Combating Babywise Myths #3: Your Baby Will Not Thrive. Babywise babies thrive and grow really well despite the claims otherwise.
When looking through sites that bash Babywise, I found a comment on a site that many people may have read. It is one of the highest sites pulled up after a Google search, and was in June of 2007 when I first searched. The comment basically says that if you do Babywise, your baby will not gain weight properly, experience failure to thrive, and even die. I love the even die part. So dramatic.
This myth can really be combating in part with many of my points from myth #1 (Read first Babywise Myths post here).
Let’s remember that Babywise is Parent Directed Feeding (PDF). That means that if your baby is not gaining weight properly, you adjust. You don’t tell your 6 week old to “get with the program,” you tell yourself to problem solve and fix the problems.
No matter what your parenting philosophy, failure to thrive is a possibility. I have a good friend who had her second baby this past November. She lives in my neighborhood and has a son Brayden’s age, now a daughter relatively close to Kailtyn’s age, and so we visit quite a bit. Her two month old was recently diagnosed as failure to thrive. Her baby is actually losing weight. She told me she was just nursing her baby the way the doctors and nurses told her to. “She’ll let you know when she is hungry,” they said. The problem is that this baby hasn’t let her mom know. My friend told me she will go 6 hours between feedings sometimes, and mom will wonder if she should get her up. The baby’s pediatrician told mom to put her on a schedule.
Now, my friend nursed her first this way (Attachment Parenting) with no feeding issues. Her son can be a little out of control, doesn’t sleep in his own bed, and bedtime is somewhere around 11, but weight-wise he was fine. My friend is honestly shocked that what the doctors and nurses told her in the hospital is not working out. I encouraged her to do a schedule and feed her baby every few hours even if she is still sleeping.
I share this story to point out a couple of things. One is that failure to thrive can happen on any feeding philosophy–even Attachment Parenting. That group of parents seem to be the loudest critics of Babywise. Another point of the story is to show that parents need to intervene.
I have never had a baby experience failure to thrive. I don’t know much about it. But if your baby has failure to thrive simply because you didn’t feed them often enough, I am sorry to say it is your mistake. You are the one who needs to correct something, not the parenting philosophy you follow. I am sure there are medical reasons that contribute to failure to thrive, but those are going to be true and present no matter what philosophy you follow.
My friend’s baby has reflux, and instead of wanting to eat all the time like some reflux babies do, baby takes the avoiding food approach. This is how my Kaitlyn was. She never woke for feedings for the first 6 weeks of her life. Had I not been following PDF, she likely would have had some thrive issues also.
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I want to iterate the experience with my children. They are about as different as can be in many ways. I started Babywise with Brayden at 9 weeks. Before I started, he demanded to be fed every hour. Not only was it exhausting for me, he wasn’t growing very well. He was in about the 20% for weight, which isn’t necessarily a problem, but it wasn’t right for him. Once I started Babywise, he moved up to 40-50%, which is where he has remained to this day. Sometimes higher, but that is her average.
Kaitlyn, as I said above, was opposite of that. She didn’t demand to be fed. I had to wake her to eat. She started out life much better fed–higher percentile. Two different children, two different eating styles, and one happy response while implementing Babywise. Two happy, healthy babies.
You are the parent; you are in charge. If you really follow the principles of Babywise, you will not have any higher change of failure to thrive than any other baby. I would venture to say you have a smaller chance. With Babywise, you count wet and dirty diapers. You monitor the output from your baby. You know if something isn’t right. You are proactive in the feeding of your child.
Although your baby is the most perfect thing on the face of this earth ( 🙂 ), your baby doesn’t know everything. A human baby is sent to human parents and dependent on them for a long time. Animal babies are capable of fending for themselves usually in a matter of weeks or months. Some sooner, some a little longer. The have instincts to help them. Humans are moral creatures. We need guidance and direction. We can’t operate on instinct. We have to swallow our pride and not slap the person trying to tell us how to parent. We have to overcome our anger when that guy cuts us off in traffic. We have to bite our tongue when the checker is taking FOREVER. Our children need guidance from us. We are intelligent beings who are capable of determining if our baby is hungry or not.
Remember, PDF is uses several variables to determine feeding time. We use the clock. We use cues from our babies. And we use our good judgment (Parental Assessment) to analyze the situation (see page 39 in chapter two in On Becoming Babywise). For these reasons, there is no reason your baby will experience failure to thrive–unless it is something medical that cannot be avoided anyway.
- jahanschen said…
This is a very widespread myth. I’m glad you addressed it–this is why the lady I mentioned in an earlier comment said, “My doctor told me Babywise kills babies.” It is interesting that the hospital where we had Will tells new moms to make sure and wake their babies to eat every 4 hours at least (like babywise). A friend of my had her baby in Japan, where some hospitals have mothers stay for a week and practice keeping a 3 hour feeding schedule. Of course they are very rigid (unlike BW). Also, I did read through La Leche Leagues’ Womanly Art of Breastfeeding–how much more AP can you get?–and they also recommend a 2-3 hour guideline for feeding newborns. They also have you keep tabs on soiled diapers.That’s why I tell people to at least read something, and decide on a parenting philosophy and method. Something is better than nothing! We all need some instruction, method and order in our lives. …and my 90% baby agrees that Babywise works beautifully! 🙂
February 8, 2008 7:07 PM
The weird thing is that she and I had our babies at the same hospital. They told me to feed every 3-4 hours, but I think they stressed it only until your milk came it. La Leche League nurses are all over the place, so my guess is they told her not to schedule. I know a woman with twins who were in the NICU for quite a while. She said they keep NICU babies on a schedule, so how can a schedule equal “failure to thrive” if that is the way they treat sick babies. Kaitlyn was also in the NICU (it turned out nothing was wrong with her), and I can attest to the schedule.
February 8, 2008 8:31 PM
Your friend and the lady I was talking about (I knew her through our childbirth class) did the same thing. The mom I know said her baby had weight gain problems from the beginning, then later in the conversation said that she didn’t feed her baby the entire first day because he wasn’t waking up. Her nurses told her to let him sleep…unbelievable! Our Will also was so sleepy at first that we had to fight to get a full feeding in him–but we always did even if it took 30 minutes of wet cloths and lights. That’s why I’m glad we read to prepare and double glad that we read BW!
February 8, 2008 8:51 PM
- dani said…
An anecdote: My twins have been on Babywise since birth and they are exclusively breast fed. They are 4.5 months old and in the 96th percentile for weight, 85% for height. That is compared to *all* babies, not just twins (who are more likely to be small). They were born below the 10th %ile, so clearly Babywise has not caused *any* problems.
February 11, 2008 9:26 AM
Dani, thanks for sharing your success! That is great growth, especially for twins!
February 11, 2008 9:54 AM