Does a new curriculum for families build up the parent-child relationship, or put infants at risk?

Medical professionals around the country are sharply questioning a new Christian education curriculum, Preparation for Parenting, which is suspected of contributing to inadequate weight gain in some newborn infants.

On the market since 1987, the curriculum has gained a significant foothold in churches. The authors, Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo, estimate that about 500 churches in the United States are currently using their program and nearly 40,000 copies of the manual were sold in 1992. A Northridge, California-based firm, Growing Families International (GFI), distributes the Ezzos’ curriculum and sponsors their radio program, airing at least monthly on about 90 radio stations across the country.

Yet, the marketing success of Preparation for Parenting has not come without controversy. Some physicians and nurses are concerned that the rigidity of the feeding program the Ezzos’ advocate may put some newborn infants at risk of inadequate weight gain, especially in the first weeks after birth. In addition, the program has caused strong disagreements in a few churches, leading at least one to drop the Preparation for Parenting program.

The Ezzos wrote Preparation for Parenting to teach parents how to use “a biblical mindset” in raising children from infancy. “Working from a biblical mindset,” they say, “automatically assumes a routine that leads to order.”

The Ezzos say putting babies on a “parent-controlled” feeding schedule is a major part of establishing that order. They are strongly critical of “demand feeding,” the idea that newborn infants should be fed when they signal readiness.

The Preparation for Parenting manual, which sells with ...

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