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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Book Review: The Other Baby Book

I have to tell you, I went into this book totally biased. I just KNEW I was going to LURVE it! I typically go at books for reviews with a bit of a critical eye, but this wasn't one of those times. I had high expectations. That being said, I have to be honest and say that I fell short of lurving and have to give it a "eh" instead. And I have put off doing this review for so long because of that. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. I don't want to offer up bitchy criticism of people I respect as my peers. I'm genuinely struggling as I write this, but I promised and it's time to stop procrastinating. (Hey, wait, is that the laundry that needs switching over? Aw, shucks, I'll be right back...)

Let me start with the great stuff:
- they're obviously of the "Zen Parenting" persuasion and I felt like they were friends chatting with me
- small in size, which isn't as intimidating as the veritable anthologies are to new parents
- they don't mince words when it comes to the formula industry and their nastiness
- very well researched and cited
- handy resource section at the back
- lots of emphasis on instinct
- swaddling and infant massage information that was brand new to me
- the entire "Reframing Normal" subsection is FANTASTIC!
- pro, pro, PRO-breastfeeding
- some good info on direct breastfeeding alternatives
- good info on breastfeeding beyond infancy
- pro-cosleeping with lots of good safety information
- great information on bedding that was new and led me to a future purchase that I never would've normally made
- pro-baby led weaning, which is not something I knew about with my son and I wish I had

Excerpts I dug:
- "One of the easiest and most practical way we access intuition as mothers is by doing the proverbial gut check - vetting ideas or information against the feeling in our bodies." (p. 2)
- "Doctors and hospital personnel tend to teach you what they want you to know, and not stuff like how to prevent tearing or being induced." (p. 8)
- "...birth is a business, and the more customers hospitals serve, the bigger the earnings." (p. 12)
- "Fear-based decisions don't usually bring satisfying results. Control is an illusion, and when we make choices out of fear, we usually end up in a stuck place. Epidurals are a common tool we use to control birth, yet they control us entirely - pinning us to our beds as if we were ill. You'd never know we were about to perform on of the most powerful and miraculous acts of our lives." (p. 23)
- "These days, power isn't often served on a silver platter. But it is ours for the taking, if we know our rights." (p. 32)
- "If physical contact were a competitive sport, the U.S. team would be the consistent loser, year after year. Korean babies are held 90% of the time, as compared with 33% of the time for U.S. babies, who spend most of their infancy in car seats, cribs, and strollers." (p. 52)
- "Women who don't breastfeed have higher rates of breast and ovarian cancer." (p. 61)
- "Introducing formula - yes, even one bottle - has implications. This isn't a judgement. It's simply clinical fact." (p. 63)

Now, the slightly less than great stuff:
- the circumcision section was paltry, not even two pages: four, only FOUR, bullet-points are offered as myth-busters and those aren't even entirely accurate
- the circumcision information wasn't nearly all-encompassing, educational, or definitive enough
- the exclusions for religious circumcision is a no-go for me: three, yes, almost as many as the anti-circ section, bullet-points were given as reasons why religious cutting isn't as bad
- alternative practices to religious circumcision practices weren't mentioned
- elimination communication warranted a full chapter, but things like vaccines and circumcision got stuffed away in a larger chapter
- though it is stated that they are not pro- or anti-vax, I felt the section comes out clearly in favor of vaccinating, even though one of the authors doesn't vaccinate at all
- in my opinion, there was a bit more pandering to the mainstream in effort to not offend than is helpful considering this is marketed as the go-to book for the non-mainstreamers
- some segments implied what those of us in our community understand already, but anyone reading this book with no background in our type of parenting or lifestyle would not get the implications - things need to be spelled out explicitly, especially for new parents who are being bombarded with a ton of information
- great emphasis on IQ, which is important, sure, but leaves little room for focus on other, equally or more important issues
- for a linear thinker, like myself, I found the meanderings off topic and then jags back onto the original path to be jarring
- at one point, it was implied that breastfeeding mothers wouldn't get PPD (or, at least, need meds for it)
- inaccuracies abound
- discussion on why it's important to stay away from soy, but there's no mention of GMOs
- Baby Wise is mentioned, but not warned against (Why bring it up?)
- subsections on sign language, not saying "good job," mattresses, flame retardants in pajamas, and organic cotton bedding each garnered as much and more attention as circumcision

Excerpts I didn't dig as much:
- "Gaining popularity among city slickers and country bumpkins alike..." (p. 55) Offensive...
- "Rapidly switching sides while nursing can help bring your milk faster." (p. 68) Unclear what "rapid" means and I could foresee some whiplash happening here if new moms don't understand.
- "But if you checked no for any of the variables above, we recommend you seek help." (p. 67) Agreed, but from where? This is a great opportunity to talk about IBCLCs that was missed, likely to the detriment of moms and babes everywhere.
- "It's important, however, to keep in mind the two greatest risk factors [for co-sleeping deaths] - extreme poverty and stressful circumstances..." (p. 93) What? A) This isn't even close to true. B) This smacks of privilege. I read this line over and over, brought it to my husband and a trusted friend, and still couldn't come to grips with what they were trying to accomplish with this line.

Final stand: It's better than the most popular of pregnancy/parenting books. But the bad is so egregious, I cannot, in good conscience, recommend it.

*Note: While one of the authors claims to be vehemently against circumcision, their FB page has posted some iffy information and, more grossly, "liked" comments defending circumcision, but not opposing it. Actions speak louder than words...


  1. Did they cite where they got the info on poverty and stressful environments? I did a quick google search and found these quotes in an article (don't worry, I have a full citation below).

    "A consistent feature associated with populations where bedsharing and high infant deaths co-exist is extreme poverty and stressful circumstances including chaotic households. In Alaska, USA, for example, bed- sharing occurs among at least 45% of all families and all of the bedsharing deaths reportedly occurred exclusively in the context of heavy drug use." (authors cite another source for the latter statement)

    "But among urban, economically marginalised, minority groups, however, where past and present institutional racism converge to account both for inter-generational poverty and the presence of multiple, related risk factors, bedsharing is associated with high numbers of infant deaths, either from SIDS or accidental asphyxiations and involve sleeping in or around unsafe sleep surfaces. This is especially true in the USA among African-Americans living in large cities such as Chicago, Cleveland, Washington D.C. and St. Louis."

    James J., M., & Thomas, M. (2005). REVIEW: Why babies should never sleep alone: A review of the co-sleeping controversy in relation to SIDS, bedsharing and breast feeding. Paediatric Respiratory Reviews, 6134-152

    Anyway, language seems pretty consistent, but without explanation, contextualization, and other studies that provide data that demonstrate other realities that are just as significant, their sentence seems absurd. No, scratch that. It is absurd. And the whole point of the article above was to get away from such generalizations and misconceptions. Oi.

    Also, I was TAing a course on global health for the last few weeks and pretty much wrote an entire (albeit concise) essay about the history of male circumcision in the States in response to my students' remarks about the barbarism of Africans with their practice of various forms of FGC. I actually had a couple students email me back and basically say they had no idea how the practice actually started here and they wanted to do more research about it. So, yay for that. :)


    1. Hey Ange,
      I sent them my review a week or two ago. According to them, they got the info after talking to a doctor. Nothing more. And I said the same thing to them about needing context and further explanation if they are going to make such claims. It appears to have fallen on deaf ears.