Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool by Emily Oster

(New York: Souvenir, 2019), 311



  • parenting theme: you have less control than you think you do; but you do have choices, and those choices are important (xv)
  • optimize not just for the baby, or for yourself, but for the overall family (xvii)
  • Economics framework for decision-making (xix): needs to account for all of costs, value of time, options, and preferences (cf. Cal Newport's thinking on the overstated benefits and profound costs of social media use)

    Too often we focus on the benefits at the expense of thinking about the costs. But benefits can be overstated, and costs can be profound. (xxii)

  • there are some questions the data can't answer for your --> uncertainty (xxii)

  • Avoiding Cognitive Dissonance or Choice-supportive bias: we want our choices to be right, so after we make them we encamp ourselves as advocates of them (xxiii)
    • I see this all the time in people giving career advice: I want to have made the right decision so you should do what I did
    • This misses the point that your choices can be right for you but not other people. That's ok; people's constraints differ

In the Beginning

Chapter 1: The First Three Days

Summary: What the data says about the decisions you'll make in the hospital, including newborn baths, circumcision, rooming-in, infant weight loss, jaundice, cord clamping.

  • see infant weight loss charts on page 19, more info at


  • see bilirubin chart on page 24 and more info on jaundice at


Chapter 2: Newborns

Summary: Medical interventions are extreme for very young infants, so minimizing exposure to germs and other risks early on is reasonable, but no so much later on.

Chapter 3: Childbirth Recovery

Summary: Discussion of mom's recovery from childbirth.

The First Year

Chapter 4: Breastfeeding

Summary: Breastfeeding leads to some short-term health benefits for baby and a reduction in breast cancer risk for mom, but data does not suggest long-term health or cognitive benefits for baby.

An aside on research methods: types of research studies (70-72):

  • Randomized Controlled Trial: recruit a large number of people and randomly assign to treatment groups, the gold standard
  • Observational Studies: compare groups without random assignment,
  • Case Control Studies: identify cases, then identify controls (used for vary rare events)
  • Controls: variables we can hold constant while varying the variable of interest

Chapter 5: Breastfeeding How-To

Summary: Breastfeeding is hard! Early skin-to-skin helps, nipple confusion (with a bottle/pacifier) not supported in the data, etc.

Chapter 6: Sleep Position and Location

Summary: Sleeping on their back lowers the risk of SIDS. Co-sleeping is slightly more dangerous, but much more dangerous if you smoke or drink. Sleeping on a sofa with an infant is very dangerous.

  • Thinking about sleep risks (i.e. SIDS) (113):
    • Put sleep risks in the context of risks that we implicitly accept every day (i.e. driving)
    • Recognize that sleep choices have real quality-of-life impacts

Chapter 7: Sleep Schedule

Summary: There is a lot of variability in infant sleep, but this chapter gives some details.

Chapter 8: Vaccination

Summary: Vaccination is safe and prevent disease.

Chapter 9: Working Mom

Summary: Evidence shows that mom taking maternity leave benefits babies in the short term; the long-term decision should weigh what is best for baby, mom, and family.

Chapter 10: Childcare

Summary: Parenting quality swamps childcare choice in its importance.

Chapter 11: Sleep Training

Summary: Cry-it-out methods are effective, but the most important thing is consistency.

Chapter 12: Solid Food

Summary: Early exposure to allergens reduces food allergies. Kids get used to flavors over time. Vitamin D supplementation is reasonable.

From Baby to Toddler

Chapter 13: Physical Milestones

Summary: Don't forget that there is a distribution behind every milestone, i.e. the average baby rolls over by 9 months.

Chapter 14: Screentime

Summary: Before age 2 a child cannot learn from TV, but they can after that. Be Bayesian in your decisions making about screentime.

  • There isn't much (good) data on the impact of be Bayesian in your decision-making and start with logical parameters and update with new information as it is available.

Chapter 15: Language Development

Summary: Girls develop language faster than boys, with wide variability between children.

  • see "Size of Productive Vocabulary" charts on 232-234

Chapter 16: Potty Training

Summary: Starting earlier takes longer...

Chapter 17: Toddler Discipline

Summary: Focus on consistency and avoiding parental anger. Don't deliver corporal punishment.

Parenting is much more about the child than about the parent. (250)

Chapter 18: Education

Summary: Read to your kids. There is limited evidence on the value of different preschool philosophies.

The Home Front

Chapter 19: Internal Politics

Summary: Marital satisfaction tends to decline after children—don't forget to focus on your spouse.

Chapter 20: More Children

Summary: "The data doesn't provide much guidance about the ideal number of children or birth interval between them."

Chapter 21: Growing up and Letting Go

Summary: "Little kids mean mostly little problems." As your kids get older the problems are fewer, more important, and increasingly outside the realm of empirical analysis. Use the data where it is helpful, and otherwise don't worry about it.

Topic: Parenting

Source: Jordan

Created: 2021-06-19-Sat
Updated: 2023-01-23-Mon