So You're Saying My Very Chubby Child is At Risk for Failing to Thrive?

While recovering from the flu, eating ramen, and feeling guilty for being at home without Beckett (but grateful for amazing parents that took him for the day), I came across The Bump's featured article 10 Controversial Parenting Methods (And What's Not So Bad About Them). For every method it listed the reasons why people have concerns and the method is controversial, and then why it can actually be a good thing and shouldn't really be controversial..... except Babywise. It only listed the reasons why it is bad. I think there are so many different methods out there, and to each his own. So I'm not here to bash the other methods, and I'm not here to bash The Bump (I heart The Bump), and I'm not trying to say everyone should do it this way, but I just want to set a few things straight.

The article says, "The controversy: In their book On Becoming Babywise, Gary Ezzo and Robert Buckham, MD, offer advice to get baby sleeping through the night starting around seven to nine weeks old. That sounds great to all the sleep-deprived moms and dads out there, but there’s one big problem. They recommend scheduling baby’s feedings for about three hours apart, and that can be harmful to a small baby. AAP News, a publication of The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), says the method “has been associated with failure to thrive, poor milk supply failure, and involuntary early weaning… the program is inadequately supported by conventional medical practice.”

What’s not so bad: Sorry parents, but there’s not much to say here. While the book does get one thing right -- getting baby into a daily routine or pattern is good for everyone’s sanity -- we can’t get behind a rigid schedule dictated by the clock. Baby needs to eat, and restricting his intake just isn’t right."

The book begins by discussing the three main feeding philosophies: demand feeding, clock feeding or scheduling, and parent-directed feeding. Babywise is about showing you how to do the parent-directed feeding (PDF) method. It isn't about feeding your baby every hour or at every whimper, but it's also not about forcing your baby to wait 3 hours until they are allowed to eat. It's about helping them and their little bodies get on a routine and schedule that allows them to go about 3 hours in between feedings. The book even says that if they are hungry and it's not the "right" time for them to eat, feed them anyway. But I have had maybe 5 times where I've fed Beckett to calm him down and it wasn't right after waking up. 

The idea is that by getting them on a routine of wake, play, then sleep, several good things happen:
  • Their metabolism adjusts so that they can sleep for longer stretches at night. 
  • They are content when awake and playing because they are full.
  • They wake up hungry and ready to eat a full feeding. 
  • For breastfed babies there is formilk and hindmilk. Formilk is at the beginning and much lower in fat and nutrients, hindmilk comes after a few minutes of nursing and has much more fat in it which will keep them full longer. A baby who is fed little bits here and there on demand are mainly getting the lower fat formilk and therefore, not getting as many calories in and staying full as long. 
  • Nursing your baby to sleep is a "sleep prop". Not that sleep props are bad, but they are hard to break. I've been using swaddling and a binky as sleep props since day one and I'm ok with that. As he gets older I wouldn't mind if he had one of those lovey blankets or a stuffed animal or something. Those are things I can do and Beckett can still put himself to sleep, but nursing is different. It has to be you and only you and self-soothing will be much harder to teach. Not that I am the self-soothing pro because I'm avoiding cry it out like the plague, but when I get there it will be easier than if he was used to being nursed to sleep I think. 
  • And for us moms, feeding every three hours instead of constantly throughout the day makes it easier to get things done, go to work, take baby places, and feel like your boobs aren't hanging out all day. There is a reason to actually put on a shirt today!
I've been surprised at how easily eating every three hours has come just by following the eat, play, sleep routine. Beckett did go through a phase where he was eating every 2.5 hours, some days he even has 4 hour stretches, but for the most part it's right around 3 hours and that's because of the wake time and nap lengths that come naturally to him. Even as he gets older and those times change, it still works out to be about 3 hours. For example:

Newborn: Wake time= 60 minutes. Naps= 2 hours. Total time between feedings= 3 hours.
3 months old: Wake time= 75 minutes. Naps= 90 minutes. Total time between feedings= 2 hours 45 minutes.
4 months old: This is where I noticed he was on a 2.5 hour schedule for a few weeks thanks to the 45 minute intruder. Wake time= 90 minutes. Naps= 45-60 minutes. Total time between feedings= 2 hours 30 minutes.
6 months old: Beginning of day- Wake time= 90 minutes. Naps=90. Total time between feedings= 3 hours. End of day- Wake time= 2 hours. Naps= 45-60 minutes. Total time between feedings= 3 hours

Obviously Beckett is not a robot and does not stick to these times exactly every day. Some days he goes 2.5 hours between every feeding and some days he takes wonderfully long naps and goes up to 4 hours. But this is a good average of his wake times and nap lengths at different ages.

And as far as the other concerns of early weaning and low supply go, I definitely do not have a supply problem and haven't heard of anyone that does from feeding every three hours. It could happen though so then like any other method, I would say if it isn't working for you then don't do it. And I don't know about early weaning, but so far we're doing good! 

And in case all of that isn't enough proof that Babywise is not about sticking to a strict three hour schedule, starving your baby, putting them at risk for failing to thrive..... then answer me this: Does this 6 month old in 18 month clothes look like a nutrient-starved, hungry baby to you? hahaha 


Mandy and Brian said...

I find that interesting. Ellie is a little shrimp, but I am certain it is not because I took advice from "Babywise". If people think that the point is to never feed your baby unless it has been three hours than they didn't read the book right.In the beginning I was feeding Ellie every two hours. Then the time just naturally stretched out. Ellie goes for 4 hours between feedings now and sleeps for 12-13 hours at night. If she seems hungry before that, I go ahead and feed her, but she usually doesn't. I still have enough milk to satisfy her and I only breastfeed four times a day usually. I think the problem is trying to tie them to a schedule when they are newborns. I followed the books advice and Ellie seemed hungry right on was almost like I WAS demand feeding, but because she got the play and sleep she needed in the order she needed it, she wasn't demanding food all day.