Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Book report from PBA (Parenting Books Anonymous)

Hi. My name is Violet and I'm a parenting bookoholic.

Still attempting to wean myself off books about babies and how to live with them, I've now read several stories in Garth Nix's Across the Wall. I loved Lady of the Lake and Hansel and Gretel, but I can only take so much fantasy at a time.

Then, in a bid to try a different genre altogether, I started Around the World in 80 Dates by Jennifer Cox. Supposedly a true story, it's about a thirty-something career woman's date-around-the world project in search of her soul mate. I'd call this travel writing chicklit. Unfortunately there's not much travel anecdotage and, seven dates in, not a heck of a lot of romance or sex either. Maybe it gets better, but life is too short to read anything which is neither gripping nor useful.

Then, a couple of parenting books came through which I had on hold at the library - Gary Ezzo's On Becoming Babywise and Christopher Green's Babies! A Parent's Guide to Enjoying Baby's First Year.

I had to pay a dollar each for reserving those volumes; to not read them just because of a teeny weeny itsy bitsy PBA pledge is just wasteful.

Babies! didn't tell me anything I hadn't already read elsewhere, but Green's writing is charming and funny. I'd read it just for his sense of humour.

has been subject to a bit of controversy, but on the whole I found much of it was common sense advice. His idea of a feeding and sleep routine based on a 3- or 4- hour cycle (feeding, awake time, sleep) wasn't too different from the concept on which Tracy Hogg's Secrets of the Baby Whisperer is based.

Apparently the criticism is over Ezzo's advice to feed to a schedule (as opposed to demand feeding i.e. feed 'em when you think they're crying out of hunger); if that's the case, then I wonder why Hogg's book hasn't been criticized for exactly the same thing.

It was a little distracting that Ezzo kept mentioning church in the book (e.g. as something I'd want to make time for), and there's certainly an emphasis on getting babies to sleep through the night, but I was expecting to be scandalized. No scandals here.

I'm not doing that well in fighting the parenting books addiction, am I?


Amanda said...

I'm sorry if this is enabling you in your addiction but... since I'm a PBA myself I can't help but jump in...

Ezzo gets slammed not just because of the highly emotive "its child abuse to leave a baby to cry under any circumstances" school of parenting but also because (I believe) he advocates smacking. I might be wrong but I think at some point he mentions lightly swatting a 6 month baby for foolish behaviour at the table which is pretty unpleasant, if true, IMO.

I have seen Tracy Hogg slammed on the internet for her routines, believe it or not - by the same kind of overzealous judgemental mothers who think everyone who doesn't co-sleep and breast feed on demand till the child leaves home is a heartless, terrible parent- even though, from what I remember of the book, it was all very gentle and about finding the right balance for baby and mother. She also gets slammed a lot because she left her own daughters with her mother and grandmother in England to become a celebrity nanny in Los Angeles.

The 3-4 hourly routine thing predates her. Spock advocated it and I believe it used to be common practice in maternity hospitals at various times at least over the past 50 years or so (and possibly even before) which was quite rigidly enforced and which we are now (still) experiencing a backlash against.

But according to a book of domestic history I read awhile back there are at any given time usually two schools of parenting theory. One very permissive and the other pretty rigid and routine based. In reality most parents pick and mix between the two and find their own way somewhere in the middle.

Rainypete said...

Ive always got a kick out of the "What To Expect..." books. A truly fantastic book who's sole function seems to be to provide parents with so much information that every little thing looks like a terminal disease, and a trip to the hospital.
"No I'm telling you doctor!! I checked the book and I think she's got leprosy!"
"It's diaper rash sir, use this cream and quite coming here please."

Violet said...

mtnw: I must've missed the part in Ezzo's book about smacking. Frankly I have no problem with smacking as long as it's appropriate to the age and behaviour i.e. it's bad form to use electrical cords, four-by-twos and steep-capped boots ;-)

I like the 3- and 4- hourly routine; it's just too bad Baby doesn't.

rainypete: same thing happened with my breastfeeding book. So much was devoted to what could go wrong, that I was almost disappointed when it mostly went well.

TulipGirl said...

Gary Ezzo has no education or experience with normal infant growth and development. He touts his ideas as "common sense" but honestly, they are contradictory to a lot of what we know about infants. Growth, sleep, brain dev't. . . there's tons of research in these areas. Research Gary Ezzo hasn't bothered to read and is contradictory to what he recommends.

Some good resources for further reading are:

Violet said...

Tulipgirl: thanks, just what a PBA member needs - online parenting information !

TulipGirl said...

Ack! I'm enabling you!

Violet said...

tulip girl: I didn't realise there was so much organised anti-Ezzo information. I suppose for every popular childcare philosophy there are at least as many detractors as supporters.

TulipGirl said...

"I suppose for every popular childcare philosophy there are at least as many detractors as supporters."

*shrug* Maybe.

I think the critics of Gary Ezzo's teachings, however, tend to be vocal because he ignores a lot of facts on child development and breastfeeding, and so many babies have had problems.

That, and he also writes books for Christian parents--and then misuses the Bible. Christians don't like that.

Violet said...

tulip girl: I'm not by any means defending Ezzo's book over all those other books (e.g. Baby Whisperer or Gina Ford). I just thought they all seemed remarkably similar, yet Ezzo was getting more flak than the others. And you have to admit that all of these regimes have worked really well for lots of people.

The Skirt said...

Ohhh, seen this article?

Violet said...

Skirt: that's quite interesting; thanks for the link. Kitzinger comes across as more of an attachment parenting sort of person. I know her pregnancy books were a little off-putting because of the full-frontal childbirth photos in unexpected places.

Kathyt said...

Good point that Hogg hasn't been criticized to the extent of Ezzo -- one reason may be that Hogg did not put out a curriculum that was intended to be adopted by churches as Ezzo did. Ezzo's Christian curriculum took off like wildfire in the early 90's and health care professionals in the areas it was especially popular noticed an increase in failure to thrive and depressed babies. What made them sit up and take notice was that the parents would hesitate when the health care professionals told them the baby must be fed more often.

Parents do need to beware of any scheduled feeding approach including Hogg and Ford. The American Academy of Pediatrics wisely worded their response to Ezzo leaving off his name, recognizing that there have been schedulers before him, and there will be schedulers after him. According to the AAP, the best schedule is the one the baby sets himself.

A good article if you want to understand why a scheduled approach is intrinsically at cross-purposes with breastfeeding's exquisitely designed systems for regulating milk supply is found here:

Violet said...

kathyt: this has turned out to be quite a contentious topic hasn't it? I'll check out that link. Thanks.