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The diabolical genius of the baby advice industry (theguardian.com)
206 points by anarbadalov on Feb 12, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 174 comments

An absolutely wonderful read. I read three widely recommended books, which diametrically opposed each other on almost everything. So I decided to ignore most of the advice, and rely on friends, family, medical experts, and my own intuition. Anything the books mostly agreed on, I did tend to follow.

The three books I read:

* The Contented Little Baby - https://www.amazon.co.uk/New-Contented-Little-Baby-Book-eboo...

* The Fourth Trimester - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fourth-Trimester-Understanding-Prot...

* The Baby Whisperer - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Secrets-Baby-Whisperer-Connect-Comm...

The most helpful thing I read: "Nobody has been the parent of your child before. What worked for one baby may not work for yours. And remember that every parent develops nostalgia."

Also, an elderly lady in my church who had been a teacher said by the age of 8, you can't tell who was breastfed or bottlefed, who had 'baby led weaning', who used natural toys, etc. But you could tell the ones that received a lot of love from their parents.

When we had our first born, advice was to wake the baby for feeding so they get used to regular routines. We did this once and he screamed for the entirety of that day so we just fed him at irregular intervals but tried to ensure he still got the right number of feeds in a day.

When we had our second we were told not to wake her. But when she did wake she was so hungry she would have a screaming fit so we learned she preferred to get woken for lunch.

Moral of the story: try as hard as you might to generalise child rearing, they'll always find a way to contradict good advice.

I have two kids and they are about as different as two kids can be. They are truly the inversion of each other in every way. There's no way to generalize, what works/worked on one would never work on the other. The only exception (sounds corny but it's true) is loads of love. But I don't need a book to tell me that, though sometimes a reminder..

This might sound a bit callous (and I know it's more left field than callous but it's my only entry point to this topic) but your story kind of reminded me of a time I visited friends for a weekend at college. A friend of theirs had a new born litter of 1/2 Black Lab 1/2 Pit Bull puppies (the cutest, jet black pups) and my buddy and his girlfriend adopted one, Kujo.

Their goal was to get their new puppy used to being and sleeping alone by making sure it slept outside of their bedroom every night. This was the second weekend they had the dog and I, of course, was outside of their bedroom on the floor. The cold carpet. The living room was the only other room besides the bathroom, which we all wanted to keep dog free for everyone's convenience, in their small college apartment. I was told to try not sleep / cuddle with the dog overnight, but not sternly.

I'm a light sleeper as it is and after about 15 minutes of listening to the little guy cry and whimper I caved in figuring one night of sleeping cuddled up with me couldn't ruin a K-9's entire life of attachment. Plus I was on the floor and as you can tell I'm soft as it comes with animals and children.

I'll never know whether my softness that night ruined Kujo's sense of attachment but I will tell you right now, as someone who has always wanted kids I can't imagine I'll be able to keep my own flesh and blood at a distance while they are crying and calling out all night long :*(.

I have so much respect and am in awe of parents of all types. Keep kicking butt!

It's not easy sometimes but you do learn the difference between kids crying because they're in distress and crying because they're just being stubborn. The real difficulty is when they're distressed but "tough love" is exactly whats needed (eg you're example of getting them to sleep in their own bed).

What I struggle the most with is when they actually put a logical argument forward to get their own way. My eldest is not long 4 and he has already been putting some pretty intelligent counter arguments for why he should get his own way for about two years now. Sometimes I cave even if I know he is just arguing because his points are so well formed that I simply cannot argue back (plus I never want to stifle a kids ability to examine and deconstruct the world). My wife often calls me a big softy for that.

Ultimately though, my wife and I compliment each other in different ways so where I struggle with parenting she excels; and visa versa. I don't even know how single parents cope because I know for a fact I wouldn't.

That's just absurd, why would they need to make the dog "used to" sleeping alone? They sound completely lacking in empathy.

This is why advice can still be useful, but you need to understand that every piece of advice only works for some kids, and not all. You still need to find what works for you, but it may help to have some idea of what the options are.

As a father of four girls ranging from 8 years to three months old, I have to agree with that elderly lady. My daughters are all very different persons, with their own personalities, likes and interests. There's very little I could do to change who they fundamentally are, even if I wanted to. I also believe that as long as you love your children (which is very easy to do), and provide them with a safe environment where they can feel empowered to try things (a bit harder, but still very doable), they'll turn out fine.

There's this trend in parenting nowadays, where we're all pursuing perfection via different techniques / philosophies, but anything involving living things, especially humans, is inherently messy / imperfect. Raising children is no exception.

>I also believe that as long as you love your children (which is very easy to do), and provide them with a safe environment where they can feel empowered to try things (a bit harder, but still very doable), they'll turn out fine.

I'd add to that "teach a minimal level of social acceptability to behavior by the age of 2". There's a failure loop of "too annoying for playing with peers, leading to shunning, leading to not learning how to play nicely with others". You don't need to do much to steer children out of that, but you'll likely need to do some.

Plus, children that don't annoy the heck out of you are much easier to love.

I personally strongly recommend sending your kid to a daycare up to 3 days a week starting when they're about 6 months old. I've heard that before 6 months, it can be stressful, but after 6 months, they can get very attached to only the people they know, and not accept anyone else anymore, which can be a problem with babysitters, family, play dates, etc.

So get them used to meeting other kids at an early age. It's great for their social development. Of course individual kids may vary, but it's a good thing to keep in mind.

Exactly, forego all "techniques" and just make them feel loved no matter what. Then let them discover the world, pursue their own interests. Take a step back and don't let your fears hold them back. Challenge and push them gently when their fears hold them back.

They won't be perfect, they were raised by imperfect persons after all, but with enough love they'll be ok.

>we're all pursuing perfection via different techniques

Yes, while often getting fundamentals wrong, e.g. there are millions of two year olds in day care.

I am not an expert but isn't that just the kind of dogmatic viewpoint which the article suggests has little value.

You may believe day-care for two year-olds is fundamentally wrong, but there's little empirical evidence to show that children raised in different ways have different outcomes.

At least you should indicate why you believe those millions are being raised wrongly, rather than merely assert it as fact.

Empirical evidence can't decide on moral issues. To complicate matters further most moral stuff can't be explained very well. For example, 'murder is wrong' is an uncontroversial moral fact which is both unfalsifiable and hard to explain.

In simple everyday terms I'd say small children need love and attention like a plant needs water. They can't get these reliably at day care. But most of us already know this.

You have already elided from fundamentally wrong to not as good as. So this is moving in the right direction.

I would ask you to take the next step with me. Please acknowledge, the points below can be true sometimes:

- Some Day Care will offer more love and attention than some parents

- Some children who attend poor quality day-care as two year-olds will grow to become just as mature or balanced as most of their their stay-at-home peers.

All I wanted to do is to show that this situation is more nuanced than "fundamentally wrong".

I am afraid I don't subscribe to your morality. At best, it puts the perfect in the way of the good. For many parents, at some point, day-care is surely the best choice available to them and we should not be quick to judge them as bad parents for doing so.

Btw, "fundamentally wrong" is a misquote.

>puts the perfect in the way of the good

No, that's what I'm arguing against. Parenting manuals are arguing minutiae while children are increasingly being brought up by strangers who don't love them. Of course there are exceptions. So what?

>So this is moving in the right direction.

Aren't you being a bit quick to judge here ;-)

I was opinionated, not judgemental ;)

>> Of course there are exceptions. So what?

So then we have move to a discussion about each child's circumstances on its own merits, rather trying to make one size fit all. And I would argue that this is what parents are already doing in their millions. If so many parents are deciding that their kids' best option is day-care I believe this must be correct in the majority of cases.

I'm not arguing that one-size-fits-all; there are many legitimate parenting styles. The books argue about these, and the article is right, we shouldn't worry. But daycare just isn't one of them, as I've explained. It's the opposite of parenting.

>I believe this must be correct in the majority of cases.

'At least you should indicate why you believe those millions are being raised [rightly] rather than merely assert it as fact.'

This is a good challenge. You may disagree, but I believe that overall (some individuals may fall far from the mean), there can be no better way to determine how best to do parenting than the way that parents actually do it.

It is inconceivable to me that rules (morality, laws, tradition or whatever) should decide against parents in the large. Evolution has determined that parents will always be the ones most vested in their children's general well-being.

Nah, everybody used to think slavery was OK. Yet it wasn't. Plenty of people know they shouldn't smoke. Yet they do. Evolution is 'red in tooth and claw'.

Let me re-formulate my explanation of why daycare is bad:

(1) Small children need love and attention; they also need adult help available; they need to feel secure. (2) Love, attention and help aren't raw undifferentiated qualities. The quality depends on the source. A familiar source which knows the child is required. (3) The anxiety induced by an early childhood separation from such sources is potentially traumatic and long-term.

Therefore, young children shouldn't be separated from their mothers and/or close relatives.

Nobody is arguing for abandoning kids 24/7 to strangers. A good daycare is staffed by trained professionals who know how to take care of children, and know how to provide the love, attention and security that children need. Furthermore, I'm arguing for a maximum of 3 days of daycare, so each parent still has their own full day with the children, as well as the entire weekend with the family.

Yes, being abandoned by your parents can be traumatic, but that's not what daycare is. You're attacking a straw man. (The existence of bad daycares notwithstanding; they do exist, are hopefully rare, but should definitely be avoided.)

The term 'professional' is misleading, since

(1) There's no such thing as a professional parent. It's a relationship. (2) Professionals have expertise in some domain, e.g. heart surgery, but as the article shows, there's no expert knowledge of childcare. There's no prevailing child-rearing philosophy. (3) Professionals are paid significantly above the minimum wage.

>know how to provide the love

No. A mother loves her child, but love can't be provided as a commodity, like complimentary chocolates. Even if a carer tries her hardest, this will fall short, because she doesn't love the child. She's also heavily constrained by having to follow procedures, timetables, attend to other children, and so on.

>Yes, being abandoned by your parents can be traumatic, but that's not what daycare is.

That's exactly what it is: somewhere to put your toddler while you head off to work. Or it's a convenience. But in reality small children need someone they trust and are close to available at all times.

Yes, they are professionals. They have been trained for this, unlike parents, who surprisingly often have no idea what they're doing.

Are parents not constrained? Parents have jobs, households to run, appointments, groceries, etc. I see parents dragging children through shopping malls because the child does not want to come along and the parent does not want to deal with it.

And who are you to tell people who they do or do not love? You have a ridiculously dogmatic view of how people work. Your view is wrong.

Just wait until you have children, and give it a try. If it's a good daycare, children will love it there. (If it's a bad one, find a better one.)

Not professionals. For example, we don't call a fast food server a professional, yet he is trained.

Yes, a mother is constrained by having to look after her other children and the household, but it is an organic set of constraints which is customised to the particular family and has arisen in part out of their previous interactions and out of her family traditions. Furthermore it can be altered (by her). It's not a bureaucratic scheme designed to maximise the convenience and minimise the legal/financial risk to the daycare and its staff.

Yes, there are horrific families and there are no doubt daycare workers who are more affectionate than others. But this doesn't affect the argument.

>And who are you to tell people who they do or do not love?

Who do I have to be? I've merely claimed that daycarers don't love the kids in their charge. I think our great-grandmothers would have known this instinctively and would be horrified at the direction we have taken as a society in this regard.

My son is in daycare, and has been since he was 8 months old. My wife and I talked to a bunch of people, weighed up the pros and cons, and felt it was best. We were aware of opinions on all sides, and even some empirical evidence that suggested daycare was bad for kids (particularly boys). So here's why we decided to do it anyway.

We live in a prosperous neighbourhood in the UK that has a lot of good daycare centres. Our friends with kids used the same daycare and were very happy. We have only one child and knew that would always be the case, and wanted him to grow up around other children, comfortable being with people other than his parents. We don't have any family living nearby, so asking them to provide daycare wasn't an option. I couldn't give up work, so without daycare my wife would have had to abandon her career. But she really enjoys her job - she didn't want her whole life to be about being a parent, which is good for her mental health (and by extension our son's mental health). Plus the income gives us extra financial stability, and it teaches our son that is normal for a woman to go to work.

On the negative side, we felt we would lose some control over how our son was raised. Indeed, he has played with toys and watched films we didn't really like. In the short run it actually cost us money.

So we started daycare at just 3 hours per week, and gradually (over the course of 4 years) increased that to 20 hours per week. We always ask him whether he likes his daycare, we are engaged with them and we coordinate activities and teaching methods. He has thrived. Of course, we can't say how things would have turned out had we decided a different course, but he's doing absolutely fine. Also, this is just a one-off case, and not some 'proof that it's a good idea to send kids to daycare'.

As parents, it's all about your child, your values, your circumstances, what kind of daycare is available, what alternatives you have, and a lot of other factors. Blanket comments like "daycare is anti-parenting" are unhelpful at best, and harmful at worst.

I don't know what your situation is - whether you even have kids. Perhaps in our situation you would have made a different choice. Perhaps you'd even have been right, and somehow our son would turn out 'better' (whatever that means) if he hadn't gone to daycare. What I do know is at the time of choosing whether to send our son to daycare, your comments would have been hurtful. Feeling like you're being judged by the "good parenting police" often leads to extreme anxiety, and that's rarely in the child's interest.

So if you don't approve of daycare, that's fine. Don't send your kids to daycare. But please keep those opinions to yourself, or at least recognise that blanket advice to all parents in all circumstances in all countries at all times is going to be worthless and probably wrong.

  > On the negative side, we felt we would lose some control over how our son was raised.
That is only a problem if you have very unusual ideas about how a child should be raised. At a good daycare, your child is cared for by professionals who need to meet much stricter criteria than parents.

Of course not all daycares meet the highest standards, and standards can also vary per country. But a good daycare is good for your child.

I agree. For example, my wife and I think he's much too young to be interested in superhero movies, but all his friends at daycare like superheroes so now he does too. Despite my reservations, I suspect it's healthier for him than growing up solely under our influence. Instead, we discuss what it means to be a 'goody' or a 'baddy' and use it in a positive way that fits within our values.

That's a touching story. Not unusual, just human. In the long run your child will almost certainly embody you and your wife's values, with his own twist.

>your circumstances

Don't forget that those circumstances include the decision of whether or not to have children in the first place.

>But please keep those opinions to yourself

That's silly. This is a discussion which you're not obliged to read and I'm not a best-selling author or anything like that. More importantly, in response to lovemenot's request I tried to move beyond opinion and give an explanation. You're free to criticise it on its own merits if you don't like it.

>or at least recognise that blanket advice to all parents in all circumstances in all countries at all times is going to be worthless and probably wrong.

But I did recognise it: 'I'm not arguing that one-size-fits-all; there are many legitimate parenting styles'. Also 'Yes' at the very start.

Btw, using one's own child as an example in a discussion like this increases emotional investment and then it's harder to determine what's true. Better to argue abstractly I think.

> Empirical evidence can't decide on moral issues.

It can, depending on whether the moral question is one of fundamental axioms or applications of axioms to objective conditions. That is, if you take as a moral axiom that it is wrong to raise children in ways which cause certain harms, empirically showing day care does not cause those harms would answer whether (under that rule, at least) day care was morally wrong.

OTOH, if you take “day care is morally wrong” as itself axiomatic, it's true that empirical evidence has no role.

> In simple everyday terms I'd say small children need love and attention like a plant needs water. They can't get these reliably at day care.

The first sentence is very loosely true (empirically, even); in the sense in which it is true, however, the second is not in the general sense (that is, it is not true that there is no way care choice for which it is true), though it may be in a naive sense (if one assumes that all parents have I'd a binary choice between day care and Monday care, and then the children are blindly sent to something meeting the definition of “day care” if that option is chosen.)

>“day care is morally wrong” as itself axiomatic

Good people already know that daycare is bad, even those who use it, even though they can't explain. So yeah, it's axiomatic.

>however, the second is not in the general sense

Au contraire, it's a perfectly true general statement that children can't get love and attention at daycare. From minimum wage, high-turnover staff looking after a large number of kids in a bureaucratically-controlled environment? No way.

Actually I guess most people wouldn't want or expect employees to love their charges anyhow. It would likely be construed as 'inappropriate', as when a teacher hugs a pupil.

  > Good people already know that daycare is bad
Good lord, are you wrong. Just no. Good people investigate daycares and send their kids to a good one, rather than spreading harmful lies on the internet.

A bad daycare is bad, a good daycare is good. Do your homework as a parent. It's possible you live in an area where there are no good daycares, but you need to understand that your situation is not universal. But instead of just badmouthing people who are making responsible choices for their children, you could also help create a market for better daycares, you could join the parent committee for the daycare to help improve it, or petition the government to better regulate or fund daycares.

> [I]t's a perfectly true general statement that children can't get love and attention at daycare.

That's a question that can be settled empirically.

> From minimum wage, high-turnover staff looking after a large number of kids in a bureaucratically-controlled environment?

That sounds like a bad situation. It also sounds very little like the daycare my 2-year-old attends.

Maybe you need to try a bit harder to find a better daycare.

Small children need love and attention, but they also need social interaction. They can get both at a daycare. And a daycare doesn't have to mean they never see their parents again. I consider 3 days of daycare and parents each working 4 days to be a perfect balance, and I notice a lot of parents doing exactly that. Although different people may have different situations and needs and find a different balance. But the benefits of daycare shouldn't be too lightly dismissed.

>uncontroversial moral fact

There are lots and lots of philosophers who would argue with you here. Morality and facts are disjoint sets to some.

'Uncontroversial statement' if they prefer. I'd be happy to nitpick with them provided they aren't murdering people or sending their babies to preschool.


  > while often getting fundamentals wrong, e.g. there are millions of two year olds in day care.
You suggest there's something wrong with that, but I'm at a loss as to what it could be. Of course two year olds go to day care. Do you want to deny them their social development? I recommend starting daycare around 6 months.

I'm personally really happy with our arrangement: I work 4 days, my wife works 4 days, and 3 days of daycare. We get to spend plenty of time with the kids, but we also have a (practically) full-time job and the kids get lots of time to play with other kids.

I'd be more worried if millions of two year olds were not going to daycare.

Stellar advice.

I likewise didn't find any perfect instruction manual for keeping a baby healthy and alive, but I did find the process of reading and considering the advice they gave to be helpful in forming our own processes and opinions.

I'd recommend that any prospective parent take some time to read several baby books from conflicting perspectives, to give you the opportunity to be intentional about your parenting style.

Watching other parents is also really really helpful if you have the chance. More often from a "we need to make sure we never ever do that" perspective than anything else.

Exactly! Beautifully put.

The most insidious thing about a lot of these books is the way they can undermine your confidence as a parent at exactly the time you're most vulnerable. Look at these guarantees, look at all these testimonials, look how we use the word 'science' on every page; if your baby isn't sleeping then you're obviously still doing it wrong, you're a bad parent, it's all your fault.

I'm pretty sure it was The Baby Whisperer that nearly drove my wife to a breakdown before we agreed to bin it.

  >  if your baby isn't sleeping then you're obviously still doing it wrong, you're a bad parent, it's all your fault.
I would strongly hope that parents would draw the conclusion that the book is wrong. With so many contradictory books, some are bound to be wrong, so if a book doesn't work, it must be one of the wrong ones. Try another one to see if it works, or maybe try your own ideas and see if those work.

Parenting is mostly experimentation.

If the answers were all diverging, perhaps the questions themselves could be of help? Gives you things to watch out for. Were the questions answered by the books similar enough?

I think the real secret of many advice books, baby or otherwise, is that nobody knows what they're doing. It's especially hard for baby and other parenting advice, though, because the goals are so varied. What is the aim? A quiet baby? A happy baby? A hard working child, a smart child, a well-behaved child, a happy child? A well-adjusted (whatever that means) adult? A driven and successful adult? A good relationship with the kid? Any of thousands of others?

It's impossible for any scientific study to address all possible outcomes and the relationships between them.

My wife was given/bought at least a dozen baby books when she got pregnant. Skimming through several of them it became clear that everybody was making it up as they went along. Some were far more neurotic than others for sure, but even among the ones with the same temperament and written around the same time the advice varied wildly. The one constant was an underlying fear that if you get this wrong you're going to ruin your child somehow, maybe even kill them.

In the end I took their advice with a grain of salt and mostly went about figuring it out as I went, like most parents do. The one piece of advice I can give is to not worry so much. Kids won't be ruined because you didn't pay attention to them once, or did pay attention to soon, or attempted to engage, or were disengaged, or whatever. Also, every kid is different so blanket advice is of only marginal utility.

Final bit of advice is to try not to bring up the subject of breastfeeding. Everybody knows it is the best, but some people are absolutely nuts about it and will go as far as tell you you're poisoning your child if you ever try to bottle feed them, practical concerns be damned.

> Kids won't be ruined because you didn't pay attention to them once, or did pay attention to soon, or attempted to engage, or were disengaged, or whatever.

That depends on who you ask. Pretty much every kid will claim their parents have "fucked them up" and it will be in totally unpredictable ways. Either a specific toy you refused to buy them or that time you didn't let them play in the park. Ultimately the most you can hope for is that they have kids themselves one day so they can watch themselves make the same "mistakes" you made.

That's also one of the beauties of parenting. One does everything one thinks is right, considering various limits, and accidentally makes a mistake the child will always remember. The child grows up, perhaps has his/her own children, and tries not to make what he/she thought were their parents' mistakes. Depending on what kind of mistake that happened to be, parenting should evolve from generation to generation, in a non-linear way of course.

I also really ascribe to the idea that when a person decides to be an adult, they decide to begin taking full responsibility for their actions and thoughts. This means that, even if a person were in an abusive situation as a child, it's fundamentally their responsibility to find help and take care of themselves. This is empowering and healing, for anyone, and one of the most important reasons I believe that parents who are loving have nothing to worry about. One day your child will be free, and on that day he or she will take on the responsibility of their own life. You are there for your child as a learning and growing being yourself, and you are there up to the moments you see them off as they release themselves into the world. You can instill in them your values, but in the end they get to choose. All you have to do is let them know they get to choose, and let them know they are loved for existing. How the child best understands those lessons is the grand experiment.

In my view, its even misguided to try and 'make' your baby into any of these things. You can help them develop, but its largely up to them to be smart or hard-working or happy later in life. We can at most give them good examples, and try to socialize them?

One of the primary struggles of modern humanity is the battle against our base instincts. We instinctively seek out sugar, fat, and salt. We instinctively do things that give us dopamine hits. We instinctively want to do things that are fun and easy and avoid things that are dull and hard.

Modern parenting is largely a battle against these things, as modern society makes them so easily accessible. The very concept of allowing kids to choose what they want is so completely flawed, as kids are driven more by instincts as they don’t have other more modern mental structures to rely on.

Learning stuff is hard because it actually changes the brain, and kids need to be pushed because they will avoid it otherwise, as per the instincts mentioned above.

My experiment with my son will be to take advantage of lack of understanding of false dichotomy. Allow him to choose from preselected options with controlled outcomes. Then hold him accountable for that choice, whatever it means.

I base this on the idea that decision making is a skill, and you build skills by practicing. Well, not necessarily decision making itself, but rather the mental constructs that surround decisions -- weighing alternatives, short- vs long-term planning, etc.

Hopefully, then, when he starts coming up with his own options and breaking the false dichotomy, they'll be well-considered.

This works on adults too, as it happens. People are most satisfied when they're offered a relatively small number of choices. If you offer them no choice at all, they're generally dissatisfied because they feel a lesser sense of ownership and assume that there's probably a better option that they weren't offered. If you offer them too much choice, the perceptual costs of processing alternatives skyrockets and there's far greater opportunity for post-choice introspection and buyer's remorse. Easy, inconsequential choices can significantly improve satisfaction in many contexts.


Like a variation on the marshmallow experiment?


We do this all the time with our kids. eg Halloween: you can eat <large percentage> your sweets now but we will eat the rest when you've gone to bed, or you can have <smaller percentage> now but have some left for tomorrow and the rest of the week.

Our eldest (he's 4 now but we've been doing it for a couple of years) responds really well to that. In fact a 100% pass rate so far. Which is unusual for a boy of that age from what I've read.

There are several experiments where giving children unlimited access to a wide range of foods for extended periods results in them eating a fairly healthy diet.

That's impractical in your day to day life as it would involve wasting a lot of food. But, most children really do crave nutritious foods as long as they are tasty and available right now.

Please cite, otherwise that’s counter to the overwhelming experiences of almost every parent (in the US) who has no choice but to feed their kids pizza or mac and cheese every day just to get them to eat something. You can say that parents are just weak, caving in, etc... but then that’s the point I’m making anyway — that parents need to fight and can’t let kids give in to their instincts.

Oldest study on the topic: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1626509/

This dates back to 1939, and is a rather over the top experiment still:

Accordingly, Davis devised the experiment to let children do for themselves because she suspected that children's bodies instinctively “knew best” what the individual child should eat. Her intellectual model, a view that would later be called “the wisdom of the body,” likened a child's instinctive appetite to the way various autonomic body systems effortlessly adjust themselves to compensate for external challenges — think of sweating on a hot day, and breathing faster when you start to run.

Initially, it seemed that this conceit didn't apply to Davis's test children and their food preferences. None of the eat-what-and-how-much-of-what-you-want infants had the same diet on any given day, week or month. “Every diet differed from every other diet, 15 different patterns of taste being presented, and not one diet was the predominantly cereal-and-milk diet, with smaller supplements of fruit, eggs and meat, that is commonly thought proper for this age,” she told her Montréal audience.

Yet, she and others later saw that the infants' fanatical heterodoxy turned into what appeared to be 15 uniformly well-nourished, healthy children.

... The important bits:

It is actually beyond easy to imagine how Davis's orphans could have eaten themselves sick with healthy foods. Had one or more chosen only meat, fish and eggs, within short order they would likely have come down with scurvy. Had another been a fanatical vegan and eaten only fruits and vegetables, there is a good likelihood that he or she would have experienced a vitamin B12 deficiency and megaloblastic anemia.

Thus, the issue, really, was the extent to which an inner nutrition-seeking mechanism might lead children through the maze of choices they actually would face in the modern, eating world.

PS: Several versions of this experiment have been preformed including some with plenty of junk food, though the setting up an orphanage bit was rather extreme. Also, diets that seem odd are not necessarily unhealthy.

>who has no choice but to feed their kids pizza or mac and cheese every day just to get them to eat something

There's the problem. By the time they start grade school, a majority of American children will be overweight and 14% will be obese. We don't feed our children, we fatten them up like cattle. Most American children have never actually experienced real hunger - they've been raised in households that are abundantly overflowing with food. They get three meals a day from a wide range of choices, plus snacks, plus free access to an array of tempting treats. Their natural instincts to eat in response to hunger have been completely muted. Of course they act like spoiled emperors at the dinner table. Of course they reject anything other than their absolute favourite food. That's the incentive structure we've given them.

Unless your child is clinically underweight, stop trying to get them to eat. If they don't want to eat a healthy meal, they don't have to - they can go hungry. Throw away the uneaten meal and give your child the gift of experiencing hunger. A psychologically healthy child will not starve themself to death because they're not offered a-la-carte dining at every meal, they'll just adapt to their environment. When given the opportunity to make choices that have consequences, they'll make the rational decision to eat a meal they don't particularly like in preference to going hungry.

My parents subscribed to this philosophy and by freshman year of university I was 5'10" and 126lbs. Didn't turn it around until I had programming money to pay for the gym and eat whatever I wanted. Still resent them for it.

Most children I observe who have poor diets, have parents who also have poor diets. We don't have to look far to find the source of the pizza.

> up to them to be smart or hard-working or happy later in life

> give them good examples

As far as I’ve heard, the former largely depends on the latter. You can do a lot of shaping of what someone will become through the examples you expose them to.

I remember ads when I was a kid: “Always obey traffic signals when walking. Your child is learning from you”. This was on every pedestrian traffic light around the first few weeks of school when it is encouraged to teach your first grader how to walk to school every morning.

There’s also that famous anti smoking ad based on the same principle.

You try that, I'll try the other way and we'll see whose baby gets into Harvard!

My three Eagle Scouts are respectively a Sargeant, an Engineer and a Musician. The Engineer went to CMU and works at a startup in Redwood City. The Sargent did his tour of Iraq in transportation (doing vehicle recovery) and returned a little busted up; now has a MechE degree and is a process Engineer. The Musician studied at Cleveland Institute, but turned to the dark side and now works IT.

Great work dad!

You've assumed that Harvard is, or should be, the goal of healthy parenting.

If you have kids, stop doing this to them. You're their father/mother. Love, nurture, train, and instruct them to be good people. If they go to Harvard, good for them. If not, Harvard be damned, they're your kids.

If you don't have kids yet, mature before you do.

My comment was meant as a joke, I needed the /s tag I guess. I've got a 3 month old, and we went through the experience of reading the very contradictory child raising books. We're not going to try to manipulate our kids every moment or be tiger parents.

I guess it's a dangerous thing to joke about. Some parents really to try to push their children to what the parents want them to become.

On the other hand, my son aspires to become a lazy couch potato and gamer. He's actually quite successful on that front, but I admit I was hoping for something more.

My brothers and I were brought up in much the same way.

However, we have not all ended up in the same place. One of my brothers managed to spend over half a decade in and out of odd jobs, spending all his money on drugs (thank fuck none of the hard stuff). Me and my other brother have managed to carve out a good life for ourselves, at least by society's external measure.

People will go their own direction in life. You can prod them and help them on their journey, but you can't fundamentally change who they are.

On a tangent, the ability to delay reward is largely determined by the time you are 5ish years old, but unlike height and IQ, people don't think of it that way. See the Marshmallow experiment, which has been succesfully replicated a few times. It is a big reason why life is unfair.

That does not takes the genetic lottery into account.

>It's impossible for any scientific study to address all possible outcomes and the relationships between them

Yes and even if there somehow were credible, reproducible studies that addressed all aspects of parenting and all childhood outcomes then these still couldn't tell one how to parent because there's a moral component.

When my first son was born, my wife subscribed to a website called something along the lines of "The Net Midwife". A former midwife answered health questions from parents.

All her answers were available online for free but if you wanted her to answer your questions, you would have to pay for the subscription.

Why would you want to pay for something which was freely available to you?

Well as it turns out, even though 99% of the questions parents asked were already answered parent's had this idea that their child was unique and they would ask questions like "my child coughs and it says a little noise everything she inhales right after"

The only group of people more naive and easy to persuade are modern dog people.

It's easy to be persuaded by answering services when you're dealing with what's arguably the thing you will ever be most responsible for.

Plenty of people/businesses take advantage of that.


One thing I have never done though is read other peoples advice on how to raise my kids. That's too important to leave to others :)

There is something darkly funny and deeply meta about how this is being down voted.

Yeah, perhaps because people thought I meant I would never use an advice given. What I meant was that I would never buy a book to get advice. Anyway...

The trick is getting people to give advice when you ask for it. Having advice fired at you by every human you meet seems to be a thing. Even wearing headphones doesn’t stop them.

Especially on the subject of child rearing.

> The only group of people more naive and easy to persuade are modern dog people.

That gave me a good laugh, thanks.

Modern dog people are those too sensitive to have lasting relationships or the responsibility of a baby human and therefore their dog is their baby-by-proxy.

I like that they started with comparison to other animals, with humans being born "sooner" in the development cycle due to our larger brains.

To me, this sets up a nice mental model for the first ~18 months of parenting: your child is still developing the extreme basics, in particular its brain, which is forming pathways based on your actions. So set to work forming those pathways with lots of talking, face time, and letting your child observe the world. After all, it came out to get an "early" start!

Many call the first 3 mo the "Fourth Trimester" for that very reason. The baby is still basically a fetus in many regards. It's around that 3 mo point that they start to really respond to external stimuli in more than basic ways and start to be able to explore their environment.

Here's a fun point of applicable biology terminology (by way of The Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altricial

Except that there are plenty of other altricial animals. Many birds, rodents, cats, dogs, other primates, etc. It's not unique to humans.

A business mentor of mine once gave me this wisdom:

The best selling diet books don't contain the best diet advice.

The best selling dating books don't contain the best dating advice.

The best selling business books don't contain the best business advice.

I think this is logical, to some extent, i.e.:

Advice books are optimised for excitement and the illusion of inspiration. Because results take a long time to demonstrate, massive aggregate data, and the elimination of countless other factors, nobody can possibly work out whether the advice in a book is any good before they buy it. Instead they look to reviews, which are based on enjoyment and inspiration. Someone will read it, and coincidentally find success, and you have your testimonial. Someone will read it, and fail, and nobody will know. So to make your book sell, the quality of the advice is mostly irrelevant, it is the engagement that makes the sale.

Exciting truisms and unfalsifiable chattiness sell advice books, not good advice.

Reading advice books 'just in case' you come across good advice, is like reading a string of random numbers 'just in case' you come across the lottery results.

Personally I'm a bit less sceptical, but only a very small bit.

Surprised they don't mention economist Emily Oster's book Expecting Better, which is an imperfect book but takes a data-driven Freakonomics-style approach to pregnancy. I enjoyed it.

The real challenge is that there's so little good data to begin with.

If you read with your kids and don't get divorced then you've already done a great job I think.

I grew up w/ divorced parents and generally most of my friends also had divorced parents. I don't think the divorce as such is such a big deal, its really whether or not both parents keep "showing up". I'd take divorced parents that show up vs married-absentee's any day.

EDIT: I realized you might be meaning -- if you don't let the struggle of parent-hood tear apart your relationship with your spouse, you're doing a good job. In which case I agree 100%.

I agree, didn't grow up with divorced parents, and I'm not a divorced parent, but it seems - especially in this day - this just isn't as much as a bad omen as it used to be.

I see more cooperative parents (whether they're living together or not) than un-cooperative ones. Married or not. It's just a title to a lot of these people.

Also, if that's what the child grew up with, it's probably less likely to affect them negatively (assuming all positives everywhere else).

Not sure if I agree re: divorce.

Mummy and Daddy are the most basic, rock-solid concepts for a child, and a divorce can't be anything but world-redefining for any child not yet old enough to have an understanding of the complexities of human relationships.

Yes, this does depend on the "showing up"-ness of each parent.

My kids are strongly attached to their mother. She's the primary go-to, but if I'm away for work, or late home for whatever reason, they're surprisingly happy and comforted when I return home.

If we got divorced, the kids would be shattered and it would affect them forever. The scale depends on their resilience, but they would be changed for the worse in the immediate. Future-wise, maybe it would better prepare them for the challenges of life and instill them with some kind of resilience, but I think there would be a part of them permanently broken.

It's all shades of grey though, it all depends on the healthiness of the parents relationship. A divorce can be a better option for kids if the parents' relationship is unhealthy.

Ouch, sounds like an actual experienced parent left that comment... People underestimate the difficulty of not getting divorced when you have kids - more so if you have twins etc.

Mind elaborating?

Frank Abagnale's ("Catch Me If You Can" protagonist) take on divorce gives some insight into his life story [1], and is an interesting counterpoint. A transcript for those who hate watching videos. The transcript starts from the link and transcribes 132 seconds of his speech, up to the 23:57 mark.

--- BGN --- I was one of those few children that got to grow up in the world with a daddy. Now, the world is full of fathers. But there are very few men worthy of being called daddy by their child. I had a daddy; loved his children more than he loved life itself. Steven Spielberg told Barbara Walters the more I've researched Frank's youth, without having met Frank, I couldn't help but put his father in the film through the likes of Christopher Walken.

My father was a man who had four children---three boys and a daughter. Every night at bedtime, he'd walk into your room. He was 6'3". He would drop down on one knee, kiss you on the cheek, pull the cover up, and he'd put his lip up on your earlobe. And he'd whisper deep into your ear, "I love you. I love you very much."

He never, ever, missed a night.

As I grew older, I sometimes fell asleep before he got home. But I always woke up the next morning, knew he had been at my bedside.

Years later, my older brother joined me in my room, temporarily; he was in the Marine Corps. He was 6'4". He played semi-pro football for Buffalo. But my father would walk around to his bed, hug him, kiss him, whisper in his hear he loved him.

When I was 16 years old, I was just a child. All 16 year olds are just children. Much as we'd like them to be adults, they're just children. And like all children, they need their mother, and they need their father. All children need their mother and father. All children are entitled to their mother, and their father. And though it is not popular to say so, divorce is a very devastating thing for a child to deal with, and then have to deal with the rest of their natural life.

For me, a complete stranger, a judge, told me I had to choose one parent over the other. That was a choice a 16 year old boy could not make. So I ran. How could I tell you my life was glamorous? I cried myself to sleep 'til I was 19 years old. I spent every birthday, Christmas, Mother's Day, Father's Day in a hotel room somewhere in the world where people didn't speak my language. --- END ---

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsMydMDi3rI&feature=youtu.be...

and in that case then everyone else needs to back the fuck off (I'm looking at you mothers-in-law)

It's not just baby advice that is fuzzy, it's baby products as well. Every baby business that is ads-based (from blogs, to registries) festers insecurities in parents, so they can sell ridiculously expensive basic products to make you feel a little better: I just bought the "best" (most expensive) rocker on the market, I will be ok. Google also prioritizes the wrong things in content as well (word count and recency) - so most of the searches lead to the same crap - the same shallow ideas, reiterated with as many words and ads as possible. As a parent with the skills to build, after seeing all of these problems with my first child, I started building a private, actually safe baby registry and vetted ads-free recommendation engine under https://www.dreamlist.com .

The books industry leans on extremes. If it doesn't trigger controversy and insecurity in you, in some way, it doesn't sell. Every child is different and every pregnancy is different. The best source of information so far are medical studies, wherever you can dig them out.

How is this any different from all the 'advice' we get on programming topics, how to write code, how to be a good leader, how to interview well, how to hire, how to fire, and on and on..

It is almost like self help is a difficult topic that has a large market of people looking for prescriptive help.

Snidely, I can't help but muse on the traps and fallacies that are abound in this sort of "looking for answers" method of searching.

Does make me wonder, do folks have collections of "experiments that failed" with speculation or answers as to why? A journal of "the experiments that failed replication this year."

After spending a little too much time on advice books, I put them permanently on the shelf, dispensed to used book stores as time went on. Particularly awful were the "What to Expect" books, which were doctrinaire and promised great ills if the doctrines weren't kept.

I kept a couple anthropological books, including Lancy's, and the Mayo Clinic's medical guides to pregnancy and the first year. Too, a developmental book "Touchpoints" which seemed to have a pragmatic style and gave some understanding of typical development.

For specific baby management concerns, we were trained by the nurses at the hospital, and visits to the doc addressed things that came up otherwise.

Thing is - what the anthro and historical views of baby raising taught me -

If your kid has Issues, that will be a medical situation, and should be addressed medically. If your kid does not have Issues, then largely they will turn out as they will, if you treat them decently and well, for the first year. Feed em, clean em, read to em, put em to bed, and it'll be largely okay. As they come to more reasoning and thinking, influence increases, but the first year is sort of a wash in many ways. There are huge variations in how different groups treat the first year, and it doesn't seem to matter in turning out functional humans.

Behavior issues can be mitigated by routine and structure, but not avoided.

The idea of each kid being this special & unique flower is sort of a 20c development. That's important to remember and contemplate.

> There is also a subgenre of books aimed specifically at new fathers, but since they are an almost uninterrupted wasteland of jokes about breasts and beer, this article will give them the attention they deserve, which is none.

Yeah... no. As a new father of a now five-month old boy, I very highly recommend The Expectant Father and The New Father by Armin A. Brott. They are a far cry from a "wasteland of jokes about breasts and beer". It's unfortunate that this (so far) otherwise interesting article is doing what so many of the books it is criticizing do... giving little attention to the fatherhood side of parenting.

Yeah, I had the same reaction. The Armin Brott books are quite reasonable. Respectful to new moms, broad enough to cover a range of parental experiences. I would strongly recommend them to any new father, and I make sure my copies circulate to any expectant dad I know.

I'm a relatively new father too, and the author already lost me much earlier than that part. "Lost me", not as in "I couldn't follow anymore", but as in "this hasn't been my experience at all".

My partner bought / were given a couple of books, maybe three or four. Not all of them were read. The ones we did read, we took with a grain of salt, and sometimes humor. More importantly: almost nothing written in any of these books was relevant to our parenting so far, other than very basic, mostly biological information about the expected development stages. Beyond that, nothing really was required in our case, and the books all made pretty clear that all babies are different and that your baby's development will likely differ in one way or the other from what they tell us.

So, I don't really get what triggered the author to write this. Or, put differently, it's interesting to read this perspective, but frankly, it differs very much from my own experience.

You seem to be agreeing pretty much 100% with the views presented by the author in the article. Can you explain more about what you feel is different about your experience?

Weighing on every new dad I ever met (at least in the background) is, "How the hell am I gonna pay for all this?"

The amount of money that you can spend on a child is virtually unlimited. But almost all of it absolutely optional.

Sure, you’ll need diapers and a car seat, but beyond that there’s not a lot that’s absolutely necessary.

There’s so much stuff that people think they need to buy, ranging from special vitamins during pregnancy to hypoallergenic formula and baby swimming lessons and educational toys for every age bracket...

And then you realise that people who make half the money you do get along just fine and their kids are doing fine and somehow they only need half as much money.

Sure, we do spend a lot of money on semi-useful kids stuff (like those skiing lessons that our older son didn’t want to continue after the second day...), but it’s all optional, and if we didn’t have kids I’d probably have a nicer car, but who cares.

In high-cost-of-living areas, there are two other major costs worth considering. First is the cost of daycare (or equivalently the opportunity cost of having a stay-at-home parent). My wife watches our son, and we're glad that she can afford to do that, but that's $100k of forgone take-home pay we're leaving on the table.

Second is the increased rent/mortgage of a house with an extra bedroom. I pay ~$600/mo more for an extra bedroom and have a substantially longer commute than most of my coworkers to live in a place that can accommodate our family.

Both of those costs far exceed anything else we've spent on our son, which mostly falls into the "optional" category you mentioned.

Both of these factors are much more important in high-cost-of-living areas, which may explain in part why there aren't many kids in San Francisco.

The cost of college is another one that every parent should consider as early as possible.

It's certainly optional (you may be comfortable letting your kids go it alone for college tuition), but definitely worth making an intentional decision on and planning for as soon as you're able.

Also, I'd strongly recommend you use several of the many "future cost of college" calculators available out there. For example, a college that costs $35,000/yr today is estimated to cost $56,000/yr in 10 years per Vanguard's calculator's defaults[1]. The "Worlds Simplest College Cost Calculator"[2] also provides a reasonably good and easy to understand picture of how much you'll have to contribute monthly to reach your goals by the time your child starts college and brings in some reasonable numbers for grants and scholarships based on your income.

You could certainly "oversave" if the insanely high cost of higher education manages to correct itself, but pretty much any tax-advantaged educational savings account can be easily converted to retirement savings.

In my case, it's also provided a bit of extra motivation to support my children in developing good study habits early on in their education. Once you understand the likely cost of college in 10, 12 or 18 years, the prospect of academic scholarships becomes really, really appealing.



> The cost of college is another one that every parent should consider as early as possible. It's certainly optional (you may be comfortable letting your kids go it alone for college tuition), but definitely worth making an intentional decision on and planning for as soon as you're able.

Any parent planning on saving for college needs to have their retirement savings locked in and fully funded first. You can borrow money to go to school, but you can't borrow money to retire.

You should also just consider immigrating to Europe,Australia,Japan...really anywhere else in the developed world.

Like I'm only being partially facetious here, but my suspicion is even accounting for currency differences you could come out on top.

The extra bedroom is also optional.

Please don't say vitamin supplements are optional. Folic acid for expectant mothers and vitamin D supplements for infants are absolutely recommended by pediatricians.



Folic acid is added to bread and cereal these days in pretty big amounts (most cereal bowls will have 100% of the daily dose 400mcg and fortified foods like bread or pasta also would have 100% or close to it per serving) and any baby formula has more than enough vitamin d and other vitamins in it.

Edit: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional/...

In the US and the rest of the developed world pretty much most grain products are fortified with Folic Acid (as well as other vitamins) these days and have been for about 20 years.

The folic acid in fortified food is simply not sufficient to reduce the risk low enough of these serious neurological birth defects.


We have been fortifying food as a response to the fact that pregnant women aren't uniformly getting enough folic acid. Downplaying prenatal folic acid supplements is like saying we don't need to worry about driving safely because people have added seat belts to cars. (One could imagine safety equipment that is so good we don't need to worry about how well we drive, but we're not there yet.)

While this is true, infants do not eat grains and many are breastfed almost exclusively especially if money is an issue. A $5 bottle of D3 vitamin drops to supplement breastmilk for months is much cheaper than buying formula.

Infants get it through formula and breast milk, the mother gets the folic acid via grains.

Outside of some edge cases vitamin supplements aren't really needed just talk to your doctor.

Human breast milk is a poor source of vitamin D, that's why it is recommended as a supplement.

I guess I interpreted that remark differently. Prenatal vitamins are great, but is amazing how easy it is for them to sell some amazingly expensive prescription vitamins when really cheap (and good) options are available.

The folic acid supplements should be considered absolutely necessary. Fortunately they're very cheap.


You mean, during pregnancy? Those are really dirt cheap. We opted for a more expensive multivitamin that also had a bit of fish oil in it, but that’s optional. It cost €20 per month.

Absolutely our experience as well. I believe we are almost net positive as we are going out less. Also, we do a lot more cooking from simple local ingredients that are cheaper than the exotic stuff we bought previously. There is so little that really needs buying - especially toys, we realized, are almost always a complete waste of money.

This was a very important lesson my wife and I received from one of her (married with four children) sisters. Before we decided to have a child, the money aspect was indeed stressing us both out - you can find all kinds of wild estimations on the Internet and in books for the "cost of a child" - and understanding this was eye opening.

You don't need conventional disposable nappies/diapers. You can get washable ones. Will save you a shitload (heh heh) of money and trash.

Diapers for infants cost ~$1/day. Day care costs literally 100× more.


This largely depends where you are - day-care for our child costs us €200/month, in Finland.

Though we use washable diapers I suspect the cost-savings aren't as large as predicted as washing-machines are pretty hungry when it comes to electricity, and we run ours at least once a day.

The main problem is these are more likely to "leak".

My experience with cloth diapering was that it was much less likely to blowout. But it's easy to put on wrong (mostly loose or too far forward, which will leak), and cloth diapers are bulky which is less convenient for traveling light.

My understanding that vitamin deficiency can be bad, like for example follic acid - spina bifida, vit D - autism. Most people don't have the deficiency of course, yet how to prevent it when they do, and how to detect it?

The easy solution is for pregnant mothers to take folic acid supplements. As you noted, it can prevent spina bifida, and is extremely cheap relative to what it prevents.


Health, education and development are absolutely necessary. And these three are very expensive. Also a parent should have a decent amount of savings because you never know if your child is going to have health or mental problems. If he turns out ill and there are no savings, just saying oh sorry I can't afford stopping your suffering is not an option.

> But almost all of it absolutely optional.

The cost of someone looking after your children while you go to work is not optional.

> special vitamins during pregnancy to hypoallergenic formula

This is dangerous misinformation. Nutrition during pregnancy is quite important and worth getting right.

Brott writes about this a bit in his books - mostly about the societal expectation of father as "bread winner" who should be concerned about the fiscal side of child-rearing because that is his (some might say sole) responsibility vs. mother as care-giver and nurturer.

You can count me as at least one new dad you've, well, not necessarily met, whose primary concern is more along the lines of, "How the hell am I gonna be involved with my son's life?" (:

>>"How the hell am I gonna be involved with my son's life?"

I’m actually in the process of changing careers due to the realization that remaining on my current track would put me at work before they get out of bed and home from work after they’re in bed for the next 15-ish years. I refuse to miss my kids growing up during this one shot at life I have.

I hear ya. I am also in the process of a career shift brought about by our change in priorities after our son was born. The unfortunate thing is that I am losing some of my schedule flexibility (at least in the near term), but the reason for our (coast to coast) move is to be closer to immediate family so that they can also be a more involved part of our son's life.

It's really amazing to me how this child has changed us and our lives. Not to say that my wife and I expected the kid to pop out and life to return to business as usual, just that I didn't truly comprehend how profoundly this experience would change me. It's intense.

to be closer to immediate family so that they can also be a more involved part of our son's life.

This is so huge, not only so your kids know their extended family, but also to have some basic help. We've found that even my sister who lives 45 minutes away is just a bit too far to see them as frequently as we'd like, with her busy family and all. My advice is to move closer than you think you ought to!

Now wait what a second kid can do to your schedule flexibility :) It‘s not twice the change, but times 4, at least in the first two years.

I live in a small town in the middle of nowhere. I make a lot less than I once did, but not being a road warrior, being able to walk my kids to school each morning, being able to take them to their activities -- I think it's a worthwhile tradeoff. Good on you for being cognizant of the challenge of family vs. work and making some hard choices.

One suggestion - are you able to shift your hours to see your kids either before or after?

I’ve been able to arrange things and arrive at work a bit later, so I see my kids each morning and take them to school. Then I stay a bit later at work. It also means I don’t see them most weeknights, but I see them every morning (barring the rare unmovable meeting).

Some of my colleagues do opposite. But there are also parents that just don’t see their kids at all until the weekend.

Unfortunately no. I am military right now so my hours are what my boss and meeting schedule says they are.

Been there done that, its tough but it gets a lot better when you get out of the military.

Have a wife who earns more than you? Then you have the option of the fun of being a stay at home dad. Job done.

> stay at home dad

Most (not all) of the time I've observed this, "stay at home dad" is a euphemism for "lazy bum".

I think this is excellent idea for a book :)

That isn't limited to dads. Nor is it not recognized by single people. There is an XKCD that jokes about being able to have a treasure chest where some cars have families posted.

Upvoted... it's completely true. Additionally, I cannot imagine why you need to read a book about something like this. Questions? Talk to your parents or pediatrician.

Your parents likely aren't experts and your you want to make efficient use of your time consulting withstand pediatrician on details, so getting good, expert-written books to cover as much of the general space as possible is a perfectly reasonable strategy.

The problem, of course, is finding those books.

You illustrate my point exactly, it's not that complicated. I have two young men that my wife and I raised without (GASP) the need of a book. Crazy, I know.. go ahead and mod this comment down also.

Just because you were able to do so doesn't mean that everyone else will be able to do so. Many people don't have good parenting role models in their lives. If the ability to parent well were somehow built-in to us, there would be a lot fewer single-parent homes out there. For some (many) people the wisdom found in well written and researched books will be invaluable. I'm not sure why you seem to come across so strongly against the idea.

Did you lay the baby on its front or back when you put it to bed?

You must not be aware of how many millions of men and women have parents that are at best divorced, at worst completely absent or even unknown. And no, pediatricians can't fill that gap.

Pediatricians sometimes write those books.


Not here please.

Highly recommend these books too and also about to read Fathering Your Toddler by the same author.

This type of comment is all too common across The Guardian to the point that it is almost editorial policy. It's a real shame as The Guardian is one of the better major papers out there in my opinion. I just wish they could face the fact that they have a real problem with this type of snide anti-male remark.

To be fair I'm not sure whether the quoted sentence is saying fathers, or the books targeted at them, should be given no attention. I read it as referring to the books; otherwise it's a really weird circumlocution.

I read it to mean the books, but I still see this as a problem. It's the dismissive attitude towards something that concerns men. If you read enough of The Guardian you can't help but think that this dismissiveness is because it concerns men. If they were genuinely interested, they would have found plenty of titles.

I really don't want to come across as a "what about us men?" type, but I resent that The Guardian - a paper I once loved - seems to be making a concerted effort to turn me into exactly that sort. It's so incredibly at odds with their feminist/gender equalitarian agenda that I can only assume that they do this to provoke outrage and generate clicks. You only have to read the comments to see that they do a good job of provoking many of their readers.

Anyhow, this is getting a long way off topic.

When I reached the age of reason, I asked my boomer parents (a mental health practitioner and a corporate V.P.) if they really thought there was a book that had every answer they'd need as parents. "Of course," they replied.

But as a former subject of the material, I can tell you they definitely didn't have all the answers. As privileged and intelligent as they were, they still fucked up. But I'm also not dead, and on the whole I'm only mildly traumatized by the unnecessary drugs and suffocating restriction on personal freedom and privacy. So I really don't care about what kind of baby advice they intoned, and I don't think parents should care either. Just keep the little bastard alive until it can move out on its own, so you can have a whole new world of worries to consider.

Every single baby guide book is 100% absolutely garbage. I encourage every single one of you that are about to have children to never EVER buy one. All they do is talk about the "average" baby, and you'll soon find that you and your spouse feel entirely inadequate because your baby isn't sleeping as much, eating as much, moving as much, interacting as much, etc.

What the books never tell you is that sure, there may be average numbers available, but the STANDARD DEVIATION is HUGE. No baby is average. My wife was convinced our first child had sleeping issues because he slept 2 hrs less than average. It turns out that's just who he is, he sleeps a lot less than most kids, but still at the bottom of the range of healthy. All it does is fuck with your head, so just take a cue from other parents around you.

There is a popular anecdote along these lines that comes from the 1950's US Air force.


The scientists also expected that a sizable number of pilots would be within the average range on all 10 dimensions. But even Daniels was stunned when he tabulated the actual number.


Out of 4,063 pilots, not a single airman fit within the average range on all 10 dimensions.

Using their definition of "average range", which is the middle 30% (in height, waist circumference, etc), we should expect to find one such individual for every 1/0.3^10 = 169,351 people on average.

Small quibble - your calculation assumes independence of each dimension, which is unlikely in this case.

When our kids were babies everyone we knew here in the UK seemed to have an obsession with getting their kids off to sleep as early as possible (about 7pm usually - mostly by putting them in a separate room and ignoring them) and then were amazed that their kids woke up really early.

We let our kids stay up until they went to sleep at their own pace and then they seemed to wake up at a relatively civilized time.

My kids get up with the sun regardless of when they go to bed, but if they're not in bed before about 9 they'll be cranky when they get up, especially in the summer.

With one kid it isn't too bad, but when you have multiple kids they tend to be up with whomever is the earliest riser, because they make a lot of noise when they get up and wake everybody else.

At the risk of inexpertly offering bad advice, you could try blackout curtains?

I'm 33, definitely more of a night owl but if it's sunny out I'm pretty likely to be wide awake at 6am after going to bed at 1. Black out curtains made all the difference for me.

The kids don't even like having the regular curtains closed. Besides, having them used to getting up early is good when school is in session.

Our baby goes to sleep between 5-8pm and sleeps until 6-7am.. She makes the rules though, when she finally becomes grumpy in the evening I prepare some food and it's off to bed. Works every time!

I believe all babies are different, so luckily our first have been kind to us this far with her sleeping habits and mood.

My 1 year old went to bed at 11pm and just got up today at 8AM. We are cosleeping, so our habits matter a lot, but he just likes to stay up later and we haven’t been able to push his bedtime earlier (and if he doesn’t get his 3 hour nap in the afternoon, god help us. I’m not too worried about it.

I had the same experience as you.

My hypothesis is that all the nonsense about kids needing 12 hours of sleep/"more than adults"/early bedtime is just that, started by parents who wanted some time to themselves at night and perpetuated through convention.

Our kids started sleeping, waking up and generally behaving better once we stopped enforcing arbitrary bedtimes.

> All it does is fuck with your head, so just take a cue from other parents around you.

A parent you make insecure by gaslamping the hell out of them, suggesting there's something wrong with their child if it doesn't conform to xyz is going to spend a lot of money on solutions to problems that don't exist.

We made tons of these mistakes the first time around. For the rest, we just bought diapers, formula and toys and let nature take its course. They turned out fine.

Baby books are the Fox News of childrearing-- lots of bold opinions and advice, most of it dubious/inapplicable.

If you enjoyed the article, I'd recommend his book "Help", which picks apart self-help books on other subjects.

Just because there is a lot of bad advice. Doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Attunement and Attachment is real and worth investing in.

My wife, an expert in early years education, was mightly impressed with raising boys by steve biddulph.

I've found baby advice books to be 85% fluff/filler and 15% actionable advice. But that 15% can dramatically improve quality of life / the amount of sleep I get each night.

As we are born so helpless; "who or what raised the first human baby?" is the first thought that comes to mind!

That development didn't happen overnight. Our species gradually evolved into one where babies are born helpless because it apparently made evolutionary sense. Logic dictates that it was a gradual change enforced by the survival of the fittest.

Attachment parenting plays on a theme familiar in self-help: the idea that you should reject outside expertise in favour of your own instincts and inner resources – except in the case of the guru offering this advice, who demands your obedience to his or her expertise.

You could replace “Attachment Parenting” with so many different ideas, from anti-vaxxer ideology to AGW denialism. It’s painful to think about just how broadly applicable the observation of the author is beyond the realm of this article. As a species we’re drowning in tribes, cults, and misinformation for power, profit, or comfort.

In particular New Age-ism, political identity, and alternative “medicine” are hotbeds of this.

> As a species we’re drowning in tribes, cults, and misinformation for power, profit, or comfort.

I believe this is the driving motivation behind 'attachment parenting' (what a weird term) and general movements to rely on personal knowledge.

Personal knowledge is the source of these issues; it’s a fallacy that we’re some kind of wise and insightful creature which is only led astray in groups. Tribes, cults, and the misinformation they produce are just the result of our collectivized fantasies about ourselves and our environment. At least as a group we can start to produce something which can be tested.


From my recent experiences with childbirth over the last decade or so, the topic (for non-religious purposes) seems to be becoming progressively more taboo.

For our most recent child, the only times I ever saw it come up were when indecisive parents asked about it on bulletin boards and when the delivering doctor asked us our decision on the matter. The books barely mentioned it, much less advocated it.

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