Cribsheet Interview

Interview with Emily Oster on her latest book: Cribsheet.

I remember finding Emily Oster's first book Expecting Better a few years ago and how thankful I was to find out that research was demystifying most of the pregnancy myths.

I remember taking a deep breath of relief then. Being a french woman in America I have always struggled to find a middle of the road approach, always being torn between my 'frenchness' and the american way.

For instance, it is not uncommon in France for a pregnant woman to have a glass of wine here and there in pregnancy, to drink coffee or to eat unpasteurised cheese (most of the cheeses are tested for listeria)...

Being here I realized that it was really looked down upon so I started to recommend a moderate approach, for people to do their research and of course for them to read Expecting Better.

HypnoBirthing is all about moving away from the fear and bringing things back to basics so what can be more obvious than data and evidence to support rationality.

The problem is that you can find studies backing a lot of different points of views and that is when Emily's Oster approach offers a new light.

As an economist, she looks at data with critical thinking. As a new parent, she relied on data to make informed decisions as well as following her instincts and personal preference. As she mentions herself in her introduction "It is useful to look at data - but it is also crucial to think about what works for your family".

The goal of Cribsheet is "not to fight against any particular advice but against the idea of not explaining why".

Below is an excerpt of our interview this morning:

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. To introduce myself, I am a HypnoBirthing childbirth educator, a doula and I am also expecting. Finding your first book was everything and when I found out that you were writing a 2nd one, I thought well I have to do something about that and thought sharing on my blog would be great for the readers. What I really like about your approach is the rational side of things, it really makes sense to the french side of me. I should mention I studied Economics in high school so this way of thinking is familiar to me and it helps move away from emotional decisions.

My first question to you is in order to help people understand - the notion of data can be a little daunting to people - would you say that data and evidence based information can be used interchangeably?

The notions are close but I am not sure they are quite the same. When I look at evidence base I am thinking that you look at a whole body of data/information whereas when you say data you look at one study. This is important because in a lot of these, you can easily find one study that supports this or that or the thing that you think but if you actually look at all the data together, maybe that will paint a different picture or a more nuanced picture.

Which is what you kind of did with the book, you looked at data for everything and found evidence or lack of evidence to support certain recommendations, painting a less 'meddled' picture when it comes to some recommendations.

I know that you have two kids and that it basically sparked your interest in researching everything, what was the main surprise you came across in researching your 2nd book?

For this book, there is a lot of "people will tell you to do this and other people will tell you to do that" but the truth is often somewhere in between. In some way this book is much more about decision making rather than "this is the right thing to do". That being said I think the information about allergies was interesting, introducing peanuts early in the diet as opposed to waiting, that was surprising. I received different information with my two kids so when I dug into the literature and saw how it had evolved and how they changed the recommendations, it was a great example of how evidence is created but also that the conclusions are so clear.

And this is something I was not even aware of, in France I don't think we avoid giving peanuts to children... And it was surprising to me that this was a thing here! Same thing with breastfeeding... It is very uncommon in France to do extended breastfeeding ( I actually found out the numbers by WHO 19% of women are still breastfeeding at 6 months and when you listen to the recommendations here, it seems that if a child is not breastfed it is really detrimental to their health...

Yes and I think it is not right to say that there are no benefits to breastfeeding, there are some benefits but the rhetoric is so overstated to the reality when it comes to long term breastfeeding and that is when people feel really bad. That puts a lot of pressure and then people feel bad if they can't or don't want to or don't want to do it for that long..

Yes, there is so much pressure on Mums and breastfeeding is the biggest one there and it really is a shame that people are so judgmental and that does not help right... Do you expect to get a lot of feedback on the breastfeeding data?

Some of the claims are supported. And the book also spends a lot of time explaining how we can make breastfeeding work for people.

Right, the support is everything there. And then about drinking and breastfeeding and the pump and dump recommendation..

That one is particularly interesting. In the breastmilk case, yes of course you should not have 4 drinks because then you won't be able to parent your baby. And people have unusual ideas about how this works, that somehow the alcohol gets into the breast milk and that if you take it out and dump it out then you have removed it... as if the breasts were just a balloon...

Right, let's talk about how we metabolize alcohol and how it makes its way to the breast milk...

And then also the topic of circumcision was interesting to me, because in France we don't circumcise unless people do it for religious reasons.

Yes there are some small risks, some small benefits... And people feel really strongly about this and have opinions and I mean it is your family and your kid's penis and no one else's business.

So as a parent, how much of your decisions were based on research and how much was based on instincts and what felt better.

It was different for both kids. Things were much more relaxed with the 2nd kid. We knew what was coming, with sleep training for example. We knew what we wanted to do then. We were able to parent in a bit more of an analytical way.

I appreciated your sharing of the plan you had for sleep training and how the rules were written down so you had a plane to follow . It makes it easier to commit. I mean in France, sleep training is the norm. That is just what you do.

And there are some positive impacts to sleep training for the parents.

That is it! I hope you enjoyed reading! Emily's book Cribsheet was released 2 days ago. You can find it on Amazon.