The Gist of Babywise: A Full Overview

A summary of the book On Becoming Babywise. Know what the book is all about and milestones to expect with the Babywise method.

Baby sleeping

What is the gist of Babywise? The premise? The abstract? The basics? The bare theory?

Are you considering using On Becoming Babywise with your baby but want to know more about it first? Do you wonder how intense it is or how involved you have to be?

I see and hear lots of comments about how “Babywise” something is or how much or little people follow Babywise. People feel like they need to qualify their level of Babywise.

Here is the thing; it really isn’t about that. It isn’t a list of dos and don’ts and you get points for it. It isn’t a ratings scale (from one to ten, how Babywise are you?).

It really isn’t even a program.

So what is it then?

Simply put, it is a lifestyle.

Read: How To Successfully Do “On Becoming Babywise”

When you get to know the why of what you are doing, you don’t reference the book to “tell you what to do” with your baby in every scenario. It just all comes naturally.

You don’t worry and stress out about meeting that goal to be sleeping through the night by 7-8 weeks because “the book says that is the norm.” You know and can tell baby is headed in that direction and these night wakings will soon be a distant memory. You also know that if your baby starts sleeping through at 14 weeks instead, that is fine. No problem.

When I say Babywise is a lifestyle, it doesn’t mean you have to follow Babywise principles with an “all or nothing” approach. I think that in just about any parenting book you read, there will be things you agree with and things you don’t agree with.

The same is true for Babywise. There will be things you will do and things you will think, “not for me.” I think the only way you would agree with something 100% is if you wrote it yourself–and in a couple of years, you will likely find things you disagree with!

I try to stress over and over the theory of Babywise on this blog. My theory posts are never as popular as my “how-to” posts.

I hope you are reading the theory just as much as the how-to. Once you really understand the theory, you won’t have to stress so much over the how-to. You will be more flexible. You will be more relaxed. You will not stress over every little “set-back.”

I once read a delightful parenting book that talked about why vs. how. She says “If you don’t know the why, the how will not be nearly as effective” (The Parenting Breakthrough page 5). I absolutely love that quote. You will be able to be effective as a parent when you understand the “why” behind what you are doing.

Babywise Book Summary

Let’s put things simply, chapter by chapter. Here is a list of each chapter, my personal abstract of each chapter, and my thoughts on each chapter. These are my personal viewpoints on each chapter; what each idea means to me.

Chapter One: Family

The gist of this chapter is that your baby joins a family. You should not bring your baby home and have everything revolve around the baby. Maintaining your other relationships is important.

The Gist of Babywise

This doesn’t mean, however, that you cart baby around with you while you live life precisely as it was before baby was born. Once baby was born, the dynamics of the family changed. The family needs to adapt to the baby as much as the baby needs to adapt to being here. Probably more. There do need to be sacrifices by everyone.

Dad needs to chill out and realize that Mom has a lot to take care of with the new addition. He needs to be an adult and accept that the focus he used to receive won’t be the same.

Mom, on the other hand, can’t let baby completely take over her mind. She needs to nurture her relationship with Dad. There will be times she will need to sacrifice even more sleep to spend some time with Dad.

Siblings need to accept that there is now another person taking up their parent’s attention. My kids have always done fine with this. Parent’s need to learn to balance all siblings needs. No one sibling needs to sacrifice everything for the other. This means baby doesn’t need to sacrifice stability so big brother can meet all of his social engagements. But it also means big brother doesn’t need to give up all of his activities so baby can sleep. Big brother will miss some activities. Baby will take some naps on the go. Overall, my view is that baby needs to sleep a lot for a short period of time, so I think more give can be from the older sibling initially. As baby gets older, things will even out more.

There will also be extended family issues. These can be the hardest to deal with; I see a lot of questions about it. I will be blunt. My basic feeling on it is that extended family (such as grandparents) are adults and can act like it. They can relinquish some of their selfishness and allow the parents to do what is best for the individual baby. This doesn’t mean baby’s life is never disrupted by family, but it does mean that family can be mature about it and have some patience and understanding.

Read: Adding Baby To the Family: A Balanced Approach

Chapter Two: Feeding

The premise of feeding with Babywise is that you use Parent Directed Feeding (PDF). You work to establish feedings every 2.5-3 hours initially and try to stabilize metabolism. Let me stress (as the book does): You always feed baby when baby is hungry. The clock does not rule your life. If baby is hungry, you feed baby.

Read: Reasons for Feeding Sooner than 2.5 Hours

If and when your baby has a growth spurt and wants to eat every two hours instead, you do it! You don’t worry about ruining what you have accomplished so far. Don’t fight growth spurts. Feed your baby as needed. Things will get back to normal again.

Get the whole series here

On Becoming Pottywise
On Becoming Teenwise
On Becoming Preteenwise
On Becoming Childwise
On Becoming Preschoolwise
On Becoming Toddlerwise
On Becoming Pre-Toddlerwise
On Becoming Babywise Book 2
On Becoming Babywise
On Becoming Pottywise
On Becoming Teenwise
On Becoming Preteenwise
On Becoming Childwise
On Becoming Preschoolwise
On Becoming Toddlerwise
On Becoming Pre-Toddlerwise
On Becoming Babywise Book 2
On Becoming Babywise

Chapter Three: Sleep

Sleep is important for babies. They need to sleep. You need to have regular naps for your child throughout the day. Provide that opportunity for your child. Feed your child, play with your child, then let the child sleep. Then do it all over again. You also want to move toward your baby sleeping on her own. She falls asleep and stays asleep on her own.

Will there be times she has a hard time going to sleep? Yes. There will. It won’t ruin things for you to help her out at those times.

With newborns, I have a hierarchy with sleep. Most important is that baby sleeps when baby should sleep. Second is that your baby falls asleep on her own. Third is that she stays in her bed and makes it through a transition on her own.

On Becoming Babywise book review pinnable image

Chapter Four: Feeding

This chapter discusses breastfeeding. There are a couple of important things to take away from this chapter. One is that for the first two weeks, you do not need to stress and worry about any “rules.” Just feed your baby as needed in order to establish supply. For some, this will be every time baby asks for it. For others, you will have to rouse your baby to feed her every 2.5 to 3 hours. This chapter then goes into bottle feeding.

I love the thought on page 61 that says guilt or quest for approval is never in line with clear thinking. When deciding how to feed your baby, make the decision based on what you think is best for your baby–not what anyone else thinks. I think it is great to get input from other people. It can help you make a more educated decision. But ultimately, make sure the decision is yours.

Another thing I loved was the thought on pages 64-65 that says no matter what theory you subscribe to or what you call it, it is always parent directed. The parent is always deciding.

The Gist of Babywise. A summary of the book On Becoming Babywise. Milestones to expect with the Babywise method with a picture of a baby sleeping

Chapter Five: Monitoring Growth

This chapter talks about monitoring growth. I don’t care how you feed your baby and what theory you use, you should monitor your baby’s growth. If this wasn’t important, I don’t think pediatricians would do it. Watch diaper output. Watch for contentment in your child. Watch for appropriate growth. No matter what philosophy you follow, monitor your baby’s growth.

Here is something important for you to note. Page 95 says that if you have a low weight-gain baby, seek your pediatrician’s advice on how often to feed. This means you listen to your doctor.

Chapter Six: Establishing Your Baby’s Routine

This chapter discusses establishing a routine with your baby. It talks about different lifestyles and how to apply the theories of the book based on your personal lifestyle. It talks about flexibility. Then comes the part that I reference more than any other part of the book. The “milestones.” Lists of what babies typically do when, and what you can do to perpetuate these milestones.

What are some key notes here? Page 107–wakefulness is a goal to strive toward. Your newborn will not be awake after every feeding immediately. It takes time and effort.

Another is on flexibility. True flexibility is not a lack of routine, but a temporary deviation from normal (page 110). I think the idea of flexibility can be hard for new moms to fully grasp. Don’t worry. Flexibility within context gets easier as you come to understand theory better.

Chapter Seven: Waketime and Naptime

As the title of the chapter suggests, this chapter talks about waketime and naptime activities and norms for different ages.

Here is a very important piece of information to take from this chapter. Getting your baby to sleep through the night is not the final goal in parenting. But it is a right beginning (page 134).

Chapter Eight: When Your Baby Cries

This chapter talks about babies and crying. It talks about ways to respond to crying. It talks about reasons for crying, and it discusses what to do to help stop the crying if possible (some crying, like witching hour, might be able to be alleviated some with some babies, but not really “stopped”).

All babies cry. The trick here is to respond to the “why” of the cry, not just the fact that baby is crying. Attending to the why truly helps baby (page 139).

Another great point in this chapter in relation to sleep training is that your goal is not to teach baby not to cry, it is to teach baby to sleep (page 148).

Read: Tips for Deciphering Your Baby’s Crying

Chapter Nine: Colic, Reflux, and the Inconsolable Baby

This chapter is new to this version of the book. I love it. It talks about these three issues and gives stories of moms who have been through it. I think it is a very encouraging chapter on what to do and assures moms you won’t be ruining baby for life when making adjustments as needed for these babies.

Here are my favorite points from this chapter. Nobody knows baby like the parents do (page 159). Trust yourself. This chapter also says that Babywise is most beneficial to colic and reflux babies. I found this to be true with Kaitlyn! She did great with Babywise. Yes, we had adjustments we made to tailor to her specific circumstances, but she really benefited from the routine feedings.

Read: Babywise and Reflux

The authors point out that some days will go great and others will require that you focus on the overall picture rather than that day (page 172). What great advice! We all have good days and bad days.

Now for one of my favorite lines in the entire book. It is okay if baby doesn’t follow the book exactly–no baby does (page 168). It is impossible for a book of 252 pages to cover every possible stumbling block along the way for one child, much less all children. This is a key reason as to why it is a good idea to get to understand the why behind what you are doing. That way, you can realize what is best, normal, and okay for your individual child.

And another great one: you are not competing with anyone (page 168). Not your friend, not your neighbor, not the baby outlined in the book, not my baby, not your older child…no one. This isn’t a race or competition.

Read: Helpful Tips to Survive the Colicky Newborn

Chapter Ten:  Multiple Birth

This chapter is on multiples, which of course I have no experience with 🙂 There are a lot of great little tidbits in this chapter even if you don’t have multiples.

One great tip is that playpen time (independent play) becomes a time of refuge for multiples (page 187). This is also true for siblings. I think one reason Kaitlyn loves independent playtime is so she can go in her room by herself and just do what she wants to without her brother telling her how to do it, where to stand, and what to say ;).

Read: Babywise and Twins

Chapter Eleven: Problem Solving

This chapter takes you through common issues and the process of solving those issues. This chapter can help teach you how to problem solve yourself. It give some logical guidelines for what to consider at different ages.

There are some important things to note here. Jaundice babies usually need to nurse more often (typically every two hours). Page 192 says to do that if needed.

Also note the times that the book says to feed baby when hungry. It doesn’t matter why–if baby is hungry, you feed baby.

Read: Babywise FAQs

Chapter Twelve: Parenting Potpourri

Don’t let the random mod podge of categories in this chapter fool you–this chapter is full of valuable information.

Chapter Thirteen: Principles for Starting Late

I would guess there are a lot of parents out there who start Babywise late for their first Babywise baby. This chapter helps give you some basic starting points to get going.

A great point no matter what age you start–start with day first (page 230). Once the day is in place, the night usually follows.

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18 thoughts on “The Gist of Babywise: A Full Overview”

  1. This is my very favorite post, ever 🙂 I have found what you say to be so true, that as my daughter has grown, so have I in my understanding of the why vs how. This is now my thinking and rationale, which i am very proud of! I'm a very task oriented person so this was hard for me at first, and still is in other areas of life, but with her it just makes sense. I think part of the relaxing a bit and not stressing as much has come with seeing that, in time, the milestones do happen. I've learned to trust the process, and my instincts. For example, my DD went to a pretty successful 4 hour routine at 4 months old, which is pretty early. But i've learned to trust that only she and I, not the book, know the situation best. The Ezzo's give GREAT guidelines, but its important to remember that every baby varies. My "why" of sticking to a 3 hour was because the book said she wasnt ready… when i re-evaluated my "why", i changed strategies and we've been happy since 🙂 Anyways, my hope is that all of us moms get to that point. Great post, Val. Im glad to have it as a reference for new parents to check out and see if this is something they would pursue…

  2. Thank you for this post. It is exactly what I needed today. DS is 5 mos and I started late and we have been at it for 2 weeks and I was getting so upset that I wasn't even close to a working schedule and DH was getting so aggrivated with my new baby schedule obsession. So far today I have been successful with naps and this post really puts the whole book in perspective!

  3. LOVE this post, as always you have such a firm grasp of the theory of Babywise. Your observations about the book's core beliefs and theory align perfectly with what I got out of the book when I read it the first time, and it's why I chose to go with many of the methods in the book. And you're very right that the more kids you care for the easier the theory gets to understand and implement.

  4. Great post! I love Babywise – it has been very successful with my 5 month old and I have friends asking me about it all the time. This is a great reference point for those people interested in what BW is all about. Thank you for a FABULOUS blog full of information!

  5. This is the only blog that I read daily, thank you for your dedication and I'm so excited to now see weekend posts! One topic I'm hoping you'll discuss one day is the differences in raising a boy vs. a girl. Would love to hear your perspective on gender differences in temperament, schedules, play, interaction with other kids, etc.

  6. Hi! I've done everything the book has said from the get go. My baby is nearly 4 months old, I still feed every 3 hours as he is not sleeping through the night. I do the feed wake sleep cycle everything…I'm not sure what Im doing wrong. He still wakes up every three hours after his last "dreamfeed" at 10pm. What should I do??

  7. Thank you so much for taking the time to create this post. It is wonderful to keep all of this in realistic perspective and it is so nice to have a group of parents who understand what and why we are doing what we do with the BW method. Thank you for the time you put in to share your thoughts…keep it up!

  8. This is wonderful and with kids ages 5 and 2, I cannot agree more. When you're mired in the newborn phase with your first-born sometimes it's hard to see the forest from the trees, but when you've been through it for a couple months, it really does become a lifestyle. Babywise has changed my life in so many ways and so significantly. I shudder to think of the impatient, chaotic mother I would be without it!I'm going to forward this to some friends who might misunderstand Babywise.

  9. Such great points! And a great post to come back to for a reminder when thing get tough. Too bad I can't get things out as well as you can. When I mentioned one of these concepts to you recently it came out in a jumble and mumble!

  10. Thanks for this post. It was refreshing to read. I had a baby that had an underdeveloped digestive system, making her early months difficult for me and for her. She's 10 months now and is doing much better. Looking back over the past 10 months I really think that I made the mistake of "stressing" about the rules of babywise rather than focusing on her needs and trying to find ways to help her through her difficulties. Anyway, this was an encouraging reminder of the purpose of Babywise! Thank you!

  11. Debora, you might want to join the Yahoo Group that follows this blog. There are a lot of moms on there that could help you troubleshoot.Just got to the "Welcome" paragraph (first one on the home screen here) and click on the link "Chronicles Yahoo! Group". You will get a lot input from many moms that do Babywise.

  12. Val, thank you for the Babywise Cliff Notes! Awesome post. I second JenD's request for you to post on your insight on the differences with boys and girls. Thanks again!

  13. Thanks so much! I sometimes get so discouraged because being a 1st time mom, and a perfectionist, I tend to dissect every moment and see what I did wrong, and the endless possibilities of how I should/could fix them. It is overwhelming. This post was an answer to prayer to help me relax, see the big picture, and enjoy each and every moment with my wonderful baby! I read the book months ago, and I think I need a refresher! Thanks for helping me to keep my perspective, and to feel like I'm on the right track! I really appreciate the time you put into helping others!

  14. Debora, I suggest you see the post "nighttime sleep issues–revised and updated." That should help you troublehsoot the night issues.


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