Babywise: Feeding Philosophies

Miss Scarlet: Why?!
Wadsworth: To create confusion!
Mrs. Peacock: It worked.

Clue

Earlier we saw that Babywise attempts to reduce the large array of real parenting options to two polar opposites: Babywise, or anything-goes. As Ezzo embarks on a discussion of feeding babies, he switches to the opposite approach. He flails around wildly in an attempt to make feeding babies seem ridiculously complex and confusing. He works hard to manufacture bewilderment among readers, so the author can then offer a seemingly sensible, clear solution.

“Demand-feeding. Hyperscheduling. Cry feeding. Breastfeeding and bottle. . . . why all the confusion? One reason might be the overabundance of parenting theories. With so many options it is no wonder parents get confused.”

It goes on like that, with Ezzo reaching for odd, academic-sounding terms and italicizing them to emphasize their strangeness: demand-feed, demand schedule, self-regulating schedule, natural feeding, hyperscheduling, rigid feeding, cry feeding, responsive feeding, bottle-feeding. Seriously, he italicizes “bottle-feeding” like it’s an exotic foreign term. He wraps up the obfuscation triumphantly: “Who can decipher all the terms and techniques?” No one, when you describe them Gary.

I Googled these supposed terms of art. The results were not surprising. “Demand feeding” and “Cue feeding” are treated as synonyms – they are two ways to refer to the same practice. A search for “rigid feeding” turned up some articles about whether to demand feed or feed by a schedule, but the term “rigid feeding” as a separate philosophical approach did not appear. All the other terms failed to return any references to them as feeding philosophies, except in articles quoting Ezzo himself.

Here’s the bottom line: the first choice in infant feeding is whether you will nurse exclusively or use formula. The second choice is whether you will feed on demand (looking for baby’s hunger cues and responding), or feed the baby on an imposed schedule. And that’s pretty much it for choosing between feeding philosophies. Everything else is a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. And I trust you remember who tells a tale like that.

So why the huge effort to create confusion? It’s simple – the smoke and mirrors are meant to create the illusion that Ezzo’s approach is a sane middle ground. In reality, Babywise is well known as the most rigid, schedule-driven advice around. To dodge this criticism, Ezzo must create a fantasy landscape of crazy, diverse feeding philosophies in which to situate his approach as a sensible compromise.

It seems I’ve written at least a post’s worth on the very first page of this chapter. I think I’ll save the rest for another post. There’s an awful lot of trickery to unpack in this chapter!

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About Christine

I'm a full-time mother to two kids, an ex-lawyer, a breastfeeding counselor, a skeptic, and (to steal a phase from Penn & Teller) a "science cheerleader." You can reach me through my Facebook page.

Posted on December 12, 2011, in Parenting and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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