On Becoming Baby Wise, Ezzo & Bucknam {a book review}

I'm not usually one of those parents. You know, the parents that read everything and first consult "the experts" before trying anything on their child. I'm a "wing it" and "parent instinct knows best" kind of parent. I'm a "don't over think it" and "just sit back and enjoy while they're still young" kind of parent. A "they came to live with us so they better be flexible" and "I'll Google it if I have a question" kind of parent.

But, alas, my laid back and passive parenting "style" has basically failed. Sure, my kids are happy and pretty well adjusted. (The youngest has exceptions.) But I'm exhausted. Passivity and downright laziness has lead me to respond to my baby's every cry with nursing. Demand-feeding "they" call it. He wakes up all hours of the night and that's been ongoing more or less for the last nearly 10 months. Have I mentioned I'm exhausted? I'm fatigued. I'm impatient especially with our 3-year-old. Sweet little Brylee. She doesn't deserve me to be so short with her. My husband deserves more {positive} attention from me. Our messy home deserves more from me. And Ian deserves more quality attention from me and more from his sleeping routine.

So, my sister let me borrow her book. And our lives will never be the same :)

BOOK: On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep
AUTHOR(S): Gary Ezzo, M.A. and Robert Bucknam, M.D.


It's a book about getting your baby to sleep through the night, but has much to say about eating as well because eating schedules greatly effect sleeping schedules.

Most parenting material revolves around two extreme perspectives. In one, the baby decides eating and sleeping schedules (based on the concept of "demand-feeding" and other similar principals). In the second, the clock determines eating and sleeping schedules (often based on a rigid four-hour routine). This book offers a more flexible approach using Parent Directed Feeding (PDF) and Parent Analysis to determine when to feed and thus when to sleep.


Most things I read in preparation for breastfeeding endorsed demand-feeding--to keep baby fed and happy and to keep up supply. I went along with it, because, well, a rigid 4-hour schedule did seem like it'd hinder milk production and, well, my baby did seem hungry much more frequently than every four hours. This worked in the first couple weeks. Then habits began to form. Bad habits. Ian cried and he got a boob stuck in his mouth (sorry, that's just the simple truth). We changed his diaper and tried to make sure he slept semi-frequently, but most cries were interpreted as hunger cries. Even at night. Even if he ate just an hour earlier. Even if I was exhausted and he was exhausted and all we both needed was sleep.

Demand-feeding is pretty heavily rooted in Attachment Parenting. While I try not to condemn other parenting styles just because they're not preferred by our family, I also have never been an advocate for Attachment Parenting. Co-sleeping, baby-wearing, baby-pleasing. There's nothing wrong with baby-pleasing, as long as the baby is being pleased with what he truly needs. A baby needs good, quality, and quantity sleep. A baby needs regular full meals that, for a breastfed baby, include the hind milk that comes from a full-length feeding. Attachment Parents (is that a term?) often report frequent feedings (because the baby's cry is met with the breast even if that's not what he needs at that time) and often report interrupted sleep up through the second year of life (because of co-sleeping and because of frequent nighttime feedings). This interrupted sleep is of course exhausting for the parent(s) resulting in fatigue and inability to care for baby and older siblings to their full potential. And definitely exhausting for the baby who needs a good nights sleep for growth and development and to encourage an overall even temper.

All of this to say.... I have been, by default, Attachment Parenting. By demand-feeding and instantly responding to these perceived "hunger cues" with the breast and not allowing my baby to self-sooth or to learn healthy sleep patterns, I have been going against what I believe to be important as a parent.

And that is probably the most important concept I learned from this book--the value of sleep for a baby, how that relies on philosophies of feeding, and how my exhaustion from these habits negatively effects my family. Ian is not getting the best feedings he could when he eats too frequently (possibly one reason he wakes up so much at night, because he actually is hungry), I'm disappointed in my abilities as a mother when my sleep is so interrupted (it's embarrassing how impatient I get with Brylee when exhausted), and an otherwise happy baby is categorized as "cranky" because of this poor routine.

It changes {now}.


Ian is (finally) learning a healthy routine of {Eat. Play. Sleep.}

We've had a great start with having him "Cry It Out" as he learns to self-soothe for naptimes and at bedtime (this eliminated the need to nurse or rock him to sleep). Now, I'm fixing his daytime feeding schedule. I'm nursing him when he wakes up in the morning and from each of his naps (that's 3x/day), nursing again before he goes down for the night, with a possible fifth "dream feed" before I go down for the night. With spacing the nursing sessions out a little more, he's eating much more solids at meal times which is great for his age, and he also eats a snack with Brylee. And I'm making sure his nursing sessions are full feedings which will be more filling and stick with him longer.

Just making these adjustments for yesterday afternoon (when I finished reading the book), he woke up ONCE last night (possibly because I forgot to do the dream feed). That is a huge improvement! I know, it probably sounds ridiculous to be excited about that at 10-months-old, but he had been waking up every 2-3 hours and sometimes he'd even wake up within ONE hour! So waking up once is great success. And he woke up for a full feeding, which is okay. Because that means he woke up because he needed it and not just out of habit or for comfort. A few more days of making the above changes to his daytime eating/sleeping routine and the nights just might (fingers crossed) fix themselves!

Wow, I feel like a better, more empowered parent already :) And, might I add, well-rested... Imagine what a full nights sleep would do for both of us!

What really matters is what matters to you. Where you, the parent, places breast-feeding and/or the establishment of healthy day and nighttime sleep as a priority will direct you to the feeding philosophy that can best accomplish your goals. (p. 64)
I especially appreciated chapter 4 "Facts on Feeding." They really seemed to offer a nice balanced alternative to the two extremes of hyper-scheduling and Attachment Parenting's style of demand-feeding. Any woman deciding between breast and bottle or between schedule-feeding and demand-feeding would benefit from reading this chapter. I wish it was in my mix of breastfeeding preparation reads.


Any questions I have for the author would revolve around {What next?}

This book is really meant for a parent to read before baby is here or early on while baby is still developing sleeping and eating habits. They have excellent information to be used for older babies, but just enough to get you started. So, any questions I might have using these principals on my "pretoddler" they've already answered in their followup book:

On Becoming Baby Wise: Book Two (Parenting Your Pretoddler Five to Fifteen Months)


Great information. Balanced and flexible approach to encouraging/teaching healthy eating and sleeping routines. Easy to read examples and research to back up the claims.

{Highly recommend.}