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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8 thoughts on “Babywise vs. Baby Whisperer: Which Is Best For Your Baby?”
I LOVE THE BABY WHISPERER!!! I read it when pregnant with my first. Love the ideas, and the routine in the book. I felt like it gave me a a great tool when my son was born. I followed the book pretty much to a T. My son started sleeping through the night very very early. Of course little adjustments had to be made e.g. shush pat.. or sometimes you have to hold the baby a bit longer before putting them down for nap,….or dream feed.. sometimes work, sometimes we skipped.. Sometimes it would take me an hour getting the little guy to sleep, by picking him up, then lying him down again.. etc.. sometimes it is hard to stick to the routine but wow, a little bit a of hard work and time spending helping your kids sleep on their own helps you and them SOOO much over the next months and years.
We followed it again for my second child and it worked like magic…. and again for the 3rd… My husband and I called this our ‘Baby Bible’. Whenever we had a problem, or a sleep regression (e.g. around 4 months).. I remember reading the 4 month old sleep chapter in the middle of the night… within 2 days, my baby was sleeping through the night again, Just had to make a couple adjustments to the routine.
By following the baby whisperer ideas right from the start, there was no ‘sleep training’ or ‘cry it out’. My babies learned to sleep well right from the start with me by their side ‘shush-patting’. My kids are now 2, 4 and 6 and they all go down easily and happily at bedtime and all sleep through the night (except if there’s a bad dream:)). I wanted to come back and write a review of this book somewhere in hopes that I would help a new mom or someone having troubles.
I recommend not waiting until the babies are 4 – 6 months to begin… the longer you wait to get them on a routine, the harder it will be on them and you to get their sleep on track.
@Lynsay, thank you so much for sharing what method worked so well for your whole family! I’m so glad to hear everyone sleeps well over there. 🙂
I absolutely loved Babywise and share it with all my friends who are about to have babies. My bub was fully breast fed and sleeping 10pm-6am by nine weeks. I kept the regular, full feedings using the babywise EWS method, then let her sleep a little longer each week at night between feedings until she dropped the last feed (4am) and woke at 6. Even now at 14 months, shes an amazing sleepers. Very grateful for having a method like Baby wise from the start 🙂
Thank you so much for reading The Baby Sleep Site! I’m so glad to hear that Babywise was a good fit for your family. We always say there are no “one size fits all” methods to sleep coaching and scheduling, but each method works well for some families. It’s fantastic you found the one that works for you!
I’m a PDF mom! Love baby wise. I wish I could meet Gary Ezzo and hug him. I have 3 children all PDF babies right from the start.
I tell every mom about this book. Love it!
@ Joanne – thanks for sharing your thoughts! We love hearing from moms like you. 🙂
Thanks for this! What do you think of The Baby Whisperers’ take on the effects of CIO? She paints it as extremely negative and something that destroys trust in the worst sense–on this point I find her philosophy quite rigid. I’m not particularly a CIO fan, though I’ve seen children that are very well-adjusted, secure kids whose parents did use the CIO method. I feel I’ve learned good things from Babywise, but yet it is hard to really recommend it to a new mother.
@ Rach – Great question! I agree, CIO gets a bad rap w/ The Baby Whisperer (of course, it gets a lot of good press with Baby Wise, so I guess that sort of “balances” when you’re comparing these two books!) I’ll say that as an organization, The Baby Sleep Site® doesn’t have an “official position” on CIO. We are willing to do that with parents who want to, and we apply best practice info to any CIO approach that we outline in our sleep plans. Any CIO plans we create are careful to preserve the parent-child bond, and put a premium on child safety. But we also steer well clear of CIO for parents who don’t want to do it.
Hope that helps, Rach! Thanks so much for commenting. 🙂
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