Category Archives: Mind

The new infant sleep study article

I usually don't like saying "I told you so." But this time, well, I told you so.

You know how the tagline of this site is "You are the best parent for your child"? Well, you are. And now it's been proven by a research study.

(OK, "proven.")

The article "Five-Year Follow-up of Harms and Benefits of Behavioral Infant Sleep Intervention: Randomized Trial " published September 10, 2012 by the journal Pediatrics details the methodology and findings of an Australian study conducted in 2003-2005 called the Infant Sleep Study, along with the methodology and findings of a follow-up with the participants in the Infant Sleep Study conducted in 2009 and called the Kids Sleep Study.

The initial study was designed to discover if there was any harm to infants above the age of 6 months whose parents used "interventions" (meaning various so-called "sleep training" methods, some involving crying), and the follow-up was designed to see if there was any harm to these methods after five years. What they found was that the babies in the group of parents who had used interventions had better sleep (as rated by the parents) and the mothers were less likely to be depressed than those in the control group during the initial Infant Sleep Study, and that there were no noticable differences in the two groups five years later during the Kids Sleep Study.

A lot of the headlines around the study are misleading at best, so I read the article and looked at how the Australian researchers did the initial study. Here it is, in non-scientific language:

First, parents were asked the question "Over the last 2 weeks, has your baby’s sleep generally been a problem for you?" abouth their 7-month-olds. Those who said "yes" were eligible to become part of the study. Note that there was no objective measure of "good sleep" vs. "bad sleep." Instead, they went by how the parents felt about the way their child was sleeping. That's important, because as we've seen here over the years, it's more about how you feel about how your child is sleeping than about any objective measure. If you're happy with where your child is sleeping and how attentive you have to be in the night, it's all good. (And you wouldn't have been able to participate in this study.)

Then, the researchers separated the participants into the "interventions" group and the control group, with the participants having no choice over which group they were in, but they were told which group they were in once they were assigned.

Next, the participants in the control groups came to their regular well-child visits and could ask the nurse about sleep, but weren't specifically told about any interventions they could use.

Meanwhile, the participants in the "interventions" group were told about a variety of sleep interventions, including controlled crying (aka "the Ferber method") and what the study calls "adult fading" or "camping out," which sounds to me like the old "I'll lie on the floor next to your crib until you fall asleep" that many of us know and still have the rug marks on our faces to show for it. Here's the kicker: Participants in this group were allowed to choose how many and which interventions they wanted to use.


To recap: Parents said that things weren't working the way they were currently going, so were given a whole bunch of techniques, and told they should choose the ones they thought would work best and try those with their child. Who else thinks this sounds an awful lot like what's been happening here in the comments section of this site for the past almost-7 years? Because I do.

Essentially what this study did (which is not the same as what the study proved, which I'll get to in a minute) is provide support to parents to try techniques they may not have known about or understood or felt they were able to try before with their kids. I am not one bit shocked that the parents reported fewer sleep problems and greater maternal emotional health compared to the parents in the control group, who didn't get the same support.

The control group participants were not prevented from trying any method/intervention to get their children to sleep. They just weren't taught/informed about any interventions by anyone involved in the study. The difference in the two groups was that one got information and support, while the other didn't.

It is important to note that (contrary to all the headlines about this study) the study did NOT show that "CIO is good" or that every baby needs to be trained to sleep or anything like that. What it showed was that parents who chose controlled crying or other interventions for their own specific babies felt better about how their babies were sleeping after doing those interventions and felt better about themselves. In other words, controlled crying doesn't do harm to babies and parents when the parents think it will work and try it.

I think this study says way more about how beneficial support for trusting your instincts about what your specific child needs is than it does about any specific sleep intervention.

The new findings of this study (based on follow-ups with the original babies and families when the children were 6 years old) are that by the time the kids in the study were 6 years old, there were no differences in the kids and families in the control group and the intervention group in terms of stress level, sleep, child-parent closeness, and other measures of wellbeing of the family. In other words, how or where or what you do about your child sleeping when they're a baby has little correlation with your lives when your child is 6. Don't get too cocky or depressed when you're in the baby years, in other words.

So: Carry on with what you're doing if it's working for you. If it's not working, try something different. (It might help to figure out if crying helps your child release tension or if it increases tension.) Surround yourself with people who are going to support you, and protect yourself from the people who are giving you crap and telling you you're doing it wrong.

You ARE* the best parent for your child.


* Scientifically proven!


Today we were going to talk about getting rid of lice, but instead we're going to talk about rape.

I'm sure by now all of you are experiencing the same anger in reading about Missouri Senator Todd Akin's unforgivably cruel comment that when a woman is the victim of a "legitimate rape" her body won't allow her to become pregnant. (This is shockingly similar to VP candidate Paul Ryan's terminology "forcible rape.")

When the story first broke, it seemed laughable, that anyone could be so uneducated in 2012.

So women told stories, on blogs and FB and Twitter, of what had happened to them. Horrible, horrific stories, of things that had happened to women like us, women like you and me. Not just women *like* you and me, but women who are some of you. I know way too many of you have been raped. And some of you had the chance to say no, even to yell, but some of you were too little or too passed out or too scared or too confused to say no. And someone raped you anyway.

I am so deeply sorry. And so glad that you're still here. And sorry that you're carrying that with you.

As the Akin story unfolded, however, it became apparent that he does know medical facts. He's just using words to try to change them. "Legitimate" rape doesn't mean anything except that Todd Akin wants to decide for himself if you have the right to your own body, or if it's completely fine that someone raped you. 

I am going to ask you to click over to read what my friend Kelly told her teenage daughter about rape, and why rape is rape and not "sexual assault." Why renaming it doesn't make it not rape.

Make no mistake: This isn't about Todd Akin, or Paul Ryan, "misspeaking." This is about attempting to change the language so that he controls the dialogue and we are disenfranchised. We, all of us, women of all parties and religious thoughts and ways of speaking, our children, and the men who love us.

And make no mistake: If you vote into office someone who attempts to use words to make something ugly and brutal into something benign and harmless, you are selling yourself out. You are selling your children out. You are selling out me and the people who read this website. You are telling men who rape that it's ok.

Think, hard, about what you want for yourself and other women. And then fight back, hard, for everyone who said no or couldn't, and still was raped.


The illusion of choice, the free market, and your boobs

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg started an initiative called "Latch on New York" that is asking hospitals to take the formula samples off the bedside tables of new mothers and put them behind the nursing stations or in the drug cabinets so mothers have to ask for them. People are up in arms about this, crying that Mayor Mike is trying to prevent women from choosing and that he's creating a "nanny state."


What he is doing is trying to even the playing field, so huge corporations that don't know or care about your health, your child's health, or any of the decision you make as a parent do not have the ability to pay to have access to your bedside table.

Does it make you angry that formula companies have paid to have the kind of access to you that no one but your chosen medical providers should have? That they have unfettered access to tell you things about your body that may be blatantly false? It makes me angry, but money buys your freedom. I'm surprised the formula companies haven't started striking deals in which women come out of labor and delivery with adhesive stickers (with the name of the formula) stuck across our breasts so the only way even to try to breastfeed is to peel off the stickers first.

Taking formula off your bedside table does nothing to change your ability to choose for yourself. If you are not handed a formula sample in the hospital there is NO EFFECT on your ability to give your child formula when you get down to the lobby, when you get home, a week later, six months later. None. If you are given formula in the hospital we know (based on formula company research) that women are less likely to breastfeed. This means that being given formula in the hospital narrows our choices. Not being given formula, no restriction on choice. Being given formula, restriction on choice.

If you truly care about a woman's right to choose what's best for her and her baby, you will take the financial pressure out of the equation, and eliminate any actions that impede free choice. Putting formula samples right next to the baby's head impedes free choice. Having to ask for formula (just like you have to ask for tylenol, or an extra chucks pad, or another container of orange juice) doesn't impede free choice. It doesn't change anything for women who cannot breastfeed–they can still get those formula samples easily by asking. It doesn't change anything for women who don't want to breastfeed–they can still get those formula samples easily by asking. It could change everything for women who want to breasfeed but don't have correct information or are experiencing problems they can overcome if they're given help, because they will be given EQUAL ACCESS to information that can help them breastfeed and formula samples. They ask for help or they ask for formula. Equal access. No privilege for formula.

I don't want the decisions I make about how to parent my children made by the highest bidder. Especially since the highest bidder doesn't care about me and only wants my money. (Let's not forget that those formula samples are worth about $1.50. A woman who chooses to feed formula based on those samples has just been signed on to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on formula once she leaves the hospital. She is never informed of that. Is THAT free choice?)

I don't care how you feed your baby. But I want you to make a decision about it with all the information, all the support, and all the help you can get. Free choice. I do not want your choices narrowed by the huge financial incentives formula manufacturers pour into hospitals.

As usual, Mayor Mike has gone about his objectives in a ham-fisted way, barrelling in and offending people in an effort to protect consumers. Had I been mayor I'd have gone about it a different way, by requiring any formula company that wants to market directly to consumers in a vulnerable position to fund the salaries of three full-time lactation consultants for every 10 beds in a maternity ward so there is always an LC available to troubleshoot problems, along with providing training in breastfeeding once a year for every RN, LPN, and MD on the floor. Then, go ahead and put formula on the bedside table because there would be an LC right there, too.

But until there is an even playing field, ACTUAL FREE CHOICE WITH BOTH OPTIONS REPRESENTED EQUALLY, don't believe the hype.


(Special thanks to Dr. Aneel Karnani of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan for several discussions that informed the argument in this essay.)


UPDATE: Don't beliueve that having formula on the table affects your likelihood of breastfeeding? PhD in Parenting has a roundup of the research on it at the bottom of this post.

Olympics Opening Ceremonies: Wow

I was in class Friday night and all day yesterday, so I’m just posting this now. The Opening Ceremonies were totally worth watching, but of course I have some comments:

1. Bob Costas is a disgrace. If he wasn’t saying something horribly offensive he was saying something utterly inane, and vice versa. It was cringe-inducing, and frankly, we deserve better. NBC, I will announce the next Olympics Opening Ceremony for you. I won’t compare any athletes to terrorists, mention brutal dictators, call a technical glitch a “controversy,” or seem shocked that the rest of the world calls it football and we’re the only ones who call it soccer. And I can pronounce the names of the countries. Tweet me and we’ll figure out the logistics for Sochi, ok?

2. Uniforms for the Opening Ceremony. The US and Great Britain had some major problems, obviously. While watching the parade of nations I realized that the best ways to go are either with tracksuits since they’re athletes (and, in theory, might need to run all the way around the track at any second) or dressy since it’s a fancy event (and someone might hand them a martini at any second). That makes the uniform winners Canada and Ireland for the Tracksuit Division, and Nigeria and San Marino for the Dressy Division. Special mention, Elaborate Embroidery Division: Jordan and Mexico.

3. Independent Olympic Athletes. Yes.

4. That big wacky spectacle before the parade of nations. So in the nightclub scene, she dropped her phone, and he found it, and then…called her with her own phone. What did he call, if she didn’t have her phone? How did she answer? It made no sense and I was really confused. Her hair was fantastic, though.

5. British people, were there a lot of in-jokes during the Opening Ceremonies that you all got? Because the whole thing kind of baffled me.

6. Me: “All these people are volunteers?”
My friend Sarah who was watching with me: “Yes! 10,000 of them! I can’t believe they’re so talented.”
Me: “They’re probably out-of-work actors.”
Sarah: “10,000 out-of-work actors?”
Me: “There are that many just in the subway in New York at any given time. Why not London?”
Sarah: “You haven’t even been drinking…”

7. Meredith Viera, I do not think “money shot” means what you think it means.

50 Shades of Commodification

Everyone's talking about how the book 50 Shades of Grey and the movie Magic Mike are "mom porn." I disagree.

I think they're commodification of moms.

When I first heard about 50 Shades of Grey I was kind of baffled about why it was such a big deal, because so many of the women I know either read sex-filled books or watch porn. It might not be BDSM-themed, like 50SoG is, but whether it's the kind of book that euphemizes body parts or the kind that describes every detail in detail, we've been reading them for years. And whether it's just a racy movie or something more hardcore, we've been watching, too.

So the idea that by reading 50SoG we're doing something racy or titillating or being "naughty" and that that's a break from our usual boring, buttoned-up little lives is silly. Insulting. Patronizing. And all the fuss over 50SoG and Magic Mike, and, I'd argue, those works themselves, is commodification of us and our lives.

Remember when moms used to put a piece of cheese and some crackers and a piece of turkey and some apple slices in their kids' lunch? Then marketers packaged it up and called it Lunchables. That's all 50SoG is–the Lunchables of erotica.

Thank you but I can put together my own lunch.

The one good thing I can say about 50SoG is that maybe it's allowing some women to think about and talk about sex who were afraid of reading or thinking or watching or talking about it before. I've heard of women worrying that they were being "bad Christians" just by reading (or thinking about reading!) the book. (Have you read the actual Bible? There are way more than 50 shades of every color in that book–sex, violence, deceit, betrayal, eternal damnation, etc.) But they're still reading it.

So maybe it's giving them a starting point to start verbalizing thoughts about sex and sexuality in a way that isn't too personal. (And isn't that the appeal of all erotica and porn? That you can have sexual thoughts that aren't a betrayal of your real relationship because they're happening to a different protagonist?)

I just wish the book wasn't so wink-wink "Oh I'm reading something naughty." And that it was better-written. And fact-checked.

And didn't feel like a carefully-calibrated attempt to package up our desires and expectations and sell them to the world.