Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Breasts Are A "Prop"?


In his book On Becoming Babywise, Gary Ezzo changes the meaning of a number of words to suit his purposes, in order to make his sleep-training program appear to be "natural" and "loving" and sensible.   Phrases  and words such as "training," "flexible schedule" and "parental guidance on new meanings in this twisted "Infant Management System."

In this post we will look at his strange use of the word "prop." Gary claims that a prop is something that interferes with his "natural way" of training a baby to sleep.

From On Becoming Babywise, 1998 Edition:

Sleep Props Hinder Continuous Nighttime Sleep

The typical infant has both the natural ability and the capacity to sleep through the night sometime within the first nine weeks of life. It is an acquired skill which is enhanced by routine...

Sleep cues are influenced (often negatively) by a variety of sleep association props. Some sleep props, such as a special blanket or a stuffed animal, are harmless, while others are addictive....

Let's examine three of the most common negative sleep props.

Intentionally nursing a baby to sleep
Rocking a baby to sleep
Sleeping with your baby (shared sleep)

Why choose a prop? Instead, confidently establish a basic routine to naturally and beautifully enhance restful sleep. Put your baby to bed while both of you are still awake. In this way, baby will establish longer and stronger sleep cycles than if placed in the crib already asleep. Besides, none of the sleep props listed above offer any healthy advantages,. Instead, carefully consider the long term negative effects of sleep props. Vow to avoid them now, and you avoid creating behaviours that later need retraining.

A quick search of provides a definition of the word "prop" when used as a noun:
- a stick, rod, pole, beam, or other rigid support.
- a person or thing serving as a support or stay: "His father is his financial prop."

Since nursing, rocking, or sleeping with a baby is not a rigid support, he must be refering to the second definition; serving as a support or stay. But rather than seeing these props as supporting sleep, Ezzo sees them as a hindrances to good sleep. Nursing, rocking, or sleeping with your baby are labeled negative sleep props.

Almost all parents - human and other mammalian - throughout the world and throughout history instinctively nurse and sleep with babies. It's what mammals do. Marsupial babies are rocked constantly with their mother's movements.

Ezzo says 'to naturally and beautifully enhance restful sleep' we must 'establish a basic routine' which involves imposing an unnatural (not occurring in Nature) schedule upon the baby. This requires a separate room, a clock and a crib, none of which occur in Nature.

Did you get that? The feeding schedule is what he considers "natural and beautiful" but the naturally occurring behaviour is called the "prop!"

The book's subtitle claims it to be "that natural way" to train babies to sleep through the night.

Nature ensures survival of mammals through close, nurturing relationships with their mothers, enhanced by lactation hormones. Ezzo's method denies human babies this natural  human relationship of nursing, rocking, and sleeping close by, labelling this behaviour "addictive," but he says finding comfort in an inanimate object "such as a special blanket or stuffed animal ... harmless."

Several other not-so-natural props are deemed necessary to raise a child naturally and beautifully:

pg 130 - "Start at one month of age with the playpen. A four-week-old baby can spend some waketime in an infant seat placed inside the playpen in view of a mobile. Also, allow the child to take a nap in the playpen once in a while."
pg 174 - "If a child is not comforted by the swing, an infant seat, sibling, grandma, or you, consider the crib. At least there he may fall asleep."
pg 188 - "For twentieth-century parents, the crib is one of the most basic pieces of baby furniture they will own. Give thought to the one you will buy or borrow. After all, nearly half of your child's existence for the first eighteen months of life will be spent in it."
pg 189 - "You will use the infant seat from day one and use it more than any other piece of equipment in the early weeks and months."
pg 190 - "Once parents have their infant's eating and sleeping patterns under control, it's time to do the same with waketime activities. This goal is best accomplished by using the playpen, an invaluable piece of equipment."

Notice that last entry. Read it again. What is the parent's goal?
Is that your goal?
When you first thought about becoming a parent, what was your goal?

 To read about some other creative use of terminology, read Adventures in Ezzoland, written by a former employee of Gary Ezzo, here.
 Or have a look at the Ezzospeak Dictionary here.


  1. Oh brother, he really knows nothing at all. I have never used a crib, playpen or swing. The infant seat has only been used in the car and one of those bouncy seats only periodically with my youngest when I am in the shower. Ha, I will stick to me! They are happier and more secure and independent because I didn't substitute human contact with artificial 'props'.

  2. According to him the parent's goal is to have the baby become unattached and independent as quickly as possible. Though it seems more like a recipe for alienation than anything else.

  3. He calls the nurturing,soothing behaviours addictive, and the cry-it-out clock-feeding method beautiful and natural. He says the infant seat and crib are the places baby will spend most of his early years, and calls breastfeeding a prop.

    "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" Isaiah 5:20

  4. I enjoyed reading this article. PLease continue publishing helpful topics like this. Regards, from beddingstock