Cribsheet by Emily Oster Book Summary
Cribsheet, A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool by Emily Oster
From the moment your baby arrives, you face big decisions. You want to do what’s best, but advice from family, friends, experts and the internet often conflicts. Economist Emily Oster combed through hundreds of studies on early parenting and identified which produced the most reliable results. She debunks parenting myths and uncovers misinformation you can discard. Armed with trustworthy data, Oster helps you choose what works best for your family and your baby.
- Solid data and a framework for decision-making enable you to choose what is right for your family.
- Knowing what to expect and worthy planning before giving birth will help you navigate the early days with your baby.
- Crying babies and hormone surges can affect a mother for weeks or months, but help is available.
- Myths and misinformation about breastfeeding complicate the breast-versus-bottle decision.
- Suden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and sleep training are two of the most emotionally fraught subjects that new parents face.
- Don’t hesitate – vaccinate!
- One of the most emotionally laden parenting decisions is whether to stay at home or return to work after having a child.
- Guidelines for feeding your baby solid foods are clear and straightforward.
- Physical milestones and language development receive undue emphasis. Normal development spans a wide range.
Cribsheet Book Summary
Solid data and a framework for decision-making enable you to choose what is right for your family.
From the moment you give birth, you face endless decisions about your baby’s best care. When you seek advice, everyone has a different opinion. The internet causes more confusion than it offers valuable help, and so-called experts conflict. The research-based information that follows indicates what the data say about common issues in the early years of parenting.
“You and I may see the data and make different decisions, but we should both come to the data as the first step. ”
Solid, reliable research analyzes the effects of one factor when all other factors remain constant. Randomized, controlled trials compare a “treated” group to a “control” group. Observational studies compare one group to another without controlling all variables. Case-control studies gather data on a specific group – say, children who read early – to ascertain what factors contribute to that behavior. In general, these studies prove less reliable than the others. Anecdotal evidence refers to one experience or the things people say, such as, “My friend breastfed her six kids, and they all went to Harvard!” As statisticians are quick to note, “Anecdote is not data.”
Knowing what to expect and worthy planning before giving birth will help you navigate the early days with your baby.
Having an idea of what to expect in the first days and weeks after giving birth is helpful. If you have a baby boy, for example, you must decide if you’d like him circumcised at the hospital. If your religion traditionally circumcises, the decision is easier. Like any surgery, circumcision carries a small risk, but complications are rare. Studies show some health benefits to circumcision, such as lower incidences of HIV, STIs and urinary tract infections. As with risks, the quantifiable benefits are low. Your choice comes down to preference.
“Like all other things in parenting, there is no perfect set of choices for everyone. There is a right set of choices for you, taking into account your preferences and your constraints. ”
The medical staff will monitor the baby’s weight and look for signs of jaundice. Babies commonly lose weight after birth. Doctors check weight to detect problems such as dehydration. If your baby loses more weight than average, your physician might recommend supplementing breastfeeding with bottle-feeding. Supplementing for a few days does not negatively affect breastfeeding. Half of newborns show signs of jaundice. Their immature livers can’t break down red blood cells. Serious risks are extremely rare. Most often, jaundice resolves as the baby matures.
Learn in advance what to expect about a new mom’s physical recovery from childbirth. Vaginal tearing is common, although only 1% to 5% of women delivering vaginally experience serious tears. Recovery takes time, and normal functions of elimination can hurt. A Caesarean section is major abdominal surgery. Any activity using stomach muscles may be painful, and you’ll need help with bathing, dressing and going to the bathroom.
Maternity nurses will send your baby home in a tight swaddle. Velcro swaddles make replicating that easier. Swaddling calms babies and helps them sleep because it limits arousal. Concerns about swaddling leading to increased incidents of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) are unfounded. Putting babies to sleep on their back is the best way to lessen the risk of SIDS.
Crying babies and hormone surges can affect a mother for weeks or months, but help is available.
New babies cry a lot, especially in the evenings. You may think your baby has colic, but only 9% of infants manifest all the symptoms of colic, primarily “excessive crying.” Understand that it’s not your fault, and that your baby is okay. Crying will lessen and go away, usually when the baby is around three months old.
When to exercise or to have sex after childbirth? Most women can resume their regular exercise activities around six weeks after delivery, but heed your body. Exercising helps alleviate postpartum depression, which, like anxiety, is common. The hormone surge affecting your mood will decrease in the weeks after delivery, but postpartum mental conditions can persist for months. Ask your doctor for help, and don’t blame yourself or suffer in isolation.
It’s commonly believed you need to wait six weeks after delivery to have sex, but that doesn’t derive from research. If you suffered perineum tearing, wait until it heals. Intercourse may be painful at first. If pain persists long after childbirth, consult your doctor. Many treatments, such as physical therapy, can help.
Myths and misinformation about breastfeeding complicate the breast-versus-bottle decision.
Public health officials, doctors, nurses, your family and fellow moms will tell you that breastfed babies have higher immunity and a higher IQ. They’ll tell you the mother will lose weight and get free birth control. Finding research to back these claims is difficult. If women have better resources and more education than mothers who don’t nurse, their babies’ outcomes are likely to be better, independent of breastfeeding. No clear causal relationship exists between breastfeeding and benefits.
“Before the baby, you’re a vessel to be cherished and protected. After the baby, you’re a lactation-oriented baby accessory. ”
Random trials and observational studies link breastfeeding with a small reduction in gastrointestinal infections and skin rashes, but not with a reduction in other childhood illnesses. Studies don’t provide evidence of long-term health benefits in weight, asthma or intelligence. Breastfeeding moms do enjoy a 20% to 30% drop in the risk of breast cancer. However, if you choose not to breastfeed, your baby will be fine.
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and sleep training are two of the most emotionally fraught subjects that new parents face.
The most widespread cause of infant mortality in the first year of life is sudden infant death syndrome. Its specific causes remain unknown. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends four preventive steps: Babies should “sleep on their back, alone in the crib, in their parents’ room, with nothing soft around.”
In the early 1990s, studies showed an increase in SIDS for babies sleeping on their stomachs or with blankets. The second recommendation, that babies sleep alone in their cribs, is more controversial. Co-sleeping is popular, despite concerns that a sleeping parent may accidentally smother the baby. Risks of bed sharing are greatest when the adult has been smoking or drinking. Never fall asleep on the couch with your baby. Death rates of sofa co-sleeping are significantly higher than the standard risk.
“Parenting recommendations change over time, but perhaps nothing has changed more from our childhood to the current era than recommendations for sleep. ”
The AAP suggests rooming with your baby for the first six to 12 months to remain vigilant against SIDS. Because the likelihood of SIDS drops significantly after four months, this suggestion might be extreme. Babies sleep better and develop better sleeping patterns in the long term in a separate room. Your baby may wake several times a night at four, six and even eight months. Experts offer various solutions, and many sleep-method books are available.
Most, including the popular Ferber method, advocate some form of “cry it out.” Let the baby cry, checking in at intervals, until he or she learns to self-settle. Sleep training benefits parents. Better-rested moms suffer less depression and stress. Opponents of crying it out believe not responding to your baby’s cries has a negative effect. But sleep-trained infants are more secure and less fussy following the behavior management. Sleep training works best when parents stick with a consistent plan.
Don’t hesitate – vaccinate!
Despite the debate around vaccinating children, the science is clear: Vaccinations are safe, and they prevent illness and death. Complications, such as allergic reactions, are rare. Vaccinations for life-threatening diseases such as whooping cough, polio and smallpox have saved millions of lives.
“Vaccinations are among the most significant public health triumphs of the past hundred years.”
The recent resistance began in 1998 when Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a paper linking vaccinations with autism. The scientific and medical community quickly discredited his paper, and Wakefield lost his medical license. Websites against vaccination continue to disseminate false information and questionable science. All reputable medical associations support vaccinations for children, recommendations that they base on a large body of evidence and research.
One of the most emotionally laden parenting decisions is whether to stay at home or return to work after having a child.
Most families don’t have a choice about returning to work because they need dual incomes. If you can choose, consider what is best for your child. While some maternal and paternal leave is beneficial, children in working households show no short- or long-term ill effects. Some people yearn to spend time with their baby, while others find fulfillment in work. Consider what proves best for every member of the family. Take an objective look at the budget. Does the cost of child care negate most of your salary? Calculate whether you would be happier with a financial cushion or with more time at home.
“Parenting quality swamps child care choices in its importance, so make sure you pick something that works for you as a parent as well. ”
If you and your spouse are returning to work after parental leave, pick a child care option: center-based or home day care, a nanny, a family member pitching in, or a combination. Children in day care enjoy slightly better long-term cognitive advantages and demonstrate marginally worse short-term behavior. The higher the quality of care, the better the outcomes. The most important metric is how caretakers interact with the children. Centers must be safe and clean, the children must have room to play and activities to enjoy, and care providers must be qualified, responsive and loving.
Guidelines for feeding your baby solid foods are clear and straightforward.
A randomized, controlled trial by allergy researcher Gideon Lack and his team changed medical recommendations on early exposure to peanuts. Lack found that introducing peanuts early in life reduces the likelihood of developing a peanut allergy. Most Western parents follow the AAP’s recommendations for introducing foods. Between four and six months, start with a rice or oatmeal baby cereal. Next, introduce a fruit and vegetable every three days, one at a time, following with meat a month later.
When babies can pick up food, introduce puffed cereal or Cheerios and phase out pureed food. Offering foods one at a time helps you watch for allergic reactions. Some children are allergic to milk, peanuts, eggs, soy, wheat, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. Offer a wide variety of foods several times. Don’t resort to bribes or threats, and don’t offer something else if your child refuses the first food.
Physical milestones and language development receive undue emphasis. Normal development spans a wide range.
New parents tend to emphasize the timing of their baby’s firsts, such as rolling over, sitting, crawling and walking. Stated milestones are simply averages with a wide distribution that’s normal. For example, your child may walk at eight months or at 15 months, and pediatricians consider both typical. Pediatricians look for delays well outside the normal distribution that may indicate a serious problem, such as cerebral palsy or, more rarely, a progressive neurological disease. Parents worry that their child gets sick too often. Preschool-age children get six to eight colds per year, so it may seem their noses are always running.
Your child’s first words mark a major milestone and provide a glimpse of the person he or she is becoming. It’s natural to compare your child’s language skills with others and worry about any apparent lags. The vocabulary range of two-year-olds is 75 to 550 words. In general, boys’ language skills develop more slowly than girls’. Early talking doesn’t correlate with later achievement, and late talkers fall well within normal ranges as they mature.
About the Author
Professor of economics at Brown University and mother of two Emily Oster also wrote Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong – and What You Really Need to Know.