Babywise vs. Baby Whisperer: Which Is Best For Your Baby?

Babywise vs Baby Whisperer

It’s a baby sleep book smackdown, parents!

Today, we’re taking a look at two very popular baby sleep books: On Becoming Babyswise, by Gary Ezzo and Robert Buckman, and Secrets of a Baby Whisperer, by Tracy Hogg. We’ll examine the similarities and difference between the two books, but most importantly, we’ll provide the info you need to determine which parts of each book might be helpful to you (and which parts you may want to ignore!).

Babywise vs. Baby Whisperer

If you’ve dabbled at all in the world of baby sleep books (and if you’re a Baby Sleep Site® reader, we’re betting you have!), then you are no doubt at least somewhat familiar with these two books. Here’s the rundown:

Babywise has been reprinted several times, and it’s changed a bit from its early days as a book that provided a religious slant on baby sleep – but to this day, it remains incredibly popular. The authors of Babywise are proponents of what they call ‘PDF’ (parent-directed feeding), and encourage parents to implement a fairly clock-based schedule right from birth, in an effort to get baby sleeping through the night by about 4 months of age.

Baby Whisperer is similar, in some ways – it urges parents to carve out sleep-friendly routines, and the book attempts to educate parents as to how they can understand their babies cries, so that they offer the right thing at the right time (i.e. so that mom and dad don’t offer food when baby is crying for a nap).

A Look At Babywise and Baby Whisperer Schedules and Routines

The hallmark of each book is the emphasis on helping your baby ease into a predictable daily schedule or routine at a fairly early age.

Babywise promotes an ‘Eat-Play-Sleep’ schedule — with this schedule, your baby wakes and feeds, then engages in an activity (shaking a rattle, reading a book, tummy time, etc.) before finally going down for the next nap. Parents are urged to put their babies down drowsy, but awake. The Babywise authors do encourage parents to be mindful of the clock when it comes to the Eat-Play-Sleep schedule – parents are urged to encourage their babies to go at least 2 hours between feedings in the first few weeks after birth, and then gradually to push for 3 hours and eventually 4 hours between feedings. The authors believe that by intentionally spacing out feedings, and not feeding round the clock, parents can encourage babies to consolidate their feedings, and eventually sleep through the night at a few months old.

Baby Whisperer, interestingly enough, lays out a very similar routine – Hogg calls it an E.A.S.Y. routine: Eat, Activity, Sleep, You Time. Basically, baby wakes and eats, engages in an activity, goes down for the next nap, and then you get some (much-needed!!) “you time”, in which to unwind (and hopefully take a nap – goodness knows you need one, right?). So on the surface, it looks quite a bit like Babywise – but when you really get into the book, Hogg makes it clear that the E.A.S.Y. routine is just that – a routine. It’s not meant to be a strict, time-driven schedule. Hogg is clear that one day may look different from another, in terms of the timing of feedings and naps. The routine is less about clocking your baby’s day, and more about gently shaping it in a way that will, over time, develop healthy sleeping habits (and eventually, a more clock-based schedule). Hogg is also very clear that, while parents do need to help direct baby’s day, they also need to watch baby’s cues closely, and use those to drive the routine.

Babywise vs. Baby Whisperer: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

So, what’s the take-away? In our opinion, it’s this: the best parts of both of these books is the Eat-Play-Sleep (or E.A.S.Y, depending on your preference) part. These two routines are basically the same (although cheers to Tracy Hogg, for putting the ‘You Time’ bit in hers – only a fellow mom would think to do that!), and the beauty of both of them is that they will go a long way towards preventing your baby from forming unwanted sleep associations. Because your baby is engaging in an activity before nap time, you’ll put your baby down at least slightly awake for naps. This is better, from a sleep coaching standpoint, than feeding your baby to sleep before every nap, and thus forming a strong sleep association that may create sleep problems down the road. Regardless of your situation, or your parenting philosophy, this kind of baby routine has universal appeal.

HOW you implement this routine will vary, though. Some parents love the timed nature of the Babywise approach, and are big fans of the parent-directed approach. These parents tend to gravitate to (and generally have success with) a Babywise approach. Other parents like the idea of having a flexible routine that allows plenty of wiggle room, and that prioritizes baby’s cues. Those parents may find a lot to love in the Baby Whisperer approach.

As for our take – as you probably know by now, we’re big fans of letting YOU make choices about your baby’s sleep. However, if you pressed us for our advice, we’d say this: we really like the flexibility of the Baby Whisperer approach for newborns and young babies. Tracy Hogg is a proponent of gentle methods that are suitable for newborns and young infants, but are also effective in establishing great sleep habits. We don’t love the Babywise approach for newborns – it tends to be too rigid for most young babies, and it’s not breastfeeding-friendly for babies with smaller stomach capacities, or for moms who don’t produce a lot of breastmilk.

That said, the Babywise approach can work well for babies who are very regular and predictable, particularly if baby is formula-fed. We have and parents tell us that Babywise worked perfectly for their babies.

In the end, it always comes down to honoring your parenting philosophy AND your baby’s temperament. Both of these approaches can work – but if they don’t work for you, it doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong, or that your baby is somehow “broken” – it just means you need a different approach!

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Babywise? Baby Whisperer? Both? Neither? You know how much we value your opinion – tell us what you think of these two books!

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Warning: Babywise May Not Be Right For Your Baby

On Becoming Babywise is a popular book among many parents, but receives a lot of criticism from pediatricians and other parents for being too strict or harsh, particularly for newborns. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) came out and said over 10 years ago that Babywise is downright dangerous while others say that is not true. Who is right and what is right for your baby? This article will discuss what Babywise is and why it may or may not be right for your baby.

On Becoming Babywise

What is the Babywise method? The Babywise method indicates you should feed on schedule every 2 1/2 to 4 hours (depending on age) rather than on demand after your baby is a week to 10 days old. It is also routine-based that indicates that you should eat-play-sleep, in that order, every time. This means that your baby wakes up, you feed him, your baby plays, then goes to sleep and repeat this all day long. The book outlines how long between feedings at various ages and indicates your baby should sleep through the night from an early age (around 8 to 12 weeks, for the most part).

The idea behind the eat-play-sleep routine is that your baby will know what to expect every day, providing predictability and security to both of you, will take a full feeding since he is not too sleepy falling asleep while eating, and will not associate feeding with sleeping (a common reason for baby sleep problems), and have a much better/happier awake period being both full and rested.

Babywise Criticism

baby sleep training methodsSo, what’s the problem? Because of how strict the Babywise routine can appear to be, some pediatricians belonging to the AAP have indicated that babies are at higher risk to be diagnosed “failure to thrive” and become dehydrated. The feeding schedule is considered stringent with feedings every 3 hours from birth (4 hours once your baby is older). Die hard Babywise enthusiasts will delay feeding their baby until the “right” time rather than on demand even if baby is hungry. Attachment parenting advocates would say this is disrespectful of the baby by not feeding on cue. After all, it’s not like your baby can go to the pantry to eat like you can when you’re hungry.

In addition, sleep-wise, the Babywise Method is considered even more harsh than Ferber, in some ways, because Babywise advocates letting your baby cry in 20-minute intervals, even as a newborn (Ferber says to wait until 4 to 6 months). In order to get to an eat-play-sleep routine AND have feedings every 3-4 hours, depending on age, your baby needs to be napping in fairly long intervals (1-2 hours each time or so). Of course, we know that not all babies nap for long periods (some babies won’t nap at all) and short naps are common up through 6 months old. If your baby wakes up early from a nap, Babywise indicates you should allow your baby to cry to go back to sleep, even at a young age. Considering some people are thoroughly against cry it out methods to begin with, allowing your newborn to cry for 20 minutes is a lot to ask a new mom, in many cases, even if that same parent may decide to do cry it out when their baby is older.

Why Babywise may not be right for your baby

In some ways I think Babywise gets a bad rap in that it states VERY clearly that if your baby is hungry sooner than the “scheduled” time, then you should feed him. Some pediatricians have submitted their own reports about how Babywise is not dangerous. As with anything else, I think some people are more prone to follow books to the letter than others. Or, maybe they just didn’t read that page (or pages). Or, maybe they didn’t read the book at all and heard about the method from a friend. With any book, including mine(!), you still need to apply what YOU know about YOUR baby and make modifications. No one knows your situation or your baby better than you do. It is possible to do eat-play-sleep but not be so stringent that you HAVE to feed your baby as soon as she wakes up, for example. As long as you use the correct amount of awake time, it’s fine to feed her 15 minutes after she wakes, if she’s not hungry because she doesn’t take a two hour nap.

With my boys, they simply could NOT wait 3 hours between feedings until they were months old (not weeks) and they actually never got to 4 hours between milk feedings. I feel that it’s a healthier way to learn to eat when you’re hungry and not let yourself get TOO hungry that you overeat. But, that’s just my personal philosophy. Even now at 5 and 3, they eat something roughly every 2 1/2 hours due to how active they are and I am okay with that (after all “they” say to eat more frequent smaller meals, right? I do the same).

My boys also did NOT take two hour naps, either, and sticking to awake times that were outside my eldest’s comfort zone was out of the question. Add in that babies get older and can stay up longer between sleep, but not necessarily wait longer to eat, and it can be difficult to make Babywise work for every baby. There are a variety of reasons that your baby may or may not “fit” in with the Babywise Method. It doesn’t mean you can’t borrow from Babywise and make your own routine, though, if you do yearn for predictability or feel your baby would benefit from it! Maybe you do eat-play-sleep-read-eat-play-sleep-read… Maybe you do eat-play-sleep-walk-eat… there are many ways you can make a routine without it being a particular book’s routine. Make it work for you and your baby.

As for sleep, I wasn’t willing to let my newborns cry for more than a few minutes, let alone 20 minutes. Does that mean that you can’t use Babywise? No. Simply work on the routine and helping your baby learn to sleep in the gentlest way possible. As your baby gets older, her brain will mature, sleep will organize, and she will be able to learn how to self-soothe. Even if Babywise isn’t exactly right for you, it doesn’t mean you can’t find something that is.

If you got Babywise to work for you, that’s great! For others, their baby will be hungry, possibly nap even worse due to being hungry, nursing mothers may have low milk supply going too long between feedings, or you may just find it impossible to get your baby to nap long enough to get to the next “eat” time. If you can’t get it to work, don’t feel like you’ve failed at all. Just find your baby’s own routine and plan to use books as guides, and not as the end all, be all.

If you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine, please be sure to pick up your FREE copy of 5 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night, our e-Book with tear-free tips to help your baby sleep better. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep (babies) or The 5-Step System to Better Toddler Sleep (toddlers). Using a unique approach and practical tools for success, our e-books help you and your baby sleep through the night and nap better. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.

What do you think about Babywise?