“There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies.” Winston Churchill
My younger daughter turned three the same year On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep was first published. That was 1995. Over fifteen years later, Gary Ezzo’s infant training methods have divided the Christian community. There seems to be no neutral ground. A quick look at reviews of Babywise over at Amazon shows that people’s opinions are primarily at opposite ends of the spectrum.
I believe it was divine providence that I never heard about Ezzo while my children were young. Currently, they are both in college and will likely be getting married and beginning their own families in the coming years. I decided to check out Ezzo’s teachings for myself so that I can be well-informed and share my findings with my daughters as well as our readers here at TWW.
Perhaps the best starting point is to look at the credentials of the authors of On Becoming Babywise. I tried to find Gary Ezzo’s educational credentials using Google to no avail. Finally, I was able to get some answers from a Christianity Today article published in November 2000 and entitled “Unprepared to Teach Parenting?”
Here is the answer:
Is Ezzo Who He Says He Is?
“An inquiry by CT into Ezzo's background surfaces many new questions about his training, his conduct, and his professional interactions. Parents trust Ezzo to be professional and authoritative on parenting, yet many are not aware that he has no professional background in child development, medicine, or breastfeeding support
Ezzo, GFI, and his publisher have attributed to him three different academic degrees that he does not have. Ezzo stated in writing that he had an associate's degree in business from Mohawk Community College in Utica, New York, even specifying a major and a grade-point average. He never graduated from that school, officials say.
GFI and Ezzo's publisher, Multnomah, have both said he earned a master's degree in Christian education, but he holds no such degree. The master of arts in ministry that he does have gives significant credit for life experience and is designed for noncollege graduates.”
Even though the most recent edition (2006) of On Becoming Babywise lists Ezzo as having an M.A. on the back cover, he never earned such a degree. 3/8/11 clarification: Apparently, Talbot School of Theology has an MA for individuals who do not hold an undergraduate degree. They give credit for "life experience." Our intent was to say that Ezzo's degree was not a typical Masters degree program. However, he does hold this somewhat unusual degree. 3/9/11 This is still in dispute. I find it absolutely incredible that millions of parents have trusted their precious babies to someone who, as the CT article indicates, has “no professional background in child development, medicine, or breastfeeding support.” It staggers the mind!
Such criticism would explain why Ezzo brought on board Dr. Robert Bucknam to co-author his book. Even after the addition of Bucknam, it appears that little if anything has changed in Ezzo’s methodology.
I have read On Becoming Babywise from cover to cover, and what bothers me the most were the intimidation and scare tactics I found throughout the book. If I were a young mother, I might have been taken in by Ezzo’s manipulation; however, I am older and wiser.
Here is an example of what I mean in the Preface of the book. On page 17, Ezzo writes: “On Becoming Babywise is more than an infant-management concept; it is a mind-set for responsible parenthood… This plan will not leave mom ragged at the end of the day nor in bondage to her child.” Bondage? That’s just one of many perjorative terms Ezzo uses to manipulate young parents.
Incredibly, Ezzo states on page 19: “Being professionals who provide health and educational services to families”… What? Ezzo has no professional training as stated in the CT article. Folks, I hope you’re beginning to understand the serious character flaws that so many have discovered with regard to Ezzo.
As we go forward with this book review, please remember that Ezzo begins by explaining that the primary emphasis of the book is “the nurture of a newborn”. This will be very important as we proceed with the book review.
Ezzo begins his scare tactics under the heading “Child-Centered Parenting”. He explains that families who use this method begin breaking apart with the arrival of a newborn. On page 22 Ezzo states:
“From the start, the family is breaking apart. This type of parenting puts all other family relationships at risk. Rather than welcoming children to the family, children are treated as the center of the family universe. This is the heart of child-centered parenting.”
He then introduces an imaginary baby named Marisa to describe what happens when parents adopt the child-centered approach. He explains that Marisa will “never have to wait for anything. If she wants something, it is given to her on demand.” (p. 23). Marisa’s parents cannot go out for the evening by themselves because they take their little baby with them wherever they go. (Yep, that was my husband and me…) Ezzo then explains how this finicky eater will drive her mother nuts. “Welcome to the circus”, he declares on page 23. Are you getting the picture? This kind of intimidation is used throughout the book whenever Marisa and her parents are mentioned.
Ezzo goes on to explain that Marisa is “self-centered”, “ill-prepared for give and take”, and demanding. In describing little Marisa, Ezzo writes: “Given her demeanor, no one may care to help her at all.” (p. 24) Remember, the focus of this book is “the nurture of a newborn”.
Chelsea, on the other hand, is a Babywise baby. This imaginary infant and her parents are far superior to Marisa and her parents, according to Ezzo. He explains:
“Chelsea’s parents understand that virtues must be nurtured in her tiny heart… Chelsea’s parents must govern and monitor her until they are assured she bears the self-control and moral awareness needed to govern herself.”
And what does Gary Ezzo promise as the reward for using his Babywise method? Here it is:
“By the end of Chelsea’s teen years, a beautiful friendship with her parents will begin to blossom. Indeed, this should be every parent’s goal.” (p. 26)
If Ezzo’s parenting methods are so superior, then why in the world have his two grown daughters reportedly been estranged from him and his wife for years?
Tomorrow we will get into Ezzo’s strong criticism of “demand feeding” and his far superior Babywise alternative, which he describes as “parent-directed feeding”.
I would have written a longer post, but I must cut it short because my husband and I are nurturing our relationship with our grown daughters by taking them out to dinner. I guess our child-centered approach to parenting yielded the result that Ezzo was striving for – a beautiful friendship that blossoms as the children reach adulthood.
Lydia's Corner: Deuteronomy 2:1-3:29 Luke 6:12-38 Psalm 67:1-7 Proverbs 11:27