Peaceful Parenting: ‘Babywise’ Linked to Babies’ Dehydration, Failure to Thrive

By Matthew Aney, M.D.

Volume 14 Number 4

“Expectant parents often fear the changes a new baby will bring, especially sleepless nights. What new parent wouldn’t want a how-to book that promises their baby will be sleeping through the night by three to eight weeks?

One such book, On Becoming Babywise, has raised concern among pediatricians because it outlines an infant feeding program that has been associated with failure to thrive (FTT), poor weight gain, dehydration, breast milk supply failure, and involuntary early weaning. A Forsyth Medical Hospital Review Committee, in Winston-Salem N.C., has listed 11 areas in which the program is inadequately supported by conventional medical practice. The Child Abuse Prevention Council Of Orange County, Calif., stated its concern after physicians called them with reports of dehydration, slow growth and development, and FTT associated with the program. And on Feb. 8, AAP District IV passed a resolution asking the Academy to investigate “Babywise,” determine the extent of its effects on infant health and alert its members, other organizations and parents of its findings.

I have reviewed numerous accounts of low weight gain and FTT associated with “Babywise” and discussed them with several pediatricians and lactation consultants involved.

The book’s feeding schedule, called Parent Directed Feeding (PDF), consists of feeding newborns at intervals of three to three and one-half hours (described as two and one-half to three hours from the end of the last 30- minute feeding) beginning at birth. Nighttime feedings are eliminated at eight weeks.

This advice is in direct opposition to the latest AAP recommendations on newborn feeding (AAP Policy Statement, “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk,” Pediatrics, Dec. 1997): “Newborns should be nursed whenever they show signs of hunger, such as increased alertness or activity, mouthing, or rooting. Crying is a late indicator of hunger. Newborns should be nursed approximately eight to 12 times every 24 hours until satiety…”

Although demand feeding is endorsed by the Academy, WHO, and La Leche League among others, “Babywise” claims that demand feeding may he harmful and outlines a feeding schedule in contrast to it. The book makes numerous medical statements without references or research, despite that many are the antitheses of well-known medical research findings. In 190 pages, only two pediatric journals are referenced with citations dated 1982 and 1986…”


…My review of the low weight gain and FTT accounts associated with “Babywise” revealed several disturbing trends. Parents were often adamant about continuing with the feeding schedule, even when advised otherwise by health care professionals. They were hesitant to tell their physicians about the schedule, making it difficult to pinpoint the cause for the weight gain problems. Many elected to supplement or wean to formula rather than continue breastfeeding at the expense of the schedule. The parents’ commitment call be especially strong when they are using the program for religious reasons, even though numerous leaders within the same religious communities have publicly expressed concerns.

Pediatricians need to know about “Babywise” and recognize its potential dangers. History taking should include questions to determine if parents are using a feeding schedule, especially before advising formula supplement to breastfeeding mothers or when faced with a low-gaining or possible failure to thrive baby. Lactation consultants also should be instructed to probe this area.
Efforts should be made to inform parents of the AAP recommended policies for breastfeeding and the potentially harmful consequences of not following them.

Dr. Matthew Aney is an AAP candidate fellow based in Lancaster, California.


Here is the chat we had about this article on my Facebook Wall:

Those books should be burned…
THE OFFICIAL NEWS MAGAZINE OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS Volume 14 Number 4 Expectant parents often fear the changes a new baby will bring, especially sleepless nights. What new parent wouldn’t want a how-to book that promises their baby will be sleeping through the night by three to eight…

Like ·  · Share · Monday at 8:57pm
    • Kathryn Redd Tripp I always buy them from thrift stores and then I throw them in the garbage. That is where they belong!

      Yesterday at 4:24am · Like ·  2 people
    • Jenny Hatch Great idea, I personally know several people whose children had to be hospitalized for dehydration…did you know the author practices here in Louisville? Several ladies in my ward use him as pediatrician and they are the ones whose breastmilk dried up quickest…

      Yesterday at 6:38am · Like
    • Hee hee. . .Kathryn! You sneaky mom, you. . .! (And, way to go!!!!)

      Yesterday at 7:11am · Like ·  1 person
    • Helen Rehart Fagerburg Ugh. He should definitely loose his medical license. That doesn’t get rid of the book, but it’s a start.

      Yesterday at 7:37am · Like ·  1 person
    • Kathryn Redd Tripp He practices in Louisville? And some of your ward members use him as a pedriatrician?!? How many? That makes me feel sick and angry and oh so many things! ARGH!!! Mostly just sad.

      Yesterday at 9:21am · Like
    • Jenny Hatch I should be more careful, I am friends with a bunch of ward members on facebook! But they all know how I parent. I try not to get in anyones face about it, we all have to live and learn by our own experience to know the bitter from the sweet, but I get mad when new Moms are all excited about using him as their ped, tell me they want to breastfeed, and then it all comes crashing down when they follow his pathetic advice, I wish a group of parents would sue him for malpractice.

      Yesterday at 9:44am · Like
    • Janet Edwards New parents should remember mercy to those who can’t care for themselves.

      Yesterday at 12:08pm · Like
    • Jenny Hatch Not Ezzo, it is Bucknam that has the practice here. Just look at this article from Boulder Weekly ( note the date )

      Yesterday at 1:11pm · Like
    • Jenny Hatch

      A new parenting book, co-written by a Louisville doctor, is stirring up contr…See More
      Yesterday at 1:11pm · Like ·
    • Kathryn Redd Tripp I will.

      Yesterday at 1:17pm · Like
    • Sheila Stubbs This is where I blog against babywise lies.

      It is very unbecoming behavior to tell lies. When someone tells lies that harm …See More
      20 hours ago · Unlike ·  1 person ·

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