I’ve read sooooooo many books on parenting for the past few months. This is not gonna be an in-depth book review and frankly, there’s not too much point in specifically reviewing all these books.
My favourite so far, is The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-to-Be and Dummy: The Comedy and Chaos of Real-Life Parenting (but not the sequel, I feel like it’s probably trying a little too hard).
The latest which I’ve read is Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool by Emily Oster. It’s remarkably different from the typical parenting books (based on my own reading) simply because she is an actual professor of economics and actually utilising concrete data to validate or invalidate the wide range of baby advice you tend to come across from everywhere.
The book is great and new parents should definitely consider getting a copy but she does this condensed summary at the end of each chapter (‘The Bottom Line’) which I felt would be useful (mainly for myself) as a rehash for the upcoming period:
- Newborn baths early on are unnecessary, but not damaging. Tub baths are better than sponge baths.
- Circumcision has some small benefits and also carries some small risks. The choice is likely to come down largely to preference.
- Rooming in doesn’t have any compelling effects on breastfeeding outcomes either way. It is worth being careful about falling asleep with your infant if you choose to keep them with you at all times.
- Infant weight loss should be monitored and compared with expectations; you can do this yourself at www.newbornweight.org.
- Jaundice is monitored with a blood test and should be treated if outside the normal range; you can monitor this yourself at www.bilitool.org.
- Delayed cord clamping is likely recommended, especially if your baby is premature. Vitamin K supplements are a good idea. Eye antibiotics are likely unnecessary for most babies but are mandated in some states and have no known downsides.
- Swaddling has been shown to reduce crying and improve sleep. It is important to swaddle in a way that allows the baby to move its legs and hips.
- Colic is defined as excessive crying. It is self-limiting, meaning it will stop eventually. Changing formula or maternal diet, treatment with a probiotic, or both have shown some positive impacts.
- Collecting data on your baby is fun! But not necessary or especially useful.
- Exposing your infant to germs early on risks their getting sick, and the interventions for a feverish infant are aggressive and typically include a spinal tap. Limiting germ exposure may be a good idea, even if just to avoid these interventions.
- It takes time to recover from childbirth.
- Return to exercise depends a bit on your birth experience, but you can typically start within a week or two, and most women could be back to their pre-pregnancy routine by six weeks.
- There is no set waiting time for sex, although you should wait until you’re ready (and are on birth control if you’re not ready for another child).
- Postpartum depression (and related conditions) are common and treatable. Get help as soon as you need it.
- There are some health benefits to breastfeeding early on, although the evidence supporting them is more limited than is commonly stated.
- There are likely some long-term health benefits, related to breast cancer, for Mom.
- The data does not provide strong evidence for long-term health or cognitive benefits of breastfeeding for your child.
- Breastfeeding can be very hard!
- On early interventions:
- On latching:
- On pain:
- On nipple confusion:
- On milk supply:
- On pumping:
- There is good evidence that infants who sleep on their back are at lower risk for SIDS.
- There is moderate evidence that bed sharing is risky.
- There is some less-good evidence that room sharing is beneficial.
- In the crib:
- Sleeping on a sofa with an infant is extremely dangerous.
- There are some broad guidelines for sleep schedule.
- There is tremendous variability across children, which you mostly cannot control.
- The most consistent schedule feature is wake-up time between six and eight a.m.
- Earlier bedtime = longer sleep.
- Vaccinations are safe.
- Vaccines prevent children from getting sick.
- Babies benefit from their mothers taking some maternity leave. However, there is little evidence suggesting that having a stay-at-home parent after the parental leave period has either good or bad consequences for children.
- Decisions about whether to have a parent stay home should consider your preferences, along with consequences for your family budget in both the short and long term.
- Stop judging people!
- With any childcare arrangement, quality matters. For day care, in particular, you can use some simple tools to try to do your own quality evaluation.
- On average, more time in day care centres seems to be associated with slightly better cognitive outcomes and slightly worse behaviour outcomes.
- The positive effects of day care present more at older ages, the negative ones more at younger ages.
- Kids in day care get sick more, but develop more immunity.
- Parenting quality swamps childcare choices in its importance, so make sure you pick something that works for you as a parent as well.
- “Cry it out” methods are effective at encouraging nighttime sleep.
- There is evidence that using these methods improves outcomes for parents, including less depression and better general mental health.
- There is no evidence of long- or short-term harm to infants; if anything, there may be some evidence of short-term benefits.
- There is evidence of success for a wide variety of specific methods, and little to distinguish between them.
- Early exposure to allergens reduces incidences of food allergies.
- Kids take time to get used to new flavours, so it is valuable to keep trying a food even if they reject it at first, and early exposure to varying flavours increases acceptance.
- There is not much evidence behind the traditional food introduction recommendations: no need to do rice cereal first if you do not want to.
- Baby-led weaning doesn’t have magical properties (at least not based on what we know now), but there is also no reason not to do it if you want to.
- Vitamin D supplementation is reasonable, but don’t freak out about missing a day here and there.
- Delayed motor development can be a signal of more serious issues, the most common of which is cerebral palsy.
- Variation in motor development within the (very wide) normal range is not a cause for concern.
- There are many approaches to evaluating motor skills; your pediatrician is your best partner in doing so.
- Children get many, many colds – about one per month for the winter, at least until school age. Lotion tissues. Lots of lotion tissues.
- Your zero- to two-year-old cannot learn from TV.
- A three- to five-year-old can learn from TV.
- The evidence is sparse overall. When in doubt, use your “Bayesian priors” to complement the data.
- There are some standard tools to determine child vocabulary size, which you can use on your own. There are also some metrics you can improve.
- Girls develop language faster than boys, on average, although there is a lot of overlap across genders.
- The timing of language development does have some link with later outcomes — test scores, reading — but the predictive power is weak for any individual child.
- Age at toilet training has increased over time, very likely as a result of parents choosing to train later.
- Starting training earlier leads to earlier completion on average, although it takes generally longer; starting intensive training before twenty-seven months does not seem to lead to earlier completion.
- There is little evidence on the efficacy of child-led training versus more intensive, goal-oriented methods.
- Refusal to poop on the toilet is a common complication with some limited solutions.
- There are a variety of programs that have been shown to improve children’s behaviour. These focus on consistent rewards and punishments, and avoiding parental anger.
- Spanking has not been shown to improve behaviour and, indeed, has been associated with worse behaviour in the short term and even through adulthood.
- There is some support for the value of reading to your children starting in infancy.
- Your baby can not learn to read. Whether your two- or three-year old is unclear, but it would be very unusual for them to be a fluent reader.
- Evidence on the value of different preschool philosophies is limited.
- Marital satisfaction does decline, on average, after children.
- These declines are smaller and briefer if you’re happier before children, and if the kids are planned.
- Unequal division of labour and less sex probably do play some role, although it is hard to get a sense of how important these are.
- There is some small-scale evidence suggesting marital counselling and “marriage checkup” programs can improve happiness.
- The data doesn’t provide much guidance about the ideal number of children or birth interval between them.
- There may be some risks to very short intervals, including preterm birth and (possibly) higher rates of autism.
– You’ll bleed for several weeks.
– You may have vaginal tearing, which takes a few weeks to heal.
– A caesarean section is major abdominal surgery, and it will take significant time for you to be mobile again afterward.
– Skin-to-skin contract early on can improve likelihood of breastfeeding success.
– Nipple shields work for some women, although they can be hard to quit.
– There is very limited evidence that fixing a tongue tie or lip tie can improve nursing.
– Fixing a tongue tie can improve pain for Mom.
– There isn’t much evidence on how to fix nipple pain, but focusing on the latch may help.
– If you are still in pain a few minutes into a feeding, or a few weeks into nursing, get help; it could be an infection, which would be treatable, or some other problem with a solution.
– Not supported in the data.
– The majority of women will have their milk come in within three days after the baby’s birth, but for about a quarter, it will take longer.
– The biological feedback loop is compelling: nursing more should produce more supply.
– Evidence on the effectiveness of non-drug remedies (e.g., fenugreek) on supply is limited.
– It sucks.
– These risks are much higher if you or your partner smokes or drinks alcohol.
– The benefits to room sharing die out in the first few months.
– Infant and child sleep may be better if your child sleeps alone after the first few months.
– Wearable blanket: check!
– Bumpers: very small risk, although small benefits as well.
– Longer nighttime sleep develops around two months.
– Move to three regular naps around four months.
– Move to regular naps around nine months.
– Move to one regular naps around fifteen to eighteen months.
– Drop napping around age three.
– A very small share of people have allergic reactions, which are treatable.
– There are some extremely rare adverse events, most of which occur in immune-compromised children.
– The only more common risks are fever and febrile seizures, which are also rare and do not do long-term harm.
– There is no evidence of a link between vaccines and autism, and much evidence to refute such a link.
– The most important thing is consistency: choose a method you can stick with, and stick with it.
– It is worth paying attention to what they are watching.
– Examples include 1-2-3 Magic and the Incredible Years, among others.