Babywise: “assessment of real need”

Look at this manipulative bastard.

I’m still not past Chapter 2.  I’ve noticed a really disturbing underlying assumption.  First, let me provide the actual quotes (emphasis added).

“[In attachment parenting] the baby is offered the breast simply and immediately without regard to assessment of real need.”

“the single most critical element for all aspects of infant care . . . an acquired confidence to think, evaluate and respond to real need,”

“using parental assessment to decide when to feed based on actual need.”

“Feeding based on fixed times ignores legitimate hunger cues

Lest you think I’m combing the book and cherry picking, those quotes all appear on pages 33-38.  The chapter is dense with this concept.

If parents need to constantly assess whether a baby has “real need,” and whether his cries are “legitimate hunger cues,” that assumes that babies also express “fake needs” and “counterfeit hunger cues.”  It’s clear from his use of this language that Ezzo is worried that babies are just shamming when they cry for a parent’s attention, and unless parents are careful that the baby has a genuine need, they’re just suckers for the baby’s sly emotional manipulation.

That interpretation is borne out by additional language in the first two chapters:

“If she believes she is central to the family universe, her self-centered feeling will carry over into every relationship in her ever-expanding world.”

“[The baby should learn] from the start that giving is equally important as receiving.”

“The virtues [of kindness, goodness, gentleness, charity, honesty, honor, and respect for others] are not inherent in her or any new life.  Therefore, Chelsea’s parents must govern and monitor her . . .”

There you go.  Babies are sociopaths, and only constant vigilance by the parents will train the evil, conniving ways out of a newborn.  Attachment parenting is a huge mistake because those gullible parents are duped by their babies into thinking every cry is genuine, and not merely a bid for domination of the household.  Sure, sometimes babies have “actual needs,” but a lot of the time they’re just trying to assert their power over the family, and you have to learn how to tell the difference.  If you don’t start in the first two months, it’s all over – your baby will be a selfish, manipulative jerk for the rest of her life, and never have a fulfilling relationship.  She’ll probably go to hell, too.

I suspect that they actually believe that bit about hell, and that’s what’s driving all this suspicion of neonates’ byzantine motivations.  A while ago, a friend suggested that I look into the original Ezzo parenting program, Preparation for Parenting, an explicitly Christian guide on children and parenting.  Babywise began as a mere copy of PfP materials, with the overt Christian references expunged.  With this in mind, all this blather about assessing whether a cry indicates a legitimate need makes more sense.  In their own words, the Ezzos proclaim that they “clearly teach the doctrine of the depravity of man and original sin.”  More to the point, PfP materials maintain that “children enter the world in a depraved state.”  I definitely need to get my hands on the PfP materials and compare, as my friend mentioned.  I think it will be very illuminating.

In the meantime, there’s plenty of evidence here that Babywise is based on the idea that newborn babies aren’t just subject to original sin in a vague, eventual way, such that they will require forgiveness when they reach the age of reason.  Babywise assumes that babies are actively sinful from the moment of birth, and indeed, that their sin nature imbues them with a precocious capacity for subterfuge, manipulation, and possibly even mustache-twirling accompanied by maniacal laughter.

This is not just silly, it’s dangerous when they are pressuring parents to adopt this approach for infants who can only communicate their needs by crying, and who have “legitimate needs” far beyond that for caloric input.  In the rush to squelch the legacy of Eve, Ezzo ignores the growing research that babies actually require human touch and interaction, help organizing their mental functions, and sensory stimulation including sucking, rocking, and hearing human voices.  Remember, this guide is for babies less than six months old, and this advice is meant to apply from the moment of birth.  Ezzo isn’t talking about beginning to socialize a toddler, whose needs and wants have diverged to some extent.  The bottom line is that all of a baby’s needs are legitimate, and all of their cries are disingenuous, and Babywise recklessly ignores these facts to service its hidden religious agenda.

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 January 26, 2012, in Breastfeeding, Parenting, Religion and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Sorry, this isn’t really a comment on this post, but I couldn’t find a “Contact Me” button. Do you think you could tweak your RSS feed to send whole posts? I really hate the “tease-and-click” style feeds, and since you don’t have ads on your site, it’s not hurting your bottom line. Thanks!!!

  2. No problem – I’ll try to put up a contact button, as well as figure out how the RSS feed works – I have no idea how to do it, but I’ll poke around.

    Thanks for reading!

  3. If you really are a science cheerleader then you might want to read this article [] There are many different ways to raise a child and I doubt the differences change much in that child’s development. But this post is another great example of the truth that just about every new mother needs to tell everyone how to be a mother even though the human race has been parenting children good enough to keep our species going for millions of years. But thanks for your opinion.

  4. Hey Someone – that’s an interesting article, and I suppose Dr. Reddy’s observations might someday prompt a well-constructed scientific study of such infant behavior (as far as I can tell, this wasn’t a published study, just her clinical observations and review of surveys).

    Regardless, though, the information isn’t applicable to our discussion of Babywise, as Ezzo is prescribing techniques for use with babies from birth to six months, and Dr. Reddy’s work was with children six months to two years.

    And I do think it’s valid to tell others to avoid Ezzo, since it is demonstrably dangerous and not based in any evidence. Your standard for parenting may be “they survived to adulthood,” but I think most people like to aim higher than that.

  5. Someone – I’m guessing that humans surviving for millions of years had very little to do with mothers scheduling every minute of their babies’ lives. It’s my understanding that the clock has been a relatively new invention when we’re speaking of the whole of human history.

    Great post Christine! Babywise has recently come up on a FB breastfeeding group I’m in so it re-peaked my interest. I haven’t read the book (and don’t intend to) but I dare say I would agree with your observations if I did.

  6. If you look at how other primates parent, they carry their babies all of the time and only put them down very rarely. The infant feeds whenever they are hungry or need to suckle for comfort…. so yes, humans survived for millions of years and parented before we got civilized and invented fancy religious theories about sin, but chances are that we carried our infants around and fed them on demand as we went through life, before those theories existed about infants and original sin.

    There is also research that has found that babies who are “spoiled” are less fussy. So, if you want a baby that isn’t trying to convince you of a fake need, maybe meet their needs as they come.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: