On Becoming Babywise is a parenting book designed to get your baby on a schedule and sleeping through the night. Learn more about the Babywise method, including the pros and cons, and if it’s a good approach for you!
I heard so many horror stories about babies’ sleeping patterns (or lack thereof) and the constant sleep deprivation that new parents faced. I figured it was just a part of being a new parent and my time was coming.
And then I talked to my sister in law. She had two kids under the age of two and they were the best sleepers I knew. Her kids slept 7 pm to 7 am every night and had little or no sleep props.
Whenever I babysat her boys, they went to sleep easy and stayed asleep. I was intrigued about what magical voodoo she had done to her kids so they slept through the night and went down easy.
She told me she followed the Babywise method, based on the popular book. So when I got pregnant with Evelyn, I got the Babywise book and quickly started reading.
What is the Babywise Method?
The premise of Babywise is fairly simple and includes a few main components. Here’s a super brief summary:
- You follow an Eat Wake Sleep cycle. After your baby learns her days from nights and wakes up a little, you work on putting baby down awake so they learn to fall asleep on their own.
- Your baby takes full feeds. Since your baby isn’t falling asleep at the breast or bottle, or fed snack feeds throughout the day, she takes full feedings and fills her belly for a longer period, allowing your baby to sleep better.
- Parents pay attention to baby’s sleep cues, wake times, and naps, optimizing baby’s schedule and making changes when necessary.
- You might need to wake baby up to eat. Babywise parents throw the term never wake a sleeping baby out the window and often wake their baby to feed. There’s two reasons for this. You want your baby to get enough feeds during the day so they sleep longer at night and you want to give your baby the appropriate amount of daytime sleep so they are still tired at night. Twin moms are also really good at doing this to keep babies on the same schedule!
Following these patterns and schedules can lead to babies taking better naps, sleeping longer stretches at night, and having a predictable routine for the whole family to follow.
Pros & Cons of the Babywise Method
I had a love/hate relationship with the Babywise method. The concepts seemed so simple and I wanted it to work SO BADLY. But the way that the book is written makes it seem like doing things will just happen.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that babies have their own opinions and don’t always follow a formula.
I feel like the book should have a caveat that says: “babies are not robots. This book is a guide but remember that each baby is going to be a little bit different.” As a new mom, I needed a little more reassurance that things wouldn’t be so cut and dry with my baby’s sleeping routines.
Here are the main pros and cons that I found while following Babywise.
Pros of Babywise:
- Following the Babywise methods really can lead to your baby sleeping longer stretches at night. Evelyn slept about 8 hours a night at 11 weeks and 12 hours around 14 weeks. This means I was well rested and able to be a better mom and human overall.
- Babies learn to fall asleep independently and stay asleep. If they happen to wake up in the middle of the night after a certain age, they can put themselves back to sleep. I can count on one hand how many times Evelyn woke up crying in the middle of the night after once she started to sleep through the night.
- Parents have a predictable routine so they can make plans around their baby’s sleep schedule. There’s no guessing when your baby might or might not go to sleep (for the most part).
- Babies who are well rested will generally eat better and be less fussy throughout the day.
- Leaving your baby with a sitter or other caregiver can be really easy because they will know when to put them down for a nap, feed them, etc. My dad started watching Evelyn when she was 14 weeks old and he was amazed how she would go to sleep in her crib at the nap times I had laid out for him.
- We set up healthy sleep habits early on. This meant we never had to sleep train her! Sleep regressions were also pretty minimal (though they did still pop up!), and it was pretty easy to transition to a toddler bed when that time came.
Cons of Babywise:
- Implementing Babywise is a lot of work. The book makes it seem like it will be really easy, but it isn’t! You have to help establish healthy sleeping patterns in the beginning. Sometimes this means helping your baby fall asleep and sometimes it means changing their schedule so it works for them. There is a lot of troubleshooting and experimenting with wake times that goes into it.
- If you want to commit to having a predictable routine, then you revolve your day around your baby’s schedule. Evelyn napped at nearly the same time every day since she was three months old. So if people made plans around that time, I usually wouldn’t go. I protected those good naps, because I knew it meant a happier baby who would sleep better at night.
- I felt like the book was way too vague. It laid out this great idea and a really basic plan of how to achieve it. But, like I need SPECIFICS people! I had to read several other sleep books and piece things together on my own to really figure out how to go about implementing a schedule that worked for us.
- This could just be me, but when I read a book and it claims certain things can happen, then I expect those things to happen! Babywise says some babies can sleep 12 hours in 12 weeks, so when we weren’t there at 13 weeks, I felt like I was doing something wrong.
How Do I Follow Babywise?
After reading through those pros and cons, you might decide that Babywise is for you! If you want to follow it, I recommend getting the book, but also digging a little deeper.
The book will give you a general overview but I needed more guidance.
I’m sure some people figured out a Babywise schedule just fine on their own when they read the books, but I needed a little more direction and help.
This is why I created my Baby sleep schedule cheat sheets! After devouring multiple sleep books and becoming a baby and toddler sleep consultant I wanted an easy guide other parents could follow when putting their babies on a routine/schedule.
The cheat sheets give you exact schedules you can follow including wake times, nap length, and how to know when to make a transition.
When To Start Babywise
There’s no hard and fast rule for when to start implementing the concepts of Babywise. Newborns are so sleepy in the beginning, so it’s hard to start Babywise until they start to wake up more.
Babywise recommends ignoring the clock completely and feeding on demand for the first two to three weeks.
After that, you can start whenever you feel ready. Don’t feel rushed to start too early. You can start to implement the eat / wake / sleep cycles and add wake times and nap time from there.
Example Babywise Schedules
Last Words on Babywise
I feel like I should address the controversy around the book and my two cents on it. When I casually mentioned Babywise to friends, you would have thought I decided to put my baby in a corner and ignore her for all of time.
That was my first clue that there are a lot of opinions on parenting and sometimes it’s just better to keep quiet on the methods you choose.
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the Baby Wise book. I think it’s controversial for a few reasons:
- It encourages parents to put their babies on a feeding schedule. The book lays out an eat / wake / sleep cycle where your baby’s feeding times are spaced out. The idea is that they will take a whole feed, play a bit, and then sleep until their next feed.
The book says OVER AND OVER that if you think your baby is hungry, and it’s before their feeding time, then feed her! It NEVER says to ignore a hungry baby. It does seek for babies to be labeled as failure to thrive. I think people take the whole feeding schedule out of context. This also differs from feeding on demand, which is what attachment parenting teaches.
- It discusses crying babies. There is like one or two pages in the book that say something to the effect of, some babies will cry a little before settling down to sleep. It’s not the bulk of the book and you can still follow Babywise without ever doing cry it out.
We never left Evelyn to cry and still implemented Babywise. I think the book is trying to say, listen to your baby’s cries and determine if they are actually hungry, or if they are just really tired and fighting sleep. There are plenty of gentle sleep training methods you could do if you don’t want any crying involved when teaching your baby independent sleep.
Let me know if you do Baby wise or plan to do it with your baby! It is a lot of work but I think it’s worth it! Evelyn’s been sleeping 10 to 12 hours since she was 14 weeks old, which means we are all well rested and able to tackle the day!