I can't help but feel vulnerable as I sit down to write about Babywise, a parenting strategy that I have subscribed to since my beginnings as a mama. Parenting is such a personal experience. What works for one family might never work for the next. I had a friend say that "you should make choices as a parent based on whether doing something will make you a more sane person or not."
I think that's such a wise statement and it's exactly why I was attracted to Babywise. I was intimidated by the whole motherhood thing and I wanted a plan. In most situations, I'm not like this. I'm not a scheduling type or a planner. If I'm going on vacation, I would much rather have the freedom to explore rather than stick to an itinerary.
But not when it comes to parenting.
The idea of being in charge of another human-being frightened me, especially when before I had Evy, most babies cried the minute I held them in my arms. I remember co-workers laughing at me when they brought in their babies because you couldn't configure a more awkward holding-baby pose if you tried.
I was clueless.
So, I figured I might as well check into this book that lots of moms had recommended. Some said it wasn't for them and some described it as a "lifesaver". The thing that made me most curious was that the parents that gave Babywise the highest recommendations all had really well-behaved children. I wanted my kids to be like their kids and if this book would help me reach that goal, I was in.
I bought the book and both me and Mark were sold on its teachings from the first chapter.
We've used the methods for all of our kiddos (but based on Levi in his terrible twos, we can't correlate that well-behaved thing with the books just yet). We're not rigid by any means and lots of times life and babies don't allow for any method to be followed. But overall, I am so thankful for the outline Babywise provided. My older kids are great sleepers. Most nights we never hear a peep from 8 pm to 8 am, and I credit Babywise with that gift of sleep. I'm hoping the twins follow suit someday (because that silence is definitely NOT happening now).
Here are some of the other benefits that I feel Babywise has given me as a mom:
1. A Schedule - In the daytime, I follow a routine that originated from the theories of Babywise. After most feedings (which happen about every 2.5 to 3 hours), Carter and Beckett do a little "baby fitness routine". It's not really fitness, but more of a chance to interact and move their limbs around. I talk with them and pump their legs up and down. Then we do the dreaded "tummy time". After Evy, we learned this is something to start right from the get-go. We waited a bit to start tummy time with her and she punished us by screaming the ENTIRE time we'd try it until she was about 6 months. Super fun times. Don't get me wrong, this routine is never smooth sailing. The twins cry a lot just like the older two. But at some point you have to desensitize yourself to the cries (yes, I am a bit of a drill sergeant) and do things that are good for their long term health. (In my opinion).
To be precise, the ideal daytime routine goes like this (but it's definitely something to work towards...isn't happening just yet):
- Sit upright in someone's arms or a baby chair so food digests a bit
- Baby fitness routine (pump legs and arms, patty cake, look at high contrast book, lift up and down, tummy time)
- Probably stay awake a bit more in someone's arms or a wrap/carrier sort of thing
- Sleep in crib - falling asleep after a wakeful period ensures that the baby does not rely on nursing or a bottle to fall asleep, which is pretty much the main goal of Babywise
Here are some images of the twins in their wakeful time:
2. Confidence - I SO value knowing what comes next. I can look at the clock and say, "they must be getting hungry about now" or "Beckett must have a dirty diaper or a burp because it's too early to be hungry". Sometimes these guesses are wrong, but probably 90% of the time I'm right. I couldn't imagine feeding whenever they cry. My boobs hurt just thinking about it. I gain peace of mind from the three hour schedule that Babywise offers. I think the babies do too. After a couple months, it's almost like they know what's coming and they find comfort in the schedule.
3. Sleep Training - Like I mentioned above, our older kids are great sleepers. From the beginning, they were taught to take longer and longer periods of hard sleep. True, they might naturally be good sleepers, but I choose to believe all the effort we put into this thing made a difference. If someone has evidence showing it didn't, please keep it to yourself (thanks).
4. A Foundation for Consistency - Adhering to a schedule from the start of our parenting adventures set a good precedent for the years to follow. I know we're only at year 4 with Evy, but I can say that we are pretty consistent. It's obvious that routine rules with kids and we do our best to keep bedtime and other major parts of our days predictable. It makes everything run more smoothly. I don't have to put up too much of a fight with my kids at bedtime because they've been programmed to go when we say which is always around 8 pm. I won't lie and say that it's always perfect, but it is manageable and for that I'm thankful, especially as we've welcomed two more to the clan.
Overall, the Babywise method takes a lot of work in those early weeks and even more patience, but it's worth it in my eyes. I can honestly say I'd be a nutcase without it. Maybe someday my kids will read this as they wander into the murky waters of parenting. I hope they give Babywise a chance, but I also hope they understand that if it doesn't work for them, that's completely OK.
I will support whatever method they choose, even if it's none. (Just don't count on me to take the late-night shift in that case.)
Here are a few more pictures of me (the drill sergeant) during the baby fitness routine...