Cribsheet by Emily Oster (Book Review Pedcast, written by Sonya Corina Williams)


Emily Oster is back with a second data-centered book, this time focused on all things parenting starting just after birth and continuing into the toddler years. One of the great things about Dr. Oster’s books is that she gives parents answers to some of the “whys” behind the advice that they’re their pediatricians are giving them. Like her first book, Expecting Better, Oster breaks down an impressive number of scientific studies into bite-sized pieces for parents to digest.

Strengths of the Book-Cribsheet

Dr. Oster does a great job of talking through lots of parenting decisions, like breastfeeding, sleeping arrangements, choosing whether mom should return to work, and the impact of daycare options. She importantly and consistently emphasizes that parenting is not “one size fits all”. It is a tough endeavor in addition to being incredibly rewarding. Going through some of the decision making processes and talking about options and how to individualize them for your family is important and Dr. Oster does a great job of reminding us of this.



Some Errors in the Book

That’s not to say that Cribsheet is without errors. A few of Dr. Oster’s conclusions are not quite in line with the current and generally accepted pediatrics parenting orthodoxy of today. She discusses highly allergenic foods but fails to mention shellfish as one of them. Again, on the topic of food, she recommends changing to soymilk for colicy babies, a practice that was abandoned a decade ago. I found her discussion of antidepressant usage during breastfeeding and pregnancy lacking in thoroughness and avoiding a discussion about the risks of antidepressants on infants. I feel that she minimized the dangers of temperature instability in newborns in her discussion of the bathing of newborns. Lastly, as a pediatrician, I strongly disagree with her final conclusions on reading to children. There is very strong evidence that early reading is fundamental to optimal brain development for children.  In fact, reading to children is one of the most important things parents can do for their children- as important as feeding, sheltering, and providing security. Dr. Oster seems to not understand that reading to children is fundamental to their language development and not intended to teach them to read.




Doc Smo’s Conclusions

Now for my conclusions. Overall, Cribsheet is well written, approachable, and informational. Cribsheet also does a nice job of discussing the fact that there are lots of unknowns that every parent will face, even differences between siblings. Dr. Oster does an excellent job of making the information feel relevant and personal, with a conversational tone and lots of personal anecdotes. Interestingly, and not surprisingly, Dr. Oster comes across as more relaxed in Cribsheet, than in her first book. And unlike in her first book, she agrees with the pediatric medical establishment on most medical recommendations. If you find yourself wondering about the basis for some of the conventional parenting wisdom, this book would be right up your alley. Overall, I give Cribsheet 4.5/5 Doc Smo stars.

Many thanks to Sonya Corina Williams for her help in the writing of this book review pedcast. Thanks Sonya.