Babywise advice linked to dehydration, failure to thrive ("AAP News," April 1998).
A Tough Plan for Raising Children Draws Fire: "Babywise" Books Worry Pediatricians and Others (Washington Post, February 27, 1999).These startling headlines refer to the top-selling and highly controversial childcare guides "On Becoming Babywise" and "Babywise II," written by Gary Ezzo, a self-described Christian pastor, and endorsed by Robert Bucknam, a pediatrician. Chances are you've heard of these books; since it was published in 1995, "On Becoming Babywise" reportedly has sold more than 290,000 copies. "Babywise" is recommended for parents of babies up to 5 months old, and "Babywise II" addresses parents of children 5 to 15 months old. Soon to be released is "On Becoming Childwise," a guide for toddlers through 8-year-olds.Ezzo, who has no formal theological or medical training, is executive director of the for-profit organization Growing Families International (GFI). With his wife, Anne Marie, Ezzo runs church-based classes for parents who wish to give their children a rigid religious upbringing. Although few readers know it, the "Babywise" books are the secular versions of Ezzo's original parenting program, which includes guides such as "Preparation for Parenting" and "Growing Kids God's Way" (GKGW). The content of these guides is based on GFI's own unpublished, self-conducted studies. The studies have not been subjected to peer review, which means there has been no independent, professional evaluation of the studies or their findings, the usual method of verifying the worth of scientific studies.Despite the fact that Ezzo has a large and growing following--reportedly more than a million families in 93 countries, with his books translated into 17 languages--distress over his program is also growing. What are doctors, lactation specialists, and child development experts--some of whom are Christians--concerned about? Ezzo's self-designed, strictly regimented feeding program, called Parent-Directed Feeding (PDF), which has a parent put the newborn on a strict feeding / waking / sleeping schedule. Rather than feed a baby when he shows signs of hunger--a technique known as demand feeding--parents are instructed to feed by the clock. The goal? Ostensibly to establish routine in your baby's life from day one and stick to it no matter what.A recent outcry from medical and child development experts persuaded Ezzo to revise his 1998 version of "Babywise" to say that babies should be fed when they're hungry. However, the book still instructs otherwise: Parents are told that if their baby doesn't eat at a scheduled feeding, he must wait until the next one.