubt that you couldn't pump while you were working. Women who do that make me shake my head in disbelief.

    I will always advocate breastfeeding because I deeply believe it's what our bodies and the bodies of our children were created to do. That doesn't mean I will judge you for choosing something different. I don't see you any differently at all. But I can't honestly say I think it's ever Best. We can, however, agree to disagree. I'm pretty good at that. :)

    The most important thing is not our children's physical health, but their spiritual health. I think the fact that you are seeking after God means you are doing a great job, whatever you choose to feed your kids. :)

  5. :) I can say that I have thought about breast feeding. I read thoose links and it was all very interesting. I still have 6 months to figure this out I geuss. Breast feeding is a lot of work and I think it scares me honestly. The kid's keep me busy as it is. I really also do want The kids to be involved in the feedings. Chandler loves feeding my friends babies. I suppose I could get to pumping and him feeding with a bottle. I just don't know. Dang it. You are making me question my decision and I was very set on it. :) We will see. You are a good friend and I commend you for sticking to your breast feeding beliefs. :)

  6. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. It wasn't so much the breastfeeding issue, as it was the sleep issue. And it absolutely allowed me to continue breastfeeding.

    I think my standard advice to moms (who ask), is "do what you have to do to survive!". Of course, use common sense, but parenting and being a new mom is such an adjustment that we often get so stuck on one method, we make ourselves miserable trying to stick to it. Just do what works. :)

  7. I've read Babywise and it isn't for me. I've read Dr. Sears and felt like his book was a god-send for my "high need" baby. I lean more toward attachment parenting, but I am not into the 24/7 wearing. However I did co-sleep for almost a year with Cole and I breast feed on demand. My thinking in the early months is their needs have to supercede mine.

    Like you, I deeply advocate breastfeeding. I was holding Cooper the other day and felt a bit sad that he doesn't nurse anymore. I hate to hear that a woman has given up on it so early due to whatever circumstances.

    I've also read Toddlewise, Happiest Baby on the block, and many other parenting books.

    Bottomline: you have to do what works with you and you have to have the proper support.

  8. Irene - I guess in some ways it's a lot of work...I tend to see it as a pretty stinkin' good excuse to sit down for a little while. :)

    All kids need to learn that there are times for each of them to have undivided attention from mom. The baby gets it more often because they are little. Then I have to follow through and actually give individual attention to each kid!

    But yeah. Breastfeeding is a relief to me - plus the hormones from it actually calm you down. :) Siblings can definitely feed pumped milk.

    You have lots of time still. :)

    Staci - I love that you live out "do what works." I have that tendency to stick to one method and drive myself nuts, and you have taught me moderation. Parenting is the hardest thing most of us will ever do, and we do need to get through it, hopefully not just surviving, but thriving too!

  9. Christina - I can't do the wearing either. It hurts my back too much. I have seen these back carriers for fairly small babies though - can't remember what they're called. I would love to try one of those with my next baby. I'm going to start weaning Audrey in the next couple of months, and it's SO bittersweet...

  10. I agree withe what Sarah (at the top of the page) said. So many people are turned off by the idea of Babywise just because they haven't taken the time to really read it. The same, I think, holds true for the mainstream view on alternative/natural medicine. People are just too afraid to go against the flow and take responsibility for their own health and really investigate other options.
    I used Babywise to the letter for my first baby and it was a lifesaver. Being a new mom and having some sort of schedule or routine to follow is absolutely crucial. Also, knowing when your baby is hungry is critical to their health. If you feed a baby too often, they will not gain weight because they are only snacking and not getting the rich hindmilk the comes from a full feeding, which Babywise is adamant about. I'll not say anymore, because I"ll basically be re-stating what Sarah said. Well put, Sarah!! :-)
    After having my other two babies, I, like Sara Kay, have come to realize that there is definately room for interpretation when it comes to parenting methods because each child is so unique. I still, however, have continued to refer to the basic philosophies of Babywise regarding feeding and sleep requirements.
    On another note, new moms should just relax about breastfeeding and remember that our bodies were created to breastfeed our babies, and they were born with a need for their mom's unique milk and nothing else is an adequate substitute. Obviously, there will be some cases where breastfeeding just isn't possible (I've not seen any, but so I've been told)and then you just do the best you can with bottles and try to make up for the lack of nutrition later when the baby is eating solids. Sometimes I think the new moms just try too hard, and think about it too much, and then they get nervous and the baby can sense that and it's a big mess. Just relax and do it!!

  11. Shelly - totally agree with you on the relax and do it thing. We as a culture have become so reliant on finding someone to tell us how to do it. We were created to be mothers. We know how to do it. I tend to apply that same principle to routine and scheduling though - we are capable of tuning in to our own children and figuring out what they need. Aside from sleeping (with Audrey - Hannah slept through the night at 7 weeks), my children naturally fell into a regular routine, and with a little coaching from my mom I was able to tell if my kids were hungry or not with just a little practice.

    I'm curious if those of you who used Babywise had someone you trusted to answer questions about your kids? If not, I could see it being very very needed as a way to structure your life in those early days as a mom. There is far too little support between women these days...

  12. When I mentioned Baby Wise in my comment a couple of days ago I never thought it would bring up so much discussion!

    When I had my first baby, I had no idea what to do with her. I had been a formula baby. Not because my mom didn't want to breast feed, but because there were all these new formulas just emerging on the market and pediatricians were pushing it as the best for the baby.

    As a result, my mom didn't have any advise on how to get a baby to nurse from a breast (plus they were living in France, a long distance to call when I had a question!) I felt I was on my own and I had no idea where to start. My sister-in-law had read Baby Wise and she recommended I give it a try.

    I did, and it was so helpful. My first daughter had a hard time with breast feeding from day one. She was too impatient to wait for let-down and we went to alternating breast feeding with bottle feeding at six months old. Much easier for her and mommy! My second baby was a boy and he took to breast feeding so well that he never needed any kind of bottle supplement. My third baby nursed well for the first six months and then was too busy to breast feed and weaned herself to a bottle in one day (she's my strong willed child!)

    I completely agree, moms have to be aware of the needs of each baby. We know we're all different as adults, why is it so hard to extend that grace to our babies?

  13. This is one of those *many* issues where there doesn't seem to be a clear right or wrong... if there was, then I think God would have addressed it in the Bible. This is one of those instances where He wants us to use our best judgement. In circumstances such as these, I've always said to do what works best for YOUR family. For some this may mean being "babywise" while for others it means the total opposite. Personally, I found myself in the attachment parenting camp until my kids got older, then it was time to establish firm boundaries (thereby crossing into the "Toddlerwise" camp!). I'm about to finish crossing that line with my 21 mo. old once she turns 2.

    Again, I recommend that parents do what is best for THEIR family (and it may mean using a different approach for each child as your family grows and changes).

    Just my two cents. :-)

  14. Good summary and closing, Liz. Couldn't have said it better myself. :) Thanks, everyone for your thoughts.