The science of parenting


Looks good! Is there something equivalent geared toward parents of toddlers?


Thanks, excellent linkage!

(In before ‘OMG that newborn is on her belly! AND with a pillow!’)

We had some success with the 5 S’s for soothing little whatzit, but really we think that the deck of chance dealt us a pretty calm baby, so we don’t think we actually had anything to do with it. We have friends who are probably just as good/better parents, who have a fussy baby who won’t sleep. So it goes.

I have always agreed with the idea that the biggest problem with these books is that they insinuate that if your baby isn’t sleeping well then it’s because something you are doing or not doing. You’re at fault, you bad parent.


I’m going to actively seek out more sites like this I think, esp debunking. I always operate on the premise that no one system/trick/etc will work on any child, because doing so is a system that has not failed me.

I know many optimistic, or challenged, or overcome parents that are regularly taken in by parenting guru books/blogs, which usually also feature photographic evidence of children that are obviously perfect, doubtless due to the superior ability & systems of the writer.

Too often the optimistic suddenly doubt themselves, the challenged start to think of themselves as defeated & the overcome feel they are hopeless cases, themselves or their children, when whatever magic bean advice they glean fails them.

I tell them what I see when I read these things, what I hope they’ll see.

Sometimes the advice is bad, sometimes it’s okay or good, but almost always appears in such an idealized form that every word should be taken with a bucket of salt, because we’re only supposed to strive to reach ideals, we are never intended to achieve them in these matters.

& I take issue with the presenters that confidently tell parents what is possible by describing perfection, then couching it in terms that leads the parents to believe they achieved it, followed by a picture of a picture perfect kiddo.

Thankfully there are getting to be more & more “real mommy” blogs, ones that contain more of the poop & less of the paradise. IMO the weary, cynical crazy mom blogs are far more realistic. & always funnier too.

There’s nothing wrong with making something look easy, some people respond well to it. But the more complex the subject matter… still easy?

I see the same thing with self-help stuff, lately there have been revelatory books about just how fucked up (read as real) the people who wrote/write them often are. But they chose to present as perfect & people suffered for it.


I have two boys.

One of them was not a very good sleeper as a baby. Rarely stayed asleep more than 3 hours. It often took a long time to get him to sleep. He just didn’t seem to need or want as much sleep as the average baby. Nothing extreme, just a couple hours less (sometimes felt extreme though, heh). At about 2 he started to get a lot better about going to sleep at night, but afternoon naps became rare for him about a year earlier than most kids.

The other slept a good 4-5 hour block almost right from the start and was sleeping through the night reliably by 4 months. He was sick and having trouble getting to sleep last week and it occurred to me that the total time we have spent holding him and dancing and singing to get him to fall asleep in his year and a half is probably about the same time we spent with his brother every couple weeks at around 9 months old.

We didn’t do anything different with the younger one and he was a better sleeper within his first month when its hard to blame some subtle environmental change (like playing with his brother… at a few weeks old they just lie there trying to learn to aim their eyeballs at things :slight_smile: ). Kids just differ.


But there IS a science to parenting: Whatever you do, you’re doing it wrong.


As a parent with a 4 year old and a pair of 10 month old twins I have to say that there is no lack of advice out there for parents. Of course most of it is just opinions sprinkled with anecdotes, and will vary from book to book.

My wife and I are pretty lax by book standards. We let our 8 month olds climb the stairs, although we do have a gate at the bottom because they don’t know how to get down yet and get stuck upstairs. We let them sleep however they want (once they can roll over on their own you really don’t get a choice anyway), and with a blanket (seriously, WTF is up with no-blankets?).

I’m convinced that a lot of the advice comes from hospital suggestions for dealing with sick (especially chronically sick) children, and doesn’t apply to healthy children. You often see little anecdotes in the books like “children that sleep on their stomachs are 100x more likely to suffocate in the night”, but what that doesn’t tell you is that it’s extremely rare and that the kids that died were mostly the ones with conditions like Cystic Fibrosis or Pneumonia. Similar concerns about how a child can drown “in one inch of water” are also overwrought, since normal healthy kids can turn their head.

This makes a difference too. All too often we see kids that spent their first few months strapped down to one thing or another and are barely learning to crawl while our kids are toddling about.

There is a train of thought that says “N kids die each year from X, if we could convince every parent to do Y, we could save N lives.”, but that’s a fallacy because many of those kids have conditions and if X didn’t kill them, Z would have instead, and they rarely consider the cost to those millions of children (and parents!) unnecessarily doing Y.

Allergies are another area where people get massively protective. Occasionally you do have one of those “If you were within a mile of a peanut sometime next week and you get near my kid, he will DIE!”, but those cases are also extremely rare, and yet people flip out over allergens. I’ve seen parenting books recommend not exposing a child to peanuts until they’re 10, 15 if there is a family history. This is patently nuts, no pun intended. The longest I’m willing to wait is 1 year. After that, they’re strong enough to risk an allergic reaction without dying. The twins have already been exposed to quite a variety of food though, and they aren’t showing signs of allergy problems. I think the only things we’re holding off on at the moment is peanuts and strawberries, as they are somewhat notorious, although my older son loves PB&J, so they may have been exposed already anyway. I suspect, but have no evidence to support, that the parents who Lysol everything and won’t let their kid touch it unless it is sanitized are the ones that seem to have more trouble with allergies, ironically enough.


On the PB allergy thing, my understanding is that more recent data (and more up-to-date-docs/books) suggest that preventing any kind of in utero or early exposure to possible allergens actually makes the kid more likely to develop an allergy.

On a personal note, I craved the hell out of PB&Js when I was pregnant (also, avocado and tomato sandwiches … my baby likes healthy fats, what?) and after resisting for a little bit, I read something on the above data and was like, fuck it. OM NOM NOM.

We’re kind of taking the same approach with first foods. Everything is all “START AS BLAND AND NON ALLERGENIC AS POSSIBLE”. We aren’t really feeding her foods yet, but we have started letting taste the sauce at the bottom of our bowls of curry or a bit of soft cheese spread on a finger. That seems a hell of a lot more enjoyable (as somebody who enjoys food) than rice cereal.


We have two boys. The first did not sleep for more than an two hours straight for the first 2 years of his life. The second slept through from about 3 months, and this morning (he is 4) I had to drag him out of bed at 815 to get him dressed, fed and off to daycare on time. Sleep is a challenge, parenting is a challenge.

After a couple months I stopped reading the books. For the most part they are designed for the obsessive helicopter parent, and simply provide a list of things to worry about.

Feed the kids lots of fruit and veggies. Breastfeed if you can, while you can. Make sure you keep some space for yourself and your partner amidst all the parenting. Get outside a lot, you too but the kids for sure. Read to them. Don’t stress out about a little tv or video game once in awhile (sheesh, the handwringing about video games alone is exhausting). Try to have fun. Never hit, try to never shout or express anger except in level tones. Give the kids lots of love. Not much more than that.

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My eight-month-old will not eat:

Rice cereal
Mushed bananas
Mushed avocado
Mushed sweet potato

She loves:

Chicken liver pate
Thai coconut soup
Smoked salmon

I’m obviously quite pleased at the latter list, but I’m surprised at her complete hatred of the former.

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I also stopped reading the parenting books after about 2 months. I didn’t think I was all that insecure about being a parent; I’d babysat a lot, even small kids, and was a stepparent, but it seemed like my midwives and other parents were undermining a lot of my own ideas about how to parent.

I’d let my newborn sleep and the midwife would tell me to wake her up and feed her. I’d wake her up, she wasn’t hungry and now we were both awake. Thanks.

The neighborhood parents would have all this gear - strollers and bags and bouncy seats they insisted I must have and I never could figure out how to use all that shit. I tried and it just seemed to make my life more difficult; she was just a little baby, I couldn’t figure out what to do with all that stuff.

So then I just got tired of feeling so wrong when I felt such a strong drive to do things a certain way for my daughter, and I just stopped reading the books except the most basically medical, and I was so much happier. I feel like if I were ever in a role to help a new mom or dad it’d be to reinforce their own ideas of how to care for their child.

I hate purees for the kids. You have to spoon feed that, which is messy and slow. Plus, my kids always want to hold the spoon, which makes it even messier. The rice cereal is even worse. Once the kids are past the “wow, food can have texture!” part they get bored of it pretty quick.

I much prefer steaming the vegetables and then just cutting them up into bite size (roughly 1 cm per side) cubes. Its far far less messy and the kids enjoy them more. Plus, if they are self feeding you can eat your own dinner at the same time–big time savings.

Anybody who tells you to wake a sleeping infant is a minion of the devil.

As far as equipment is concerned, a car seat is essential obviously (most hospitals won’t even let you out the door without one anymore), and a stroller is really handy (babies get heavy if you have to carry them long distances). Bouncy seats and the like are pretty unnecessary though.


Bouncy seats and the like are pretty unnecessary though.

I thought that. Then we went through a phase where the presence of a bouncy seat was the only thing keeping all three of us (me, husband, baby) sane.

From my anecdotal experience, the absolute must haves are a car seat and a cloth baby-wearing-style carrier. Next tier up: a bouncy seat and one of those Bumbo chair things to bridge the gap between feeling like she HAS to sit up and see stuff and being physically able to. Also pretty damn handy: A co-sleeper style crib for easy night access without being kicked repeatedly by a small, thrashy sleeping baby all night long. The good news is that all these things (sans car seat) really only have to be purchased once per approximately every 5 or 6 babies. We are the third users and will be passing our collection on to friends come September.

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Be careful with regifting that car seat. The car seat manufacturers have convinced people (nurses!) that their product will fall apart after 6 years, and you could strand new parents in a hospital unable to leave if their car seat is expired. It’s the biggest load of horsecrap ever, but they gotta sell new seats I guess. Cribs are the same way, but since there is no crib inspector going around checking everyone’s houses it doesn’t really matter.

My first son loved the bouncy seat, but neither of the twins will have anything to do with it.

Swinging chairs are nice too, but they have a pretty short lifetime. I recommend getting a used one on Craigslist and then selling it once the kids outgrow it in a few months. In fact I do that for most of the kid stuff, and often come out at only spending a bit of gas and time (picking it up) on the kid stuff in the end.

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I was just about to post about the car seat nonsense. That industry gets other assistance too. For instance, right now in Canada they’ve disallowed transference (sale/gift/donating/whatevs) of any car seat manufactured before Jan 1 2012, due to a change in the Health Canada requirements of car seats.

After my kid outgrew her seats, I had a total of six baby and toddler seats in great condition I quite literally could not give away. I left them out on the yard and thank the Lord a woman who ran a daycare and needed these for her van came by and asked to take them.

We did that rubbish for maybe a week. Yeah, no.

He’s slept through the night since he was about a month old, we never tried anything clever. I read a few parenting/fatherhood books and decided that they were all stupid and overly preachy apart from the free range kids one.

Daneel Jr started feeding me this week; didn’t like what I was offering so he picked it up and put it in my mouth. Plus, he’s just recently started walking, which is awesome.

Yeah, ours told us that. Didn’t like that we didn’t have one of those ones that fit into strollers, only a longer term one permanently in the car, they made a nurse come down to the parking garage with us. What do you do if you don’t have a car?

The only dad-parenting book I ever recommend is called Be Prepared because it is amusing, clever, and has awesome scout-manualesque drawings. A lot of “parenting” books are about things that worked well for one parent at one time and then they wrote about it but it probably won’t work for you and your kid because you are not them.

But mostly just don’t drop them. That’s a big one.

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