Bad Moms With Emily Oster | Honestly With Bari Weiss

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Key Takeaways

  • Suffering does not prove you are a good parent – in pregnancy or parenthood
  • Don’t make decisions for your family based on what you think you should be doing or what others are doing – make decisions that make sense for your family
  • Distinguish between changing guidelines in response to large-scale evidence (e.g., sleeping on the back vs stomach) versus changing guidelines based on sensationalized information
  • Similar to what we see with other public health issues, there is minimal nuance in the information disseminated about how to navigate pregnancy, breastfeeding, child development, and parenting


Emily Oster (@ProfEmilyOster) is an Economics professor at Brown University, and a writer of books on pregnancy and parenting. Her goal: creating a world of more relaxed pregnant women and parents

She is the author of, Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong–and What You Really Need to Know, Cribsheet, and The Family Firm.

Bari Weiss and Emily Oster discuss all things about pregnancy and parenthood – from dispelling popular myths, staying calm in the face of uncertainty, data-driven parenting, and more.

Host: Bari Weiss (@bariweiss)

Getting Real About Having Kids

  • The struggle: the effect of having a new baby in the first year is worse than divorce, unemployment, and the death of a partner
  • Having children induces big dips in marital satisfaction, but those dips are smaller if the baby is planned
  • Why do it if it’s so hard? There is a biological wiring to have children and the highs are high
  • The right number of kids really depends on what’s the right number for you
  • Fertility rates are dropping around the globe
  • Don’t have kids if you don’t want to – it’s not for everyone

Busting Myths

  • Many people nowadays want to have more ownership of the process of pregnancy instead of a list of what not to do
  • Having ½ a glass of wine per day during pregnancy is safe for most
    • Of course, binge drinking and high-volume drinking can cause delays and consequences
    • Drinking up to one glass of wine daily is common in places outside the U.S., but we play the shame game in the U.S.
  • Breastfeeding isn’t overrated but may not have the benefits previously laid out
  • What accounts for the discrepancies? Overinterpretation of flawed data without skepticism
    • For example, studies don’t look at other confounding variables such as other behaviors engaged in, real-time instead of retrospective
  • Approaches are overly cautious without sufficient supporting data – “guidelines are designed to prioritize any small suggestion of benefit for a child against even and infinitely large cost for the parent” – Emily Oster

Data-Driven Parenting

  • Use data to instill confidence: make choices deliberately without just blindly following what someone else did
  • Prioritize what you want as a family instead of bending to the whims of your child: if you don’t want to go to a sports practice or game 5 nights a week, don’t
  • Information becomes sensationalized and then becomes a norm for the future; for example, your child is more likely to be struck by a car than kidnapping but we worry more about letting our kids play outside or walk to school

Lighting Round

  • In the short-term, breastfeeding has gastrointestinal benefits; in the long run, the benefits of breastfeeding are overstated – around 4 months will confer a good amount of the benefits
  • Sleep training improves sleep for kids and parents: have a plan, write it out, and be on the same page with your partner
  • The truth about screens: if you’re using the screen instead of doing a different activity, reconsider; one episode of a show is fine
    • Screens will not change your child’s brain, but they won’t learn anything from TV until around age 3
  • Spanking is not associated with improvements in behavior and is harmful to children’s development
  • Pacifiers will not cause nipple confusion and are good for soothing if your baby will take one
  • Baby-led weaning (introducing solid foods instead of baby food) is a non-issue – if it works for you, do it
  • People try infant potty training (holding your infant over a toilet) but, good luck
  • To raise resilient kids, provide a stable house
  • Moms tend to do more parenting than dads because of the early days when the infant and mother are spending more time together
Honestly with Bari Weiss : , , ,
Notes By Maryann

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