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Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo

Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo, the founders of Growing Families International (GFI) and the authors of many books/parenting manuals such as Growing Kids God's Way, Preparation for Parenting, and On Becoming Babywise I & II, offer parenting advice that provides parents with a plan whereby they can control their baby's sleep and feeding habits from a very early age. This plan works with all babies (or so they say), and with their program both parents and babies will be more rested and content.

Sound too good to be true? Take a look and see for yourself...

The Ezzos' parenting philosophy as it pertains to infants centers around their belief that children should be fed on a parent-directed feeding schedule, or "PDF." They add to that the teaching that things should be done in a certain order; that order being feeding, waketime, and then sleep. They ridicule those who "demand-feed" their babies, and they don't appear to be all that concerned with the cries of a newborn. New mothers who hear their baby cry natually feel compelled to answer, but the Ezzos feel that to respond with your emotions is wrong.

God gives mothers a mothering instinct. If her baby cries, her baby is showing her he is in trouble. Crying is a baby's survival mechanism. He needs help. For the mother to make an immediate move to pick up her baby is not wrong. Often a mother's milk lets down in response to her baby's cry. A mother's desire to cuddle and feed her baby in response to his cries is part of God's plan. God has given new moms a special desire to nurture and protect their baby. In fact, the "mothering hormones," prolactin and oxytocin--hormones released while breastfeeding--promote the desire to nurture and protect.

Many experts--psychological, medical, and child development experts to name a few--and many parents (those who are the real expert on their own children) disagree vehemently with the Ezzos' theories on parenting and feel that a baby cries for a reason--he is trying to communicate a need, and his cries should be responded to promptly.

This emphasis on feeding a baby when the parents think it's time rather than following their baby's cues can be dangerous for breastfed babies and have a negative impact on the breastfeeding relationship. The American Academy of Pediatrics' policy on Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk states, "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."

Many of the Ezzos' teachings are in direct contrast to a style of parenting known as attachment parenting. In fact, they wrongly teach that attachment parenting is incompatable with Christianity. On the other hand, the Ezzos claim that their way is the Biblical way (or "God's Way") and unsuccessfully try to back their claims up with proof texts from the Bible. More and more Christians are voicing their concerns about some of the Ezzos' teachings, and many believe that the Ezzos use faulty theology and even have cult-like tendencies.
(See the following links for more information:

  • Grace Community Church Explains Why They No Longer Use Any GFI Materials
  • Focus on the Family's View of the Ezzos' Materials on Parenting
  • Growing Criticism: Groups Back Away from Preparation for Parenting
  • CRI Examines GFI's Troubling Response to Criticism)

    Attachment parenting is a high-touch style of parenting which encourages parents to listen to their heart/instincts and to their baby's cues. In attachment parenting, one of the goals is to help the parent and child build a stronge attachment with one another. From this secure, loving, trusting relationship a child will be able to grow into healthy independence as he becomes ready, or as Dr. Sears--the Christian man who coined the term "attachment parenting"--explains, "A child must go through a stage of healthy dependence in order to become securely independent later."

    Attachment parenting advocates know of the importance of touch to an infant's well-being. Being close to his mommy helps him feel secure, helps mother and child bond to one another, and helps baby reach his potential. Also, when a mother responds to her baby's cues, her baby grows to trust her, and their sensitivity and attachment to one another is enhanced. These beliefs lead many parents who follow attachment parenting to wear their baby in a cloth carrier, share sleep as a family, nurse on cue, and respond promptly to their baby's cries.

    As mentioned before, these beliefs are very different from what the Ezzos teach. For instance, the Ezzos warn parents that a baby can be held too much; advocates of attachment parenting encourage parents to hold their baby a lot--perhaps to wear their baby in a cloth carrier a few hours a day or even all day if possible. The Ezzos believe that structured "playpen time" is essential to proper development of babies, whereas, advocates of attachment parenting wouldn't necessarily see the need for a playpen and many would feel a baby's development is heightened when he is worn on his mommy's body where he can observe and participate in her daily activites.

    Both attachment parenting and the Ezzos' "detachment" parenting agree that the way you parent your baby has long term effects, but each style of parenting draws dramatically different conclusions. Attachment parenting approaches parenting from an angle that stresses the need to follow your baby's cues--that he will be your teacher if you let him--and that his needs and desires are the same. Advocates of attachment parenting feel that this gives babies the best opportunity to reach their full potential and to become caring, loving adults. Conversly, the Ezzos feel that the parents should be in control. They think demand-feeding creates a fussy, demanding baby who will cause the parents sorrow and stress and will grow up to be a disgrace. Proponents of attachment parenting fear that babies parented in a detached-style of parenting will have trouble learning to trust and will grow up unable to relate well to other people.

    Some parents express the belief that the Ezzos' program is fine if used with common sense. I feel, though, that following the Ezzos' teachings can cause parents to loose much of their sensitivity toward their children, and as a result they become blind to many of their children's needs. Also, the Ezzos seem to try to create guilt and fear in those parents who do not follow their program to the letter by saying that if you don't follow it correctly, then it won't work right. This attitude pushes some parents to disregard common sense, and they take the program too far and endanger not only their relationship with their children and their child's mental well-being, but also their health. (See In God's hands: Christian-based parenting may endanger some infants by Kelly Griffith)

    Parents, listen to your baby and listen to your God-given instincts. Babies are not inconveniences to be scheduled into our lives. They are precious gifts from God to be enjoyed and taken care of with an attitude of servanthood. Allow your baby to become an integral part of your life, and you will be blessed a million times over. God chose you to be the parents for your child, and He has uniquely equipped you with the tools to do so in a successful and godly manner. Read the Bible and pray to Him, and He will guide you.


    More Links

    * And the Bible Sayeth, "Train up a Child in the Way He Should Go" So many religious "experts" now offer inflexible childrearing advice. But can any of us truly know Godís will? And which do you trust, your teacher or your heart? A primer on Christian parenting By Dr. William Sears

    * Concerns About the Ezzos' Preparation for Parenting Class--Addresses concerns such as schedule feeding and the idea that the Ezzos' teach "the" Christian way to parent; contains many references for those who want to do more research on the WWW. This page is by Steve Rein, the list coordinator of the e-mail list PAM--Parenting as Ministry.

    * Family Issues--Articles and links to online resources about parenting; has many wonderful articles by Rebecca Prewett on raising children.

    * A Review and Commentary of Preparation for Parenting An infant management program developed by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo by Heidi Bingham

    * The Ezzo Discussion A discussion board.

    * The Faulty Theology of the Ezzos by Mary P. Walker; also see her website Breastfeeding and Christian Parenting

    * An Analysis of BabyWise John Kippley critiques the principles and scriptural basis for Gary Ezzo's popular, but ultimately imprudent, methods for early child rearing.

    * Wisdom of `Babywise' child-rearing method questioned by Hanna Rosin

    * Getting Wise to Babywise by Katie Allison Granju

    See also Breastfeeding in the Bible Verses in the Bible which mention breastfeeding; also, Christian breastfeeding links.


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