"Preparation for Parenting: Bringing God's Order To Your Baby's Day And Restful Sleep To Your Baby's Night."
This is the title of a church-based parenting program geared to expectant parents. The classes include a taped message and a homework book titled, "A Study in the Philosophy, Physiology, and Practice of Nurturing a Newborn." This "Prep Course" as it has became known, was part of a Christian parenting organization known as "Growing Kids God's Way."
Following the success of the program, a book was later published, titled "On Becoming Babywise." It was based on this Christian program, but with the scriptural references removed in order to appeal to a larger, secular audience. With a paperback book replacing replacing an eight-week course, the book became very popular in churches, and was promoted to a much wider audience with its subtitled promises of "giving your infant the gift of nighttime sleep" or "training babies to sleep through the night the natural way."
This parenting method is not the instruction in "Godly Parenting" it claims to be.
"What you believe about feeding a baby will usually be representative of your overall parenting philosophy.... Although God is silent on the topic of infant feeding, there are basic scriptural principles that cannot be ignored. Order, sound judgment, love, patience, care, strong marriages, and that which promotes soberminded assessment are but a few biblical imperatives to consider." PFP Page 26The scriptural references on order and sober-mindedness are in the book of Titus, referring to a character quality in one seeking position as a Bishop or other church leader. This has nothing to do with new mothers or helpless little newborn babies who do little except "desire the pure milk" 1 Peter 2:2 .
2. Ezzo warns parents that sacrificing anything to make their baby a priority is a bad parenting habit that will lead to
a self-centered child,
a marriage destroyed,
a family ruined, and
a mother "in bondage" to a child's endless demands.(1)
But the Bible says we are to imitate God who sacrificed Himself for us.
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.- Eph 5:1, 2 NKJV
3. Ezzo believes his infant management system will teach children to be considerate of others.(2) This is supposed to be accomplished by strictly controlling the times the baby eats, plays, and sleeps. If the baby cries, the parents are encouraged to ignore the child for its own good.(3)
"When your baby awakens, don't rush right in to him or her. Any crying will be temporary lasting 5 - 45 minutes... Generally it takes three nights..." (Page 123)But the Bible says we're not to exasperate our children in Eph 6:4. We should treat them as we would like to be treated.
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 7:12
4. Ezzo discourages mothers from expressing their natural God-given desire to console their babies. He says we should not 'suppress' a baby's crying, (Page 139) nor offer comfort to a crying baby. Nursing a baby to sleep is called "sleep manipulation" (Page 151), and mothers are instructed to leave the baby crying alone until it falls asleep itself. Ezzo tells mothers their responses to the infant should always "be rational and purposeful instead of emotive."(Page 139) Therefore, good mothering behaviour should amount to nothing more than noting how long the crying continues to establish what is considered to be their "normal amount" of crying. (Page 147, 150)
But the Bible recognizes this natural female inclination to soothe, nurture and tend to her baby:
"But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children."
1 Thessalonians 2:7.
5. Ezzo says we're supposed to put our marriage in higher regard than our parenting, since God made marriage first. (Prep for Parenting)
But such self-centeredness is not biblical. Not thinking of others? That is what newborn babies do. As adults we will behave as adults, and it doesn't have to be "trained" into us, as he claims. According to scripture:
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. - 1Cor 13:11 NKJV
6. The book puts no focus on building a foundation of love within the family.
Ezzo says that marriage transcends all other relationships (Page 20) and the parent-child relationship must take a back seat to the parent's marital relationship. Note that in the preface, he describes this book as an "infant management system." The focus should be on love and respect, not a system of management! Loving interactions with the baby are limited to parent-controlled guidelines.
The book even cautions parents against falling head-over-heels in love with their new baby! Ezzo recognizes this delightful affection for the new baby as a "heightened gratification" but warns that it is a "pitfall" to be avoided! (Page 26)
The Bible says children are a gift from God and a reward, and a man with a quiver-full is joyful! Psalm 127: 3, 5
7. Ezzo says to ensure the survival of your marriage you must continue to go out on dates as you did before you became parents. Is this biblical? Did parents leave their infants to go on dates in Jesus' time?
This forced separation can be extremely stressful for both the new mother and her baby, especially when they are still establishing breastfeeding.
The bible says, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?" Isaiah 49:15
Ezzo even claims that a baby won't suffer separation anxiety when parents are away on a date. (Page 26, PFP page 35) He doesn't explain how the newborn baby - who supposedly isn't capable of knowing when it's hungry - is somehow capable of understanding the importance of his parents having a date night.
8. Ezzo says the priority of the marriage relationship must be demonstrated daily to the children through a ritual he institutes called "Couch Time." (Page 27) In Preparation for Parenting, fathers are instructed to disregard their children when they rush to greet him after work, blocking their greetings with, "NO! No, no. Mommy comes first. MOMMY comes first!"
But Jesus said, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them ." Matthew 19:14, and
"Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me." - Mar 9:37 NKJV
"Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me." - Matthew 18:4,5 NKJV
People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. - Mark 10:13-16
"But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. - Mat 18:6 NKJV
9. Ezzo says we must insist upon First time Obedience from an infant from about the age of six months. (Page 88, BWII '95)
This child-training requires punishments such as:
- Flicking the child's cheek. (Page 59, 60 BWII)
But the Bible speaks of love and gentleness.
What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness? - 1Cor 4:21
10. Ezzo insists a baby needs to be in his bed, in his own room. (Page 203)
But the Bible portrays sleeping with your children as the norm.
Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. - Deut 11:19
"And this woman's son died in the night, because she lay on him. So she arose in the middle of the night and took my son from my side, while your maidservant slept, and laid him in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom." 1Kings 3:19,20
Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? Eccl 4:11
I can't get up; my children are with me in bed. - Luke 11:7
11. Ezzo tells us never to nurse, or rock a baby to sleep. He calls these soothing measures "props" implying an artificial means of falling asleep, and he recommends Simply ignoring the baby's crying until the baby learns falls asleep alone. (Page 56)
And yet our loving Heavenly Father offers us comfort:
That you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom, That you may drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory." For thus says the LORD: "Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. Then you shall feed; On [her] sides shall you be carried, And be dandled on [her] knees As one whom his mother comforts, So I will comfort you; And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem." Isaiah 66:11-13 (Note the bosom is used to console.)
12. Ezzo says you must make a hungry baby wait until the clock indicates feeding time, or else you are teaching him to snack! (Page 78, 175) Is this biblical? Did mothers feed according to the sundial in Jesus' time?
But our God is always available to us: "Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.'" Isaiah 58:9;
"The LORD [is] near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth." Psalm 145:18
"I cried out to the Lord with my voice, and he heard me from his Holy mountain" Psalm 3:4
13. Ezzo insists that once has reached about 8-12 weeks of age, or has slept through the night, you must never allow any more night feedings, nor tend to the baby at night. (Page 123,178, 182)
But Jesus tells us that every time we feed or tend to "the least of these" we are feeding Him.
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me..." Matthew 25:35-40
14. Ezzo has an odd set of priorities: the parental relationship first (Page 20), the preciousness of others second, the feeding routine third (Page 181,) and then the baby's need for his mother's comfort.
Eg.: "If you feel your baby has a need for non-nutritive sucking, a pacifier can meet the need without compromising your routine." (Page 76)
But the Bible tells us to love The Lord first, and then others, showing mercy in tangible ways, and expecting nothing in return.
So he answered and said, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.'" ...But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Then Jesus answered and said: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.... "But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion." So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?" And he said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." - Luke 10:27-37 NKJV
15. If the Preparation for Parenting Program were truly reflecting "biblical" parenting, it would be consistent around the entire world and throughout history, since the God of the Bible is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8.
This is not possible.
First, how could biblical parents have followed a schedule without clocks? How did they reduce or extend feeding times by 15 minute increments with no timepiece? What about believers today who live in less-developed nations where clocks are not necessary to their lifestyle? Ezzo's argument about timed feedings as a reflection of God's order doesn't fly.
Secondly, Ezzo's plan is not suitable for Christians who do not share Western traditions and beliefs. The bible does not mention playpens, but Ezzo says the playpen necessary for getting "waketime activities under control" as well as helping "establish foundational intellectual skills."(Page 190) In PFP (page 176) he claims playpens "optimize a child's development" and warns that a child without structured playpen time could be "seriously delayed."
Will Christians who live in tribal communities fail at 'biblical parenting' without using playpens? Will those free-range children never be able to "establish foundational intellectual skills"?
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. Col 2:8 - NKJV
Thirdly, the argument that we must schedule feedings because "God is not a God of disorder" [1 Cor 14:33] doesn't fly either. For one thing, the context of that scripture has to do with disorder in congregational meetings, not nursing babies. For another thing, the call for "order" was to restore peace. Nursing a baby will restore peace; making a hungry baby wait is never peaceful!
Furthermore, a God of Order did not make human babies emerge from their mothers in state of "metabolic chaos." All that He made was very good. Genesis 1:31
Finally, the God of order, who made the universe with such precision that we can predict the very minute the sun will rise or the return of Halley's Comet, did not make all things precise-to-the-minute orderly. There are seasons, but the snow doesn't begin to fall on the same day each year, nor in the same amount. Some years are drier or wetter, colder or warmer. God doesn't send the rain on a predictable schedule, nor do the flowers bloom on the same day year after year.
If all babies were born on their due dates, all weighing 7 lbs 6 ounces at birth, and all born to mothers who were 5'6" tall and 130 lbs, then it might make sense to expect babies to be predictable in their eating habits.
Does our Father in Heaven really want a tough-love approach to caring for a baby?"
As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him." Psalm 103:13
Or does He want us to show patience, kindness, perseverance, mercy, compassion, longsuffering, gentleness toward "the least of these"?