Cribsheet by Emily Oster
From the author of EXPECTING BETTER, an economist’s guide to the early years of parenting
With EXPECTING BETTER, award-winning economist Emily Oster spotted a need in the pregnancy market for advice that gave women the information they needed to make the best decision for their own pregnancies. By digging into the data, Oster found that much of the conventional pregnancy wisdom was wrong. In CRIBSHEET, she now tackles an even great challenge: decision making in the early years of parenting.
As any new parent knows, there is an abundance of often-conflicting advice hurled at you from doctors, family, friends, and the internet. From the earliest days, parents get the message that they must make certain choices around feeding, sleep, and schedule or all will be lost. There’s a rule–or three–for everything. But the benefits of these choices can be overstated, and the tradeoffs can be profound. How do you make your own best decision?
It’s no surprise that being a new parent comes with a lot of new anxieties. After all, you’re responsible for this brand new life! Who thought it was a good idea to let you take this helpless baby home from the hospital? As my OB put it, it feels illegal that they just let you take a baby home from the hospital without even asking you if you know what you’re doing!
As an already very anxious person, I can’t say I was particularly surprised when I spent my son’s first six weeks worrying about literally everything. Was he gaining enough weight? Was he crying too much? Was he sleeping enough? It felt like everything was wrong all the time, and then I logged onto Twitter and saw another new mom tweet pretty much the same thing. One reply recommended this book, and so here we are.
The biggest thing I can say about this book is that it’s very easy to read. For a book that’s about breaking down data and research studies, I think that’s huge. This book doesn’t feel like nonfiction. It feels more like sitting down with your really knowledgeable friend and having them tell you, in a very non-biased way, all the pros and cons of a decision. It covers everything from rooming in at the hospital to sleep issues to potty training. About 75% of the book was relevant to me as a brand new mom, with a few chapters at the end that didn’t quite apply yet (but were nice to think about for the future).
This is not a book of parenting advice. It will not tell you whether you should sleep train or if you should breastfeed or formula feed. What it will tell you is whether the data says that sleep training works and whether it shows any long-lasting damage from letting your child cry it out while sleep training. It will tell you what the data says about the implications of formula vs. breast milk and if there’s any measurable difference in children over time. The author will also tell you about her personal experience with the decisions she made with her two children.
This book made me feel a lot better because, spoiler alert: turns out there’s not much you can accidentally do to screw up your kid. Every decision has its positives and negatives, and you can just do the best you can with the information you have. If you’re struggling with new parenthood, I’d recommend giving this book a try.
Have you read Cribsheet? What’s the best nonfiction book you’ve read recently?
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