Babywise – Use At Your Own Risk!

“There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies.”  Winston Churchill


See Important note on upcoming information at the end of this post

Today we continue to delve into the controversial book On Becoming Babywise.


Before reviewing the rest of the book, we believe it is extremely important to point out that the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a warning about Ezzo’s methods as far back as 1998. Dr. Matthew Aney’s article “‘Babywise’ advice linked to dehydration, failure to thrive”, alerted parents about the risks associated with Ezzo’s methods. Dr. Aney explained:

"Expectant parents often fear the changes a new baby will bring, especially sleepless nights. What new parent wouldn't want a how-to book that promises their baby will be sleeping through the night by three to eight weeks?

"One such book, On Becoming Babywise, has raised concern among pediatricians because it outlines an infant feeding program that has been associated with failure to thrive (FTT), poor milk supply failure, and involuntary early weaning. A Forsyth Medical Hospital Review Committee, in Winston-Salem N.C., has listed 11 areas in which the program is inadequately supported by conventional medical practice. The Child Abuse Prevention Council of Orange County, Calif., stated its concern after physicians called them with reports of dehydration, slow growth and development, and FTT associated with the program.”


You can read the entire article here


3/9/11-TWW hastens to add that there have been NO documented cases of infant death due to using this method. In an article, link hereone can read the following statement:

Child-Rearing Philosophy Impacts Psychosocial and Physical Development

Cheryl A. Tyler
Master of Education in Special Education
George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University

"For example bonding is a physical attachment as well as mental. Ezzo's methods in these critical first months of a baby's life have implications for life-long physical and mental disorders, and potentially could even lead to death. "

Babywise outlines three different feeding philosophies – child-led feeding, clock feeding, and parent-directed feeding (PDF) – and then lauds PDF as the far superior method.


Here’s how Ezzo cleverly sells PDF:


“Surely you desire what’s best for your baby. Every good parent does. As a mother, you also need what’s best for you. A fatigued and weary mom simply cannot effectively meet her baby’s needs or anyone else’s, for that matter. Babies do not connect well with burned-out mothers. Parent-directed feeding (PDF) can prevent that.” (p. 41)


What is PDF? It is a round the clock strategy that involves three basic activities: feeding, being awake, and napping, which are repeated over and over and over again. Ezzo believes that such a routine will lead to consistency, which in turn will result in the infant being able to sleep through the night. These activities are done in that exact order: feeding, staying awake/playing, and finally napping. Much of the book is devoted to explaining this technique in detail.


Remember Marisa and Chelsea, the imaginary infants described in yesterday’s post? Here’s how PDF is far superior to demand feeding, according to Babywise:


“Chelsea, our PDF baby, will establish healthy and continuous nighttime sleep sometime between the seventh and ninth week. She will probably be sleeping ten hours a night by week twelve. Her cousin Marisa, on the other hand, will still be waking two or three times a night to snack.”


Of course, this is music to any parent’s ears…

Here’s our concern about this scenario. Is it possible for a mom to go TEN HOURS without breastfeeding her infant night after night? Those of us who have nursed our babies know that the more often you breastfeed the more milk you produce. That’s a no-brainer. Can a mother who does not nurse at all during the night produce sufficient milk to continue breastfeeding?  


As I reflect back to my own experience with demand feeding, I didn’t find it that inconvenient. My husband and I had a cradle at the foot of our bed where our baby slept for the first few months. When she would wake up once or twice during the night, I would pick her up and nurse her (either lying down in bed or sitting in a rocking chair) and then put her back in her cradle. It was so natural and comforting to my baby. Extended crying sessions were a fairly rare occurrence, except when she was teething. When she napped during the day, I would often lie down with her to get some rest during one of her nap times. When my second child came along, I would try and get my older daughter to take a nap with the baby and me. Those were precious times, and I didn’t experience the exhaustion described ad nauseam in Babywise. It’s just another scare tactic used to coerce parents of newborns to buy into the Babywise system.

As the AAP article explains, some infants have become malnourished and seriously dehydrated because their parents chose to use the Babywise approach to feeding. There have even been reports of babies dying. Why? Because PDF is a regimented feeding schedule that is "parent directed", not "child directed". Instead of the infant signaling what he/she needs, the parent decides. This is so unnatural.

What disturbs us even more are the scare tactics Ezzo uses to manipulate parents into embracing his Babywise method. It is truly shameful!

First, Ezzo explains that when a mom offers to nurse every time her baby cries, she is teaching him or her that food, not the mom, is a source of comfort. So a tiny infant can understand the difference? What kind of psychobabble is that? Then Ezzo goes on to theorize that such behavior on the mother’s part may explain why there is such a problem with obesity. Here are his exact words:

“A mom who picks up her baby and offers the breast each time her baby cries is teaching baby that food is the source of comfort, not mom…. It may also help explain the obesity problem of our nation’s youth and why so many adults turn to food for stress relief. They have been trained that way from the beginning.” (p. 140)

Secondly, Ezzo falsely claims in Babywise that holding a baby too much can have "negative propensities". He pontificates:

“Yes, you can harm a baby by picking him or her up too much. Not in that single act, but in the collective nature of such a response. Over time this parenting attitude creates negative propensities. These inevitably spill over into pretoddler and toddler development.” (p. 141)

What are these “negative propensities”? The Babywise authors write:

“Research has clearly demonstrated that immediate-gratification training negatively impacts a child’s ability to learn, affecting the skills of sitting, focusing, and concentrating. All are prerequisites for academic advancement. These are facts”. (p. 141)

Earlier in the book, Ezzo asks and then answers the following question: “What role does healthy sleep play in the developmental process? Are you ready for this? Night sleepers make smarter children.” (p. 53) A few paragraphs later he states that studies have shown that “children with healthy sleep patterns clearly had higher IQs than children who did not sleep well.” (p. 53)

Why is Ezzo talking about sleep patterns of children? He clearly stated at the beginning of the book that Babywise was written for infants.

Here is how I believe Ezzo is trying to intimidate parents. He is not so subtly conveying the following message – if you choose any feeding method other than “Parent Directed Feeding (PDF)”, then your cute little baby will grow up to be fat and dumb! Talk about intimidation!!!

And if that’s not enough to coerce you into using Babywise, then the following strategy is bound to convince you.

Under the section “What Should I Do When My Baby Cries”, Ezzo explains that when Marissa cries, her mom “simply reacts to her feelings when she hears her baby cry.” (p. 150) She will instinctively pick up Marissa and comfort her. A condescending Ezzo explains that such a reaction is absolutely wrong because one’s feelings should never be substituted for sound decision-making. He explains that “crying is a mechanism given by the Creator.” (p. 150) According to Ezzo, parents should not "react" to a crying baby but instead "assess" the situation before taking action. Here’s just how low Ezzo stoops to sell his feeding technique. He explains:

"Mother’s decisions without assessment can be dangerous. To deny the importance of careful assessment is to deny parents their role as leaders. Leaders must be clear-headed and ready to make decisions. They should not be driven by emotions. In practice, emotional mothering can set the stage for child abuse.” (p. 151)

In other words, if a mother instinctively picks up her crying baby without first listening for the type of cry and using sound decision making to assess that cry, her child may become a victim of CHILD ABUSE. This kind of manipulation is absolutely horrible!

What’s worse, Ezzo offers a plethora of resources on page 244 of On Becoming Babywise. Given what I have read in this volume, I cringe to think what kind of dogmatic instruction Ezzo provides in the following "self-published" books:

On Becoming Birthwise, On Becoming Babywise II, On Becoming Pottywise for Toddlers, Potty Training 1-2-3, On Becoming Childwise, On Becoming Preschoolwise, On Becoming Preteenwise, and On Becoming Teenwise.

There are some RED FLAGS in Babywise for the discerning reader. On pages 99-100 Ezzo warns parents who may consult a lactation specialist that "the lactation industry is heavily biased in favor of attachment parenting theories" and that "PDF is a major paradigm shift for the industry…do not be surprised if the concept of putting a nursing infant on a 'flexible routine' is questioned." Then Ezzo has the audacity to say:

"Be prudent and cautious in your search for a lactation consultant. Being "Board Certified" does not guarantee the information you receive is the best for you or your baby or necessarily medically correct. Too often a consultant's personal parenting views are substituted for sound medical advice." (p. 101)

Here is another RED FLAG. On page 218 Ezzo strongly suggests that the infant's parents buy extra copies of On Becoming Babywise to give to the grandparents so they will understand the PDF method. More book sales..

Here is the bottom line. The Ezzos are making bank through their FOR PROFIT business that they have cleverly disguised as a ministry. Furthermore, we believe they are creating a dependency through their Babywise approach to infant feeding. Unsuspecting parents who embrace the extremely unnatural PDF method begin to place their trust in Ezzo, rather than trusting their God-given parental instincts.   Dear readers, Dee and I have done something that Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam will NEVER be able to do — breastfeed a baby!!!  We know from experience exactly what's involved with breastfeeding because we have done it successfully.


How many more lives will be adversely affected by the Ezzos?

When it comes to the bizarre teachings promoted in Babywise, here is our wisest motherly advice:  USE AT YOUR OWN RISK!



Today, TWW obtained information regarding Gary Ezzo and the Talbot School of Theology. We will confirm our source and report this information on Friday.

Secondly, on Thursday TWW will post a personal testimony about what happened when one woman dared to approach her SGM leaders regarding the problems with Ezzo. Her story has been confirmed by other sources. We will be surprised if our readers do not find this post deeply disturbing.

Finally, tomorrow TWW will post a special article written by the head of a Christian cruise company that provides mission opportunities. We believe our readers will find his perspective thoughtful.


Lydia's Corner: Deuteronomy 4:1-49 Luke 6:39-7:10 Psalm 68:1-18 Proverbs 11:28




Babywise – Use At Your Own Risk! — 28 Comments

  1. I notice that he keeps using the words “research has shown”. But it doesn’t seem like he has any citations to back up his statements. Does he?

  2. As a Biologist (actually, a mere grad student) that is doing research, “Research has shown,” irritates me because you must not only make a statement, you must cite sources and GE has no sources because those doing research tend to hold opinions and data contrary to what lines the pages of Ezzo’s books.

  3. “They should not be driven by emotions. In practice, emotional mothering can set the stage for child abuse.”

    Note the intended insult: Emotional mothers.

    As my preganant ob-gyn told me: they don’t come with manuals which is why God made grandma’s.

    In the early months, is there anything more precious than the few minutes you take to feed your baby in the quietness of the night? He calls this “snacking” as if we are feeding them Little Debbies.

    I seem to remember the feeding going right through them…diapers by the truckload. So what would that denote? A snack in the middle of the night? He has to be kidding!

    Does he explain how a hungry baby sleeps better than a not hungry baby? (sheesh!)

    I have a better title: The Nazi Guide to Raising Non Aryian Babies.

  4. I know what the future grandma of my future kids would think if she saw Babywise – she’d be horrified. She’d stage an intervention. As a former neo-natal intensive-care nurse and instinctive attachment parent, that sort of talk about babies as manipulative would make her very, very upset.

    And since my siblings and I seem to be productive Christian adults, I’m thinking I can learn a lot more from her and my dad than this book.

  5. Tikatu

    I have found that many people, when trying to sound “official” like to use the word studies. A real study always involves randomized control groups overseen by peer review. But, this poor man may not have anyway of knowing such a thing. It appears we may not be dealing with any sort of formal education. Stay tuned-TWW just found out some info yesterday from the “horse’s mouth”. We will confirm it and publish our “finding” on Friday.

    Anyone using this book should do just a quick google search. It is rather disconcerting that this stuff gets the play that it does.

  6. DB

    In this instance, I believe you have far more formal training than Ezzo. We will prove it on Friday. Do you think he has ever heard of peer reviewed,randomized studies?

    It frustrates me that s many Christians can fall for someone who claims to be an expert. They believe them because they are “Christians.” So, Christians don’t lie?

  7. Lydia

    Does emotional mothers remind you of anything? How about “gullible, easily deceived” women? Could this be why this guy gets so much play? It fits into a certain, how shall we say, CBMW mindset.

  8. If after reading my book review you’re still not convinced that On Becoming Babywise can be harmful to your baby’s health, please read the following review posted at by a certified lactation specialist. Also, read through the other one-star reviews.

    If you head over to Amazon, don’t be taken in by the five-star reviews. The Ezzos have likely had their loyalists submit glowing reviews. Remember, this self-published book is the bait for the Ezzos “for profit” enterprise.

    Written on December 28, 2009 by VANDAM

    “As a certified lactation consultant for over 25 years, I beg all parents and healthcare professionals to use EXTREME CAUTION when recommending this book to anyone. I have witnessed countless negative effects from Failure to Thrive to severe postpartum depression and it is not condoned by the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Dr.” Ezzo, who takes liberal advantage of this title not earned at any medical school, uses Christian ethos as persuasive assistance, leading many caring parents to believe they are raising a Godly child by following his suggestions. Shame on you, Mr. Ezzo. Negativity about this book is not anti-Christian, but instead directed toward “Do No Harm”. Ezzo does not know what is best for EVERY child. In particular, the recommendation of allowing a young child to ‘cry it out’ when teaching sleep techniques, can lead to increased body temperature and instability in an immature human. A young human cries because that is his/her only way to send a message that a need is not being met. Is SIDS related to Ezzo’s suggestions? An interesting question and one a parent should take seriously. Congratulation to all those whose baby has managed to thrive while being parented the Ezzo way, and how sad for those it has harmed. This book should be labeled IMPLEMENTING THE SUGGESTIONS IN THIS BOOK CAN BE HARMFUL TO YOUR BABY–USE AT YOUR OWN RISK. Parents do your homework–knowledge is powerful tool. When this book harms one person–infant or parent, it is one too many”

  9. Karlton

    This has to be the only Christian blog that has an atheist doing research. You know, if we could all get along like this, we might have fewer conflicts in the world. Thank you for making me smile today.

  10. When I had my first, my grandmother said, “The instructions are written on the back of the neck”. Worked for me.

    How can anybody seriously defend a program under which children have starved to death, and which contradicts the vast body of medical research on baby-rearing and breastfeeding? There are studies out there showing that if a baby cries with no response, the baby winds up with “learned helplessness” in which it doesn’t believe it has any power over its environment. Ezzo apparently thinks children should learn that.

    Of course, I have the same question about Michael and Debi “Beating children is a good thing” Pearl.

  11. Madame Hardy

    I have also heard things about the Pearl’s from some friends. Perhaps we can take a look at these things as well.

  12. Something that interests me is that Ezzo’s rules for parenting are straight out of the 1920s. Short citation to Libby Byers paper; full PDF available at link. Scroll down to “John Broadus Watson”. “Never hug and kiss them; never let them sit on your lap.”

    There’s been a lot of progress in child-rearing research — not, I suspect, in child-rearing, but in the research about it — since the 1920s. We know more about how children grow and develop. A big part of that knowledge is based on moving from Watson’s “how I theorize babies ought to be” to “how babies behave when we watch them.”

  13. When our children were young we went through the “Growing Kids God’s Way” with some other couples. I remember thinking at the time that some of the things that were recommended lacked credibility to me since he raised 2 daughters. I had sons and daughters at the time – and 5 of them not just 2. However, not everything Ezzo had to say was without merit – at least with the program for older children. Not allowing your children to interrupt when you are speaking was good advice. Not allowing your home to be a child-centered home was also good advice. So not everything they recommend is bad advice. Again, I think that as adults we need to read and study many different sources of information and draw our own conclusions – not follow one way (except scripture, of course). I fear that our nation is full of people who cannot think for themselves.

  14. “Does emotional mothers remind you of anything? How about “gullible, easily deceived” women? Could this be why this guy gets so much play? It fits into a certain, how shall we say, CBMW mindset.”

    Absolutely. That is exactly what I was thinking. And it is amazing how many women buy into it as if the Cross was not enough for women to overcome such things.

    So the uneducated, uncredentialed male that cannot breastfeed has the answer for mothers. Okey dokey.

  15. ” However, not everything Ezzo had to say was without merit – at least with the program for older children. Not allowing your children to interrupt when you are speaking was good advice. Not allowing your home to be a child-centered home was also good advice. So not everything they recommend is bad advice. ”

    This stuff is as old as the hills. As my aunt used to say, if you interrupt me, the house better be on fire or there is blood shooting out of your head. We laugh about these things today and we got the point as kids with a humor. We called her the Gestapo Aunt because she always knew what we were doing before we knew.

    Here is a big one: We were taught not to walk in a room of adults, talking. Kids do this all the time. They run into a room of adults with their mouth running.

    These are not Ezzo. It is basic etiquette in a civilized society that is becoming more and more uncivil. I still practice these things with senior adults.

    Define “child centered” home. The reason I ask is because growing up, our house was the it place for the neighborhood kids. As I look back, I think it is because they felt welcome there. There is a balance here. The kids did not run the house or make the rules but it was kid centered in a way.

  16. I disagree with the whole, don’t have a kid centered home. That’s fine if it works for you, but we love having a kid centered home. Even it is a bit full of toys, yoga balls, and trampalines (not to mention the drum set and guitar equipment in the garage.) Again, nothing wrong if that’s how you want your home, but to tell others that to allow a “kid centered” home is giving in to their selfish sinful nature is just beyond the pale. We choose to live this way, because we enjoy it as parents.

    I also have a child with a learning dis-order-which contributes to our thinking. Ezzo’s material is abusive, if not deadly to a child dealing with a learning dis-order. His “Biblical” expectations run straight against how to properly nurture a child who does not process in the same way other children do….

  17. Dee,

    Here is the question and the response I got from the Doctor who is listed as endorsing Ezzo’s methods of child rearing…

    Karlton G. Kemerait March 9 at 10:19am
    I noticed that you endorsed the Ezzo baby raising methodologies. I am curious on what medical basis you made that endorsement given the seemingly large numbers of professionals in the medical field that are critical of its methods.

    Derek-Elma Heldzinger March 9 at 11:58am [object Object]
    The majority of medical professionals today is controlled by lawyers, protocols and media rather than what is right and no common sense exist any more.

  18. In other words, “I refuse to answer your query for evidence”. Or paraphrased “Since everyone else is corrupt, I am right and do not need any evidence”.

    Another example of siege mentality…

  19. Awesome reporting, Karlton.

    In any case, individual doctor endorsements mean nothing — you can find individual doctors to endorse just about any theory, crackpot or not. (See: Essiac.) To really prove the Ezzos’ theories work, you’d need controlled studies proving that his nutrition schedules are sufficient for newborn infants; those studies don’t exist, and never have, while there are multiple studies showing that breastfeeding on demand (or bottlefeeding on demand) is necessary for newborn infant health.

    I may be a bit passionate about this, because babies have wound up with failure to thrive because their parents followed Ezzo’s methods. (link is to an anti-Ezzo site, but the page I link to is an American Academy of Pediatricians report.)

  20. “Dear readers, Dee and I have done something that Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam will NEVER be able to do — breastfeed a baby!!!”
    Not to be picky, but it is technically possible for a man to breastfeed with enough suckling and/or the right medical condition. Something tells me his research may not have gone quite that deep, though…

  21. “Not to be picky, but it is technically possible for a man to breastfeed with enough suckling and/or the right medical condition. Something tells me his research may not have gone quite that deep, though…”

    Gee, thanks Garland.

    You just ruined my breakfast of Croissants and strawberries.


  22. Garland wrote:
    “Not to be picky, but it is technically possible for a man to breastfeed with enough suckling and/or the right medical condition.”


    As my husband would say, “That’s TMI (too much information)!”

    Actually, I had read about male lactation while doing my research for this series of posts. I think there are some YouTube videos on this topic, but I decided not to link to them.

    On a humorous note, what do you call a lactating male? The MILK MAN

  23. Quote: “On a humorous note, what do you call a lactating male? The MILK MAN”


    Interestingly, Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo have updated their “Preparation for Parenting” materials (aka Babywise for church families.) While they state on their website that the “significant” changes which they excuse with this statement, “There is usually only one reason an author changes a book and that is to make the content clearer.”

    I truly hope and pray that the changes ARE significant, and as with the previous revisions of BW over the years, reflect the legitimate concerns which have been raised over the past two decades by critics.

    While I do believe that BW/Prep/Ezzo is foundationally flawed and parents are better off looking to other resources, the more changes that are made in a positive way, reflecting the true problems of the materials, the better off parents will be.

  24. On glue sticks. . . I do not believe you will find in Gary Ezzo’s written or recorded materials a recommendation for using a glue stick as an implement with which to hit a child on the bottom or legs during chastisement. However, within the Ezzo support communities, it was a recommendation commonly made. I do not know whether I first heard it advised on the GFI message board or the GFI yahoo group, but it was in the mid-90s that I know Ezzo moms were recommending it to one another as an appropriate chastisement tool ala Ezzo.