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Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool Paperback – April 21, 2020
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“Both refreshing and useful. With so many parenting theories driving us all a bit batty, this is the type of book that we need to help calm things down.”—LA Times
"The book is jampacked with information, but it’s also a delightful read because Oster is such a good writer." —NPR
“Many parents will likely find reading it a huge relief from the scare stories that seem to pop up everywhere these days. The author, economist Emily Oster, burst into the parent-lit world with her 2013 hit Expecting Better which remains required reading for a certain set of pregnant parents. Oster repeats her ingeniously simple formula with Cribsheet: taking conventional wisdom and diving into the research behind it, often showing that “the studies” are thin or nonexistent, or their findings that have been overstated . . . Cribsheet is not another call for the end of helicopter parenting or snowplow parenting or whatever kind of parenting is lighting up social media today, and it’s not a call to overthrow medical wisdom; it’s a call for parenting with context, and it’s freeing.” — The Washington Post
“The perfect read for anybody worried about the myriad of decisions that surround raising young kids. Oster, an economics professor whose work focuses on health, analyzes the data on issues such as breastfeeding, sleep training, allergies, and daycare to bust myths and, ultimately, dispel the guilt many new parents are prone to feeling. Why we love it: it offers the reassurance to parent in a way that suits *you* (and not the mom next door).” — Motherwell.com
“In my household, [Emily Oster] is the all-knowing Aunt we have never met. Parenting would be a lot more stressful without these books.”—Adam Ozimek, Forbes
“Emily Oster, an economist at Brown University who focuses on health economics, has set out to make these decisions a little easier for parents by arming them with data and a healthy understanding of the principles of economics-driven decision-making. Her 2013 book, Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong and What You Really Need to Know, has become something like a bible that gets tattered as it’s passed from friend to pregnant friend. In it, she offers digestible conclusions from reliable research and debunks myths on everything from alcohol and caffeine consumption to exercise and bed rest. Her new book, Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, From Birth to Preschool, takes a similar approach with the first three years following birth. Oster’s aim is not to provide the answer to parents’ questions about breastfeeding, circumcision, sleep and childcare. Instead, she argues that there is often more than one right answer, and it falls somewhere in between what the data says and what works for each family’s unique circumstances.” – Time
“‘This book will not tell you what decisions to make for your kids,’ Oster writes in Cribsheet. ‘Instead, I’ll try to give you the necessary inputs and a bit of a decision framework. The data is the same for us all, but the decisions are yours alone.’ Smart, relatable, and funny, Oster makes good on that promise while drawing on her own experience for anecdotes. She tackles all the major issues, including circumcision, potty training, marital health with kids, and when to conceive your next child. Clearly defined chapters make it easy to pick up the book and cram about any issue.” – Bloomberg.com
“After reading Cribsheet, parents will come away feeling much more informed and less likely to turn to Google, friends and family only to receive conflicting advice.” — CNBC
“With practical and useful advice backed with expert references, this book will give you the tools you need to tackle some of the biggest decisions you’ll make when raising your child from birth to preschool.”—Minnesota Monthly
“Parents new and old will find reassurance in this commonsense approach.” — Publishers Weekly
“Parents who find comfort in statistics, and especially those who enjoy Malcolm Gladwell’s works, will appreciate [CRIBSHEET]” — Booklist
Praise for Expecting Better:
“Gives moms-to-be a big helping of peace of mind!”—Harvey Karp M.D., bestselling author of The Happiest Baby on the Block
"A revelation for curious mothers-to-be whose doctors fail to lay out the pros and cons of that morning latte, let alone discuss real science. And it makes for valuable homework before those harried ob-gyn appointments, even for lucky patients whose doctors are able to talk about the rationale behind their advice."—New York Times
“Emily Oster is the non-judgmental girlfriend holding our hand and guiding us through pregnancy and motherhood. She has done the work to get us the hard facts in a soft, understandable way"—Amy Schumer
"A book... that pregnant women won't want to miss."—Parents Magazine
"Oster's advice cuts through the emotion, myth, fear of malpractice litigation and looks at the numbers. A mother herself, Oster's interest isn't just curiosity, it's the same thing that motivates every new mom... and Oster's ability to break down the data into informed analysis is a refreshing break from the hysterical hearsay that often dominates the conversation."—Babyzone
"It took someone as smart as Emily Oster to make it all this simple. She cuts through the thicket of anxiety and received wisdom, and gives us the facts. Expecting Better is both enlightening and calming. It almost makes me want to get pregnant."—Pamela Druckerman, New York Times bestselling author of Bringing Up Bébé
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The big takeaway, then, is "just do you" - with a few caveats: please vaccinate, do not spank your children.
My one criticism is toward the parts that were not grounded in data. The postpartum recovery section seemed to be based on personal experience and anecdotes, and repeated some potentially harmful myths (e.g. about how "capacious" one's vagina is after childbirth). These are admittedly more medical questions than the others dealt with in the book, but I would have liked this section too to be more in the spirit of a critical view of existing evidence. Similarly, the how-to section on breastfeeding strayed too much into the realm of personal experience and unscientific sampling of anecdotes.
Overall, though, this is a really wonderful book and I plan on getting it for all future baby showers.
This is why we needed Emily Oster’s book. Her pregnancy book Expecting Better was like a guidebook for me during pregnancy, and although I had to wait 2 years for this parenting book, it was definitely worth the wait. Oster simply outlines the research behind many of the big parenting decisions, including how and what to feed our children, vaccinations, discipline, education, screen time and potty training. Just like in Expecting Better, she doesn’t give advice but simply outlines the research, allowing the reader to use that information to guide their own decision making.
As a mom, I’ve loved reading about which decisions don’t really seem to matter much in the long run, and which I should take a little more seriously. This book helps me feel like an informed parent, which allows me to feel more confident as a mother.
But my favorite part of this book is that in almost every chapter, Oster doesn’t just discuss how parenting decisions affect the children, but the parents as well. Almost all parenting advice that you read only talks about the children, but what about us? We are also impacted by our parenting choices, and we should consider our own well- being when making any decisions about our family. I hope that this sparks a new trend in parenting advice, where parents are allowed to think about themselves also.
As in Expecting Better, Cribsheet discusses one topic at a time, summarizing the available research and suggesting some factors to consider in personal decision making. It isn't about telling you what you should do, more of a guide to how to go about making your decisions. Although it does generally explain things like percentiles, study design, etc, people with at least a little background and interest in statistics/research methods may enjoy it more, but I don't think it ever gets too technical. Discussions about pregnancy and parenting are far too commonly dominated by conflicting assertions backed up with an unholy amalgam of anecdotes, judgement, pseudoscience, and cherry picking. A book like this, which tells the reader what we actually know (and what we actually don't) hopefully helps parents to feel confident making informed decisions based on what's right for their family.
Top international reviews
I would give a high rating, but the Kindle version is lacking all graphs and lists. The text frequently refers to the graphs, which makes for a very frustrating read!
I felt some of the chapters, like on development, language, and use of TV/ipad were a bit thin, and not as fleshed out as they could be, but maybe that is because the evidence in these areas really is inconclusive. But it would have been nice to have more to say, or to delve into the data a bit deeper to address additional questions (eg, the often claimed suggestion that kids who grow up with more than one language in the home, have other advantages in their development or learning process).
The final chapters, on the relationships between parents, and how the adults adjust to becoming parents, was really interesting because so few books on parenting, ironically, actually address this. I felt this was really useful and prescient, and actually validating in a lot of ways. Being a parent can be very stressful at times, and it's nice to have someone (an academic "someone") recognise there is real objective data that marital relationships do, on average, suffer when two people have kids. But there are ways to help things, and it does get better (mainly).
All in all, I feel this is *not* a how-to manual at all, nor some kind of treatise on parenting philosophy (as so many of these books are), but rather a book that really takes the heat out of parenting - it tells you that there are many different ways to be a great and loving parent. Headlines abound in the media telling us how new scientific studies have "proven" that those of us who didn't choose X, or Y, or Z, have ended up failing our kids, but this book tells us that this really isn't so (or isn't proven to be so): it's about understanding your options, and what is right for your family in your circumstances.
The main disadvantage of this book for the UK audience is that child-birth in the USA has very different practises to the good old NHS, and the very first chapter in the book - on circumcision! - seems weird and alien, as do the commentaries on practises in US maternity hospitals. Once past that first chapter, though, the focus moves to universal questions which are handled with a direct reference to the evidence and academic lifetime. A useful book and a breath of fresh air. Someone should write a British version!
While I agree with other reviews which state some available studies on topics are not mentioned (it wouldn’t be a great or helpful read if every one was), I do think the author has a fair approach to all evidence. She regularly concludes that there isn’t enough evidence to definitively state something. But that’s a benefit to the reader.
This book does not scaremonger all the potential terrible consequences of parenting decisions when there isn’t available evidence. It’s not about ‘expert’ opinion that can’t be backed by science. It’s not a child psychology textbook.
This book is about enabling you to make the best decisions for your family based on the best available knowledge.
...and it’s really interesting!
Particularly goodnight you’re facing parenthood for the first time.