Read through dozens of stories.
Let me start by saying that 14 or 15 years ago, I was in the unhappy position of having to do everything in my power to force two sets of new parents to drive their babies to the emergency room because, after following the Ezzo’s advice, these babies were severely dehydrated and lethargic. The parents were not bad parents. In fact, they were trying really hard to be good parents, according to guidelines which had been sanctioned by their church. The fact that both contacted me for a home visit, despite their disdain both for La Leche League and the Catholic Church, was a sign of their desperation. Tiny babies need to be fed when they are hungry, and the more a baby nurses, the more milk the mom makes – it’s God’s perfect system, including the natural response of the mother to comfort her child.
The year was 2008.
A young, naive woman is pregnant with her first child.
She is unsure, lacks confidence and wants to be certain she does the best job for her unborn child. Yet there are a great deal of books, resources and information - which ones to start with? Which ones to trust?
So she turns to older, more experienced mothers who all but thrust this book into her hands and begin making the promises.
I heard a lot about how awesome GKGW and Babywise are so naturally I bought Babywise when I was pregnant with my first. But my baby was teeny (6.5) and jaundiced, so the lactation consultant adamantly emphasized feeding on cue and even suggested co-sleeping.
My husband brought her in our bedroom the first night home from the hospital and said, "we can't just put her away". He can't stand to hear a baby cry.
We did not end up actively using Babywise. Even so, having read the book, Ezzo lived in my brain. Thoughts haunted me like "My baby couldn't really be hungry an hour after a feeding." I worried about all of the bad habits I was creating and worried that the baby wasn't ever getting a full feeding b/c I never got to wait long enough between feeds.
BabyWise stole many precious weeks from me in the beginning of my son's life. I wish I could have just loved on him without all the fear that Ezzo put into me about creating a spoiled baby.
When I found out I was pregnant with my son, I sought the advice out of women that I knew and respected who had children. My own mom died when I was 19, and I felt truly lost as I searched for the "right" way to be a mom.
One of the friends I turned to was a college friend who had four children at the time. She recommended BabyWise, so I read it and it sounded like such a logical plan.
"Of COURSE you can rock your baby to sleep! Just don't make it a habit." Before I had my baby, this actually made sense. After I had her, I remember thinking: "How much is a habit? I did it once yesterday ... can I do it again today? What if I did it twice in one day?" Not to mention that if a newborn baby is crying and you comfort it by rocking or nursing, it will almost surely fall asleep. So, basically, "Don't nurse them to sleep" has to translate into "Don't comfort them." But of course, Ezzo never SAYS that! My, how I'm twisting things! No--but it's important to realize how this really works.
"But Ezzo says to feed a hungry baby": Yes, but this is trumped by warnings about the baby's metabolism if feedings aren't spaced properly. I remember being worried that my baby's metabolism and everything else would be screwed up when I fed her early. How sad to RELUCTANTLY feed your baby, because you're scared that the feeding will damage...
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"...the church's youth pastor invited me into his office and told me about the Ezzo's programs and how important they were to effective Christian and biblical parenting. ...I took the book right home and read it straight through. I immediately felt immensly guilty that I had been demand-feeding my baby and sat down to scratch out a schedule for him. But even as I was doing it I had a very uneasy feeling in my gut, so I prayed and asked God for wisdom regarding accepting the Ezzo's pricipals. Tho' I did try to start my 3 month old on a schedule, I never did feel "right" about it, but again was so convinced my the Ezzo's that I was being a ungodly parent, that I kept working at it. After a week of scheduling tho', and turning my infant into a whinny and crying baby, I gave it up, and luckily found this website, which has made me feel so much...
I used Ezzo stuff because it really fit my personality. I'm very structured and don't handle lots of chaos very well. I started with Preparation for Parenting when my youngest was a newborn. He is 12-1/2 now. My other kids are 11, 8, 5, and 7 months.
I was also a "contact mom" for GFI for several years. We used Preparation for the Toddler Years (back before it was even an "official" program), and GKGW, also. We read through Reflections of Moral Innocence and ended up not using that.
Having said all that, I no longer support the Ezzos in any way. First, we are realizing that it is not realistic to be that much in control of our children's every move. We see with our 11 year old that he has trouble making decisions with confidence now. Perhaps because we NEVER, and I mean NEVER let him make choices, so he never really learned how. When he tried to express his opinion as a toddler and a small child, we made him stop. He is extremely well behaved, by the way. A total pleasure...
While I was a contact mom for GFI (for a year and a half), I never once met a mom who breastfed long-term (at least a year or longer) without modifying the materials. I did see babies who appeared listless and in a depressed state, who were smaller than average or scrawny. I met scores of moms who struggled with milk supply to a point that it completely removed the enjoyment of nursing their babies. I met babies who went one or two months without gaining any weight at all or who lost weight. I met moms who grieved when they realized that they had been systematically, albeit unintentionally, depriving their babies of food.
This essay is written both as catharsis and restitution. I regret that I encouraged many parents to use the Ezzo materials and feel compelled to warn against it. I also want to share how level-headed parents can be allured by this program.
There are many other resources online that outline the medical, Biblical and character problems associated with Gary Ezzo and his parenting programs. With this, I hope to offer a personal view of how these materials can negatively effect a family.
I cradled my six month old son in my arms. J***** was peacefully sleeping. Tears were streaming down my face, and anxious thoughts raced through my mind. For the first time since he was born, I was watching the video my sister had taken of his birth.
The purpose of this letter is to generate public awareness about yet another child who has surely suffered due to following a Christian parenting program entitled Preparation for Parent-ing/Preparation for the Toddler Years (secular versions marketed in stores as On Becoming BabyWise 1 & 2) by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo . We hope that knowledge of his case can be used to promote existing and future efforts to inform communities of the extremely serious dangers associated with following the Ezzos' program, even in its newest editions [1998 at the time of this letter].
It is our hope that, as awareness grows, popularity for its teachings will diminish to the extent that most churches will no longer promote or choose to be affiliated with them.
My husband and I were introduced to the Growing Kids God's Way (GKGW) programs through a pastor friend after we discovered we were expecting our first child, and our son was one month old when we began using Preparation for Parenting. This was the first book we had ever read about baby care that seemed to come from a decidedly Christian perspective, with scripture all over the place, and it pointed out that basically all the typical feeding, baby care, and parenting information being taught today is humanistic, secular, and not appropriate for Christian parents.
In writing this testimony, we have seen arguments that people who fail with Ezzo's materials are unintelligent or inconsistent with the materials. My husband and I are well-educated people. My husband graduated from Emory University and had an additional four years of graduate school (total of eight years of education) to become a doctor of optometry. I have a degree in special education and had a few years of teaching experience under my belt when we encountered the Ezzo's materials. We are also Christians, wholly devoted to Christ and rearing our children in the knowledge of Him. However, neither one of us had much experience with small children. We were also away from our families and had little to no guidance in what to do with a new baby. So at the time, Babywise was a Godsend to us. It had a neatly laid out plan that we believed would give us a "good baby" and make us confident parents. By the time our daughter was born, I had the entire book marked up with notes and...
We were introduced to Ezzo materials in 1995 through our church group of young adults. By the time we were pregnant (Sept 95) many families had been through the course. Everyone kept telling us how we HAD to do the program--it's the best, it works, it's incredible, you won't be sorry, you'll feel so much better about being a parent. The positive statements never ended. We took it early in 96, and finished a few weeks before I was due.
My son was born, and had a very traumatic birth. I began breastfeeding him once he was out of NICU (about 3 hours), but he was too spent. We charted the program in the hospital - every 3 hours, diaper changes, etc. After we got home we had to wake him up to feed as he was very tired from the birth and they were not ready to let him sleep all night.
I would give anything in the world to be able to turn back the clock and learn about the concerns and controversy surrounding Ezzo's methods before my dear daughter was born. I was not aware of any of the problems with his teachings; I had only heard positive things about his books and knew friends who were using or had used his books when I started following Babywise with my own daughter (when she was about 2 weeks old).
I am a very by-the-book, black-and-white type person. I'm also a firstborn, and have a tendency to strive for perfectionism (in my pre-mom life, I was an accountant). So when I found out that there was a book whose principles applied to every baby (or so I was led to believe), I thought I had found the greatest thing on earth.
More and more since we've distanced ourselves from the GFI materials, I realize how deeply influenced we were. I didn't have some of the discipline or milk supply problems that I've heard about, but we've had other problems--mainly a deep misunderstanding of what is child-appropriate behavior, and consequently, we stressed out over things that we never should have been upset about (from the infant stage to now at the primary aged child). I've had to re-learn how to relax about certain things, and create an atmosphere of trust and understanding in our home. I DON'T want our children's memories of our home to be how stressed out I got over small things.
Our family was involved with Gary Ezzo’s teachings from the winter of 1991 when I was pregnant with our first child until almost two years ago. When we were first exposed to his teachings, I was only two years out of university where I had completed a broad social sciences degree.
If you had asked me about infant feeding routines I would have said they were NOT the way to go - that is, before I listened to the Preparation for Parenting tapes with my husband and another couple we were friendly with.
A unique mix of things appealed: the material was from a Christian perspective, we had our friends telling us the horrors of demand feeding their first child and the outworkings they said they were now seeing in this child’s life, and of course we thought just maybe this author did have a surefire way to get our baby to sleep through the night by 6-8 weeks.
I want to share our story in the hope that it may perhaps help to warn others who are heading down the Growing Kids God's Way path.
We still ask ourselves, how could we have been deceived for so long?
In 1992, dear friends of ours, who had found Preparation For Parenting [PFP] the previous year, recommended Growing Kids God's Way [GKGW] to my husband and me. Our eldest son was 2 ½ years old. We had come from a cue feeding/attachment parenting background, but we were very young, immature Christians, and our marriage was less than happy.
I would have said that we were happy following Ezzo, but I can honestly say that we are much happier now. I am so much less stressed out! I didn't realize how much stress Babywising put on me until I quit.
So many people had told me how wonderful a program Babywise was to get babies to sleep through the night and get order into your day. I think that was a large part of the appeal, not so much the sleeping through the night, but the orderly day. I like structure and order.
I also knew that it was the secular version of a "Christian" program and I remember thinking at one point how wonderful it was that the author published this in a secular format...kind of a backdoor into Christianity type of thing.
From hearing my friends talk, I thought Babywise was the only way to raise your baby, so there was no question that I would use it too.
I read the book before my daughter was born and re-read it again after she was born. I felt like I had to really work hard to get her on a schedule or she would be a brat and never sleep through the night. So, the first week I immediately tried getting her on a three hour schedule. I always felt guilty when I would stray from the schedule a little or when I didn't follow Babywise exactly. I felt like I had to defend myself to my friends if I was straying from the book.
My daughter got on a schedule pretty well, but it took a lot of crying by her--and me. She started sleeping 8 hrs through the night when she was 10 weeks old. By the time she was 4 months old, the whole schedule thing seemed to be falling into place, and I just thought it was normal to have to go through a lot of crying in those first few months.
It started innocently enough. I was visiting a friend who recently gave birth to a baby girl. Sitting on her couch, sipping tea, I asked her, "So…how often do you feed your daughter?" It was then that I was introduced to the principles of Babywise. Being pregnant myself for the first time, I was intrigued.
A couple of days later, I bought the book. I read it within days, and knew it was for me. Being an organized person, I feared chaos in my home once a baby was born. My husband went along with me, trusting that I'd do what was best for our baby. Even before my daughter was born, I looked with disdain at my friends who demand fed their babies. They were all wrong; I was right.
I'm a mom of 5, including a pair of twins. We took the Prep for Parenting class while pregnant with my oldest. I knew absolutely nothing about kids or babies, so I believed everything they told me--except I had a nagging uneasiness in the back of my mind because I felt they misused the Bible.
I did not enjoy my first daughter's babyhood. I was miserable when she was crying alone in her room, yet felt that she would be 'spoiled' if I went in to her, and she would never learn to go to sleep on her own. My motherly instincts (which the Ezzos said I didn't have) tried to tell me what to do, but I wouldn't listen.
I was totally convinced that Ezzo was the way to go. In fact, before my daughter was born, nobody could convince me that Ezzo was bad. I was very determined to have a "good" kid.
However, I was an extremely uptight, frazzled Babywiser. I was always aware of what time it was, when the last feeding was, when the next one was due. I had a huge notebook and I took tons of notes, trying to figure out what worked to minimize the crying.
When my first baby was about 6 weeks old I was exhausted and overwhelmed. I had no friends with babies and my family lived 5 hours away. I was very isolated. I didn't know what was normal and what wasn't. I got most of my support from my mom which was great except she never breastfed a baby. I was very committed to breastfeeding for financial reasons: my husband was a pastor and we were on a very strict budget. Formula just wasn't an option.
A young mother in my mother's bible study group recommended the Ezzo curriculum.. I found the 1995 edition of Babywise at my local Christian bookstore. I was so excited. The book seemed to understand where I had messed up my baby and promised to fix her and make her a model citizen.
My son is 11 months old and is healthy and happy and still nursing like a pro. If I were still schedule feeding him, I think he would be formula fed, sad and distant.
I read Baby Whisperer and Babywise before J. was born, but I didn't really come to any decision on whether to put him on a schedule or not. I knew that the AAP, the health unit and my doctor advocated feeding on demand, but the scheduling seemed to make more sense. I mean, after all, who would want a "demanding" child?
I would first like to dispel some of the myths about people who speak out against Growing Kids God's Way.
Myth: People who don't like GKGW have never read or used GKGW.
I was a contact mom for 2 years, and not only followed the materials myself but counseled hundreds of other moms in their use. In fact, there are still ideas contained in GKGW (ideas which can also be found elsewhere) that I use today.
Myth: People who don't like GKGW are Ezzo-bashers.
I have nothing bad to say about the Ezzos. I have never met them personally, although I have had a few email interactions with Anne Marie. She seemed personable and kind.
I was only ten weeks pregnant when my husband and I signed up to take Prep for Parenting [now called "Along the Infant Way" and also known as Babywise in its secular form] at a reputable church. Family members and friends recommended the course. We wanted to be the best parents we could possibly be for our first child.
My husband didn't really want to take the classes, not due to lack of interest in fatherhood, but rather, he thought the idea of taking a class to prepare you for parenthood seemed silly. Oh, how I wish I had agreed with him! Even more, how we both wish we had researched the Ezzos and their program. At the time, we felt there was no reason to do so.
My husband and I faithfully read this book and the full Growing Kids God's Way curriculum. We were excited to be presented with seemingly sound advice and felt prepared to face every part of parenting.
We followed the advice on feeding and sleep schedules very closely, until my 5 week old son began failing to gain weight. Fortunately I am a pediatric nurse and noticed the early signs before his health was severely affected. I visited a lactation consultant and learned that my milk supply was almost gone (pumping only produced less than half and ounce from each side).
I'm thankful my Babywise experience was a short one. At the recommendation of friends, I was planning to use the Babywise method to get my baby on a schedule right away. It was especially attractive to me since I was recovering from a c-section and desperate for sleep and structure. I had a fairly long hospital stay because of the surgery, and it was a rough time both for me and for the baby.
At first, it was easy to get him to eat or sleep when I wanted him to. I kept a chart, making sure to do things "by the book." After a couple of days, something felt very wrong. My son hardly ever opened his eyes, and was extremely difficult to keep awake during feedings. The nurses were charting his weight, and like most babies, he was losing quite a bit. This is normal, so I kept on the schedule, but was starting to doubt my decision. This baby that had been so active in the womb was frighteningly lethargic. He had gotten thin and dry. And when he did cry, it was a shrill cry of...
Before my son was born I really hadn't given much thought as to "how" to feed a baby; I knew that I wanted to breastfeed and all of the mainstream parenting books I had read made it seem so easy. I figured it would be as easy as Baby Cries, Baby Latches On, Baby Eats.
I was in for a rude awakening once he was born. I had a very hard time getting the hang of breastfeeding, and had very little support. I only had one friend who breastfed, and she had given me a copy of Preparation for Parenting while I was pregnant. I didn't read it at the time because I figured I would wait until baby was born before I adopted a parenting method.
I am a first time mom. My son is now 6 months old. Before he was born, I was referred to the Babywise books by Ezzo. I thought, "Wow, what a practical and perfectly logical way to manage feedings." So, I tried it.
When my baby was 2 weeks old, I began the Babywise recommended feeding routine. It seemed to be working great. He was really rarely fussy. He was just a happy baby.
But at around 3 months of age he was beginning to get a little fussier. I was at one of my chiropractic appointments and my son was being unusually fussy -- no-- he was screaming and would neither eat nor sleep.
I was given Babywise (the 2001 edition) and being an uninformed, naive mother the book's goal sounded good to me. I was so thrilled when my daughter suddenly started sleeping 8-10, even 12 hours overnight!
She never cried herself to sleep so I really thought everything was okay. She was responding just as the book had said she would. I had, by Ezzo's description, the "perfect" child: the one who easily fell into her feeding schedule and who was sleeping 10+ hours at night. It was picture perfect.
She just cooed and slept and ate.
My husband and I were newlyweds in the Chicago area, and about to have our first child. We wanted to learn more about parenting from a Christian perspective so we went to a GFI parenting class at church where we could get together with new parents-to-be.
My frustration is that it seems the Ezzos never took into consideration the moms who suffer from PPD. My depression was pretty debilitating and when my son wasn't "following the program" so to speak, it created a lot of additional stress.
Encouragement for Christian Parents
Before having our first baby, I thought I had the whole ‘rearing children’ thing sorted. I had watched my older siblings raise their children, done plenty of babysitting, and even helped mothers with post natal depression for a while. I thought fussy babies were created by fussy mothers, and was convinced I would have an easy child who would sleep through the night by the six weeks. I certainly wouldn’t be one of ‘those’ mothers still getting up during the night for their six month old!
I had heard a lot of positive stories about Babywise before having my son, and read Preparation for Parenting just before he was born. Most of the mothers I knew had their babies on similar routines and said it made things so much easier.
I read Babywise while pregnant with my first son. At that time, I was a proud, over-achieving, controlling, perfectionist of a mother who was thrilled that I had stumbled upon the "perfect" and "godly" parenting method. I felt that by having control over my baby's schedule, I was setting them up for a solid relationship with Jesus Christ because they would naturally bow to authority.
Everything went according to plan with my son. He was on the schedule and sleeping through the night at nine weeks. I glowed beneath the array of praise we received for our contented child. I was constantly asked for advice from other new moms and I encouraged them to do just as I had done.
Ezzo's book, Babywise, was suggested to me through some really great friends at church. They had a picture perfect daughter who napped well, seemed to go with the flow, and seemed pretty independent. I praised my friends for such great parenting and they told me to read this book and apply it as soon as possible.
When we were pregnant, we read this book over and over. I was thrilled my husband agreed to go through with this type of parenting.
This group of case histories was compiled by Laurie Moody, an ex-contact mom with GFI. Unlike most contact moms, this one was a certified lactation counselor.