The course, called "Preparation for Parenting", sprang from the pen of Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo, founders of the Chatsworth, California-based Growing Families International, a ministry devoted to parenting and child-care issues.
Ministry officials estimate more than 100,000 people are enrolled in one of the Ezzo courses at any one time in the U.S. About 2,500 have taken one in Manatee and Sarasota counties, and possibly hundreds, maybe thousands, more have received their books second-hand.
The Ezzos' courses are taught in 15 languages and 95 countries. About 40 local churches have taught one of their courses, ministry officials say.
And now, more than 10 years after the first course's debut, health care professionals -- from doctors to nurses to psychologists to child development experts -- trumpet dangers of the program.
"Following their advice is dangerous in the short- and long-term and may well result in infant death -- all in the name of teaching, which is inferred to be based on religious tenants" said Kathleen G. Auerbach of Ferndale Wash., who holds a Ph.D. in medical sociology and is co-author of Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, a 695-page textbook used to train health care professionals and an adjunct faculty member at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago.
Dr. William Sears, a California pediatrician, who along with his wife, is author of more than 20 books on infant care and child-rearing agrees: "I don't know of any experts who have anything good to say about this program. There are people who devote their lives to studying babies. They (the Ezzos) have never really studied babies. That is the first problem."
Sears, called "permissive" and "out of the mainstream" for his parenting views by the Ezzos, has company.