Why Babywise?

babywiseThe cover of On Becoming Babywise says “Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep.” Now, it’s true that countless studies have shown the vast benefits of sleep on cognitive development in both infant and childhood, but honestly, I think it’s really the parent who’s getting the gift here. We go into parenthood accepting (although not fully understanding) that with a new baby comes certain sacrifices – specifically in terms of sleep. But what if the magnitude of that sacrifice could be minimized? What if your sleep could be compromised for only 4-6 months instead of five years? And what if the way to achieve that was planned and written out for you, bound together, and sold for only $11.91 on Amazon.com? Now THAT is a gift.

My sister in law gave me a copy of Babywise before I had my first child. I read it at some point during my pregnancy and it made sense, but truthfully I was more concerned with finishing the nursery than contemplating infant sleep, so by the time I delivered I had completely forgotten about it. Vera arrived and was absolutely the worst-case-scenario newborn. I’m certain that babies like her are the reason they have safe surrender sites. She came out of me screaming and oh my goodness she just never stopped. It was horrible. I remember sobbing after her 2 week doctor’s appointment because he told me that infants needed around 16-19 hours of sleep per day and Vera was getting 6-8 hours maximum. She was content to nurse (a great eater from the start), but otherwise spent 10-12 hours a day crying. She cried in the swing, she cried in the car seat, she cried in my arms. She just cried. All.Day.Long. I wanted to jump out a window! Anyway, at some point I remembered that little old book my sister in law had given me, and I cracked it open and began reading. It changed my life. Within a few weeks of implementing Babywise she was regularly napping during the day and falling asleep after night feedings easily. At five and a half months she slept through the night 7pm-7am. With adequate sleep brought a MUCH happier baby who didn’t cry all the time. It was a revolutionary change!

Vera has turned out to be an extremely strong willed child, presenting all sorts of challenges along the way, and I am absolutely convinced that if I wasn’t able to get her sleep under control, she would still be a mess at age 3. I definitely would not have had any more children, and the life with 4 kids that I now love so much wouldn’t exist! Abel was naturally an easier baby – but with Babywise he also thrived, adapting easily to the schedule and routine that I already had going with Vera. This made the transition from one child to two very, very easy. Another gift!

Four years and four kids after I first read On Becoming Babywise, I still can’t figure out why it’s so controversial. I’ve heard vague claims about it leading to diagnoses of “Failure to Thrive” in babies, but I have a hard time understanding how that could happen when the feeding method only uses the clock as an upper-limit to the length between feedings. In contrast to other methods, which may allow a baby to nap a consecutive 4+ hours during the day, Babywise encourages the parent to wake the baby up and feed them. It also focuses on facilitating full feedings each time (encouraging the baby to not fall asleep nursing but to stay awake long enough to empty the breast or drink to full satisfaction). Wouldn’t that lead MORE milk being consumed? If a Babywise baby is diagnosed with FTT, my guess is that there’s something else at play – some other condition contributing to the diagnosis. My guess is also that the large majority of the Babywise naysayers haven’t actually read the book and don’t really understand the system.

There are plenty of sleep methods out there – some work, some probably don’t. Some work for some families but not for others. Because I like structure (and I’d argue that most babies/children do too), Babywise is a good fit for me and my family. Having twins brought with it a lot of unknowns, but I am comforted by the plan, routine, and organization that Babywise gives me. I have the confidence that the twins will eventually sleep through the night (and probably relatively soon!) and that they will fall into a napping schedule just like my other kids did. This phase of tiredness I’m in is just that – a phase – and with Babywise I can rest assured that it will be over soon and I will be back to my normal, well-rested self. What a gift!

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