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Coping with Attachment Disorder

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.

The first week he hardly ever cried - but he slept a lot. He was difficult to feed - he was hard to wake up and even getting him to feed every 3 hours was hard.

But at the end of that week, my entire life changed. He "woke up" so to speak, and things got harder. He had his own pattern - he wanted to sleep all morning (until around 1 pm - only waking for feedings) and then he tended to stay awake the rest of the day. We started him on the Ezzo schedule which was so contrary to his natural routine that we had to have him cry it out many times. However, he never really got the hang of the program - some days he didn't cry, some days he cried a little, some days a lot.

By the time he was 6 months old, I still never knew what to expect. I dreaded waking up, I did not like being a mom; I did not feel "motherly." I was so certain he NEEDED to be on this program because "after all, he's not falling into it and doing poorly". It was a twisted confirmation for me.

By a year, he still cried himself to sleep about twice a week--either at nap or bed. Occasionally throughout the first year, about once a month, he'd cry for an hour. I would check on him, talk to him and do things, but it never worked. He was already a raging and upset infant and I *finally* decided it was time to go outside of the book recommendations and hold him or rock him. He'd fight me, kick me, scream, arch his back and just completely freak out. I interpreted this as confirmation that the Ezzos' hands-off approach was right, and that holding him was not what he needed.

At around 18 months, he was a very difficult toddler. He had no fear; he seemed never to notice whether my husband or I were even around. He'd get angry when I played with him, talked to him or read to him - any interaction created extreme distress in him. I was so torn. This didn't seem right to me, but each time I asked my fellow Ezzo friends and the GFI Contact Mom for ideas and help, they all insisted everything was fine and I was doing just a dandy job of being a mom. But at night after he was asleep, I'd go in his room and pick him up and cry and pray and beg for things to be better.

When he was almost 2.5, we had our second son. At that time, I was too tired to pull out the book, and decided on my own two things. First, that I would not leave him to cry (I was certain I'd really screwed up) and second, that I would not be so obsessed with the schedule. I did again implement a 3 hour feeding schedule - but nothing else.

Something happened. I felt like a different person, I was happy to be a mom! I was still struggling with a very angry toddler, but my newborn and I had no problems. It didn't take long for me to realize that the difference was that I was bonded/attached to one child and not the other. I was devastated. I began to search on the internet for help - and that's when I found article after article raising concerns about the Ezzo method and story after story similar to mine.

I began to ask for professional help. We went through many diagnoses, including autism. At age 4 however, we had a comprehensive evaluation done. Over a 4-5 month span, he was seen by 4 doctors, many professionals and I was interviewed over many hours.

During these interviews and evaluations, they began to see what I had suspected all along. Finally, they asked me if his infancy might have been traumatic in any fashion, medically, emotionally or if he'd suffered abuse.

I froze. I had already been learning about the problems in the Ezzo materials. I had already done enough of my own research to know that extensive use of "crying it out" could cause major damage. And I began to talk and talk and cry and told about how we had implemented Ezzo methods with him.

The first question to me, after talking about the program was "do you think that during the times he was left to cry, that at any point he may have felt abandoned or hopeless?" I said "of course, I never thought it could hurt a baby, but now that I'm learning more, I know it can and I know he must have felt terribly afraid and alone." They sent him for a last evaluation. The psychiatrist did a few "silent" tests on him for attachment issues and unfortunately, he passed them all.

I was brought back, and told "he is not autistic." I was told that first and foremost, he had extensive ADHD and anxiety disorder. And that they were likely tied into his lack of attachment and bonding to me. I was devastated. I sat there, looking calm, but inside I was crying, screaming, begging to just be struck down and taken.

However, he gave me hope. He told me that with the right change in how we reacted with him, and how we perceived his behaviors and issues, he could get better. But, that there was a possibility that there had been some brain damage and that the ADHD was permanent (adhd isn't curable, it's a brain issue) and that possibly the anxiety disorder was permanent as well.

He felt certain that my son could bond to me, even at age 4, provided we let go of some ideas the Ezzos' program had taught us. My first instructions were to allow him to co-sleep. Our second instructions were to overload him with affection, physical touch (hugs, kisses, etc), AND to begin to find better ways to stop the extreme behavior. He also recommended medication to start out with to eliminate the severe anxiety, so that he would be able to function enough to accept our changes.

He's 6 now, his brother is 4. He's bonded now. He's confident, affectionate, compassionate-- an exceptional kid. Before, he had no conscience, because without bonding, conscience cannot develop, and he could not be compassionate or any of those things.

But he's never going to be normal. He does things that perplex us all, but we know it's how he copes with overwhelming feelings. He's very confused on what love really means because he didn't feel any of it early on. But he's learning, and if you met him, your FIRST statement to me would be "what a brilliant, incredible boy". He is so fascinating to be around, you can't get enough of him.

My youngest is doing just fine. He's a normal boy, he's spirited, funny and very much a 4 year old. He suffers some signs of stress from going through toddler years with a lot of turmoil and stress - but things are settling down and I think in time all will be well. We are all doing well, and expecting a child in July this year (2003) and this child will be attachment
style parented.

Other things that we suffered due to the materials:

With both boys I lost my milk between 4 and 5 months. I was unable to get it to come back, I tried all the tricks. Every 3 hours is not enough stimulation for my milk supply in the early months and it affected my supply later on. We were also very heavy into using punishment
(spankings) but now we are not. Our children are now better behaved since we stopped using those tactics with them.

What was the worst we suffered from the materials?

Believing that every night waking, every phase, everything our kids did, was because they were trying to manipulate us or control us, or defy us. That everything had to be "handled". It's a twisted, sick mindset against your own children - and it's simply not true. We have come a long way - and still have a long way to go. We are far removed from that mindset now, but it haunts us. We find more and more that the truth is that children are new, all that they do is experimentation, and normal. A good dose of guidance, understanding and teaching goes 10 times farther than one punishment.

Attachment disorder is not fully curable. It is also a function of a brain change. They exhibit restructuring of the brain, and while they can learn to bond, it is always fragile. Infants that either did not bond in the first year, or who have a broken bond due to abuse, will always have triggers they cannot control. They will have reactions to things that they are not able
to rationalize and overcome. We are doing a lot of things to help him, and he's such a strong kid - I know he will be OK. But we are not done, he will have regressions again.

by C.R.
submitted 2/26/03

Stories of Former Users and Supporters

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  • Failed Babywiser - Russian Version +

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  • Thoughts from a Former Contact Mom +

    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
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  • Former GFI Leadership Couple, Eric and Julie Abel +

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  • More Stories from around the Web +

    7/20/1997 Link to post "...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
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  • Babywise Stole Precious Weeks +

    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
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  • Ezzo Lived in My Brain +

    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
    Read More
  • Young, Naive, Pregnant with First 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.
    Read More
  • A note of appreciation from an older parent +

    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,
    Read More
  • Confessions of a Former Babywise Advocate +

    This story comes via the blog "Banned from Baby Showers".   The blog owner shares a mother's account of how she used Babywise successfully -- as far as she knew -- until her baby was 7 months old, and then her milk supply began to peter out.  Confessions of a Former Babywise Advocate
    Read More
  • A Forgiven Mama +

    Our first child was born in the summer of 09, and I promptly began trying to apply the Babywise method. The book had been highly recommended by a distant relative, and promised structure and sanity amidst the exhaustion and upheaval I felt as a new mother. However, our baby did not respond the way the book promised he would if we followed the schedule. All my attempts to adhere to the book led to deep frustration, arguments with my husband (who knew better than to let a book dictate our newborn's schedule), feeling like a
    Read More
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Blogs of Experience

Blogs of Experience...

  • I have a lot to process
    ...about my own experience with BW and how it hindered my [2011] baby girl's growth.... I do recall saying the words "I know she's hungry, but she has to wait 30 minutes to eat." Gah, makes me teary just thinking about it... I'm choosing to blame it on my severely sleep-deprived self. The fact that my daughter wasn't putting on enough weight for the first 6 weeks of her life - yeah, I think it's linked to this issue. The contradictory "feed... no don't feed... no only on your schedule... no really, we're all about the babies" made this new mama a wreck.
  • I read this book before I had my baby.
    It totally gave me a false sense of how things "should be" when I had the baby. I didn't agree with everything I had read (i.e. no rocking to sleep, no pacifier for sleeping, etc.) but I believed I would implement some of the theories with my son when he arrived. So when he did arrive, I had certain expecations for him. I thought he should be sleeping longer at night, going longer between feedings, etc. I QUICKLY learned otherwise. Don't get me wrong, I fed him if he was hungry; I never forced him to wait until a certain 3-4 hour marker. BUT when my son was not "following" these certain methods I had read about, I was left feeling frustrated and confused....I believe if I had continued to implement some of the BabyWise methods, not only would I not have done what is best for my child, but I would have missed so many of my sweetest moments and memories with rocking him to sleep, nursing him to sleep, soothing him when he needs soothing, etc. They're not robots and are not going to function like robots...they're human beings and they are just like we are...sometimes it's harder for them to fall asleep and sometimes they need help. Sometimes they need to be soothed and sometimes they are just fine on their own. Raising a child is not a science, it's an ART.
  • babywise
    the book that made me feel incredibly guilty and sent me into post-partum depression....Tim and I both read it and felt like it was the way we had to parent, in order to be good Christian parents with godly kids. So when I absolutely hated it and every instinct within my body and heart and mind screamed at me to just cuddle with and comfort my baby when he cried (no matter what point in the “schedule” we were at), I felt like a bad mom and a failure....I have amazing, happy, pretty much well-behaved kids that always sleep through the night and have not been raised by babywise parenting...I am SO GLAD I threw the book away.
  • What Did Not Work for Me: Ezzo Parenting
    It laid a lot of guilt on me, as a young mom who couldn't let my infant cry for a long period of time. Yes, I watched the "Preparation For Parenting video", I read their book, I tried to follow it, but in the end my mother instinct told me to nurture my child and not be stressed out by wanting to follow what the Ezzo is teaching.
  • Commented on What Did Not Work for Me
    This book basically put me under an already performance-laden mountain of guilt and nearly crippled me when I tried and failed their method with our second child who was having none of their method of scheduling. Great to get the word out before other mommies are confused and guilt-ridden by "God's Way". God's way is found in His Word, not Gary Ezzo's books.
  • Unsolicited Book Review
    [Our pediatrician] bless his heart, disagreed with everything the book had told us. Telling us that Chase is too young, still adjusting to life outside the womb, and still confused and overwhelmed by his surroundings for us to expect him to get himself to sleep, let alone to expect him to do it on a schedule. Some babies may be able to do it, but some just aren't....Last night, when I tried to follow some of the BabyWise advice, I ended up with a very upset little baby who refused to go back to sleep. If I'd just followed my own instincts, he would have gone back to sleep right away. It's only been two and a half months, but I do feel like I know the little guy, at least better than Ezzo and Bucknam.
  • Current Babywise Thoughts
    I found myself constantly in tears, fearful that I would "ruin him" by taking him off of the schedule, frustrated and angry that he wasn't napping like the book said he should, tired by all his cries (because he wasn't "supposed" to be crying), not knowing what he needed and feeling trapped about feeding him when I wasn't even sure if he was hungry...[and I was battling the thought] that his spiritual training started right now, so if I didn't have my act together at every moment of every day, he would be disobedient and whiny when he was 5, rebellious as a teenager, and walking away from the Church when he was in his twenties....why did it take me so long to realize that it was just a freaking nap?
  • An Aussie Mom Comments
    I am an Australian mum and ...I followed Prep. for Parenting to the T with my first - not a minute sooner or later and my child would not sleep through the night. I would shut the door on his room when it was sleep "time" and cry outside it. Every time I mentioned lack of sleep I was faced with comments that I musn't be doing it right until I demand fed at 4 months or so and he slept through soon after (at that I was told that the Ezzo routine must have instigated it!). Even today I was lectured on routine feeding being the smart choice. I asked where in the Bible did it say that?
  • Because, After All I Do Have Two Children
    I suffered tremendous amounts of guilt and frustration when we were not able to maintain the schedule...The biggest regret I have about Babywise is the advice to feed on a 3-4 hour schedule. I had a terrible time with my milk production and I'll always wonder (assume, really) that if I had fed on demand, my milk supply would've been better. And I would've alleviated the major, major stress of feeling like I was not supplying enough nutrition for this most important little being that I was now responsible for. That was one of the first things I decided about nursing my son- I nursed on demand pretty much for the first several months. And I've never worried about having adequate milk for him.
  • I Know Everything There is to Know About Being a Parent
    A father of a 9 month old recommends Babywise and relates that his baby was allowed to cry for 90 minutes two nights in a row and has slept through the night since then.
  • How Gary Ezzo Made Me a Better Parent
    It is 3:00 AM, and 4-week old Peter cries. It isn't a cry, exactly, but a fussy sound of a child who is hungry but not quite wide enough awake to communicate it. I consider rolling over and waiting till he wails, but then I remember Ezzo, and I make myself cheerful about sliding off my bed and picking up my precious baby. My baby is talking to me, and I have the privilege of being one of the people who gets to teach him that big people listen and understand when he communicates. I have the privilege of being the one God chose to make milk and feed it to him. And he, being exactly the way God made him, communicates well.
  • Cry It Out Bootcamp
    A mother of a toddler and a baby recommends Babywise: "BW says some crying is normal, but I don't think they really give an honest picture of what to expect. It is harder than they make it seem." Also from a different entry on the same blog: "Should you do CIO? My answer is yes. Most people who do BW intend to do CIO, but many wonder what age to start. BW says to start at 1 week. That is so young! Yes, it is. That is the age I started [my newborn]..."
  • Melatonin
    ...the book added extra layers of fear and anxiety to what was already an extremely trying season.
  • Things I Wish I Had Done Differently as a First Time Parent.
    I wish I ... could take those years back....I honestly believe that Babywise is the equivalent of raising a child at an arm’s length; cold, heartless, and wrong.
  • Thinking About Gary Ezzo the end of our experience with Ezzo parenting material, we had a rather adversarial relationship with our children.
  • Sleep Training Blues
    This time around, I am trying to use more of a modified version of the Baby Wise system....Brayden isn't a crazy crier like Bryce was, but he still cries...a lot.
  • I Had Forgotten About All the Crying
    "OH MY JEEEEEEEEEEEZ. Noah's cry sounds like a small lion....YES, I'm still trying to babywise the little sucker. I so want to give up on it everyday, but that anal, rule-following, teacher in me won't give in. So, as the ulcer gets bigger and as my headache pounds, I just sit here and try to pretend that no one else can hear the crying, that it's just me (and I can handle it - yeah, right). Whoever said the newborn stage was the best? NOT ME!"
  • Ezzo-Blezzo-Schmezzo
    "It was eight years ago. We met this cute little suburban couple at a college alumni thingy. I was obviously pregnant - with our first child. They jumped all over us, telling us about this great "Bible study" at their home ... "
  • Stench of Legalism
    "...However upon applying it, I have a feeling of near horror, like that when you stand at the open door of an airplane and realize you paid $100 to jump and now you have to do it even though it now feels close to torture."
  • Zs without Ezzo
    Two nights ago our 10-week-old boy slept 7 hours straight. Last night he slept for 6 1/2 hours....I have some really sweet pictures of my wife snoozing in the nursing chair with the baby asleep in her arms.
  • Breakthrough Day
    A mother following Babywise's method celebrates that her 7-8 week old baby has fallen asleep by herself after three weeks of continuous crying at least an hour at every nap.
  • Thinking about a former nightmare
    In no uncertain terms, I want to make it painfully clear that following that program caused great problems for Harrison and for me.
  • Conflicts of Time
    Newborns are in charge of the clock. That’s just how it is. Before you argue with me, rest assured, I read Babywise and tried it with Dear Daughter. It didn’t work.
  • Let's Start at the Very Beginning miserable I was those first months -- constantly questioning my every decision -- should I have not rocked her to sleep? Did I let her cry too long?...I cried almost every day. I was so disappointed. Disappointed in myself for not being strong enough to let her cry. Disappointed in Dacey for not acting the way the books all but promised she would. And I was scared. Was my “indulgence” of her going to turn her into the fussy, miserable, demanding baby that BW used as the example for “what not to do”???
  • Blog Comment: Used it once, won't use it again
    I used Babywise with my son. He is 2 and a half and he is a wonderful child - bright smart, funny, loving, etc.

    Would I use it again? - NO
    Would I reccommend it to friends - NO

    I think it is dangerous. I agree with what [blogger] said, "What I found was that it really preys on your fears - fears that your child will be spoiled, they'll be one of "those kids" that makes restaurants unbearable, etc." It is written in a way that makes you think this is THE way. For example I remember at 6 months I was concerned about getting DS down to 4 feeds a day per ezzo (which I now know is wrong). At 8 months I was concerned because he hadn't dropped his third nap and Ezzo said he should have....

    The thing is that it became easier to listen to Ezzo rather than my child.

    ...Ezzo is very convincing. I actually visited while I was doing Ezzo material with DS and yes it created a lot of doubts but it on its own wasn't enough - I stuck with the line "apply those bits that work" and didn't realise there were much more helpful books out there containing those good bits.