Cribsheet by Emily Oster [7/10]

Emily Oster belongs to the modern movement of economists tackling real life issues and “Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, From Birth to Preschool” is her second foray into the minefield of modern parents and children. While her first book, “Expecting Better,” tackled childbirth, this one covers how to raise your newborn. Breastfeeding, sleep position, vaccination, sleep training, walking milestones, discipline, television viewing … you name it, she covers it. And her approach is different to any other such book. She does what I (a former actuary) would do: see what data is available, absorb it all, analyze what she has, and offer commonsense assessments. For example, according to her analysis, there simply isn’t compelling solid-enough evidence to prove that breastfeeding is better for the baby. That doesn’t mean breastfeeding isn’t a boon, just that your decision is yours alone to make and breastfeeding advocates cannot evoke data to sway you. If you’re after a guru to breathlessly guide you, Oster isn’t for you, and indeed sometimes her dry advice (it is leavened with quite some wit) requires close reading. But if you want to cut through the BS, to balance the pros and cons conscientiously, “Cribsheet” is a fount of sagacity.

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