Bugged about Baby Buggies

Rachel, in the comments to my last post, pointed out a new study claiming that

Parents who choose a stroller that seats their baby facing away from them could risk long-term development problems in their children, according to a study published Friday.
Parents are less likely to interact with children in forward-facing strollers.

The research found that children not facing the person pushing them were significantly less likely to talk, laugh and interact with their parents.

Based on a study of 2,722 parents and children, the study by Dundee University’s School of Psychology calls into question the designs of many of the world’s most popular baby strollers.

“Our experimental study showed that, simply by turning the buggy around, parents’ rate of talking to their baby doubled,” said developmental psychologist Suzanne Zeedyk, who led the research.

Zeedyk’s study, published by British charity National Literacy Trust, included an experiment in which 20 babies were wheeled in buggies for a mile, spending half the trip facing their parents and the other half facing away,

Parents using face-to-face strollers were more likely to talk to their children, who were less likely to exhibit signs of stress, the study said.

We’ll be going into what, exactly, the babies were exhibiting in a while. The real kicker, however, is Zeedyk’s own interpretation of her study’s results:

“Our data suggests that for many babies today, life in a buggy is emotionally impoverished and possibly stressful,” Zeedyk said.

“Stressed babies grow into anxious adults.”

Got that? Let your baby see something other than your face while riding in a stroller, and he’s doomed! Stressed! Emotionally impoverished! Why are you still sitting here reading my rant, instead of rushing out this very minute to buy a Mommy-facing stroller instead of the crappy forward-facing one you undoubtedly have?! Perhaps the cost of the newer, more expensive stroller can be recouped by the lawsuit you’ll undoubtedly be bringing against the company that made your old one…

My initial reaction upon reading that CNN article was, verbatim: “Good. Effing. Grief.” (I would have used the actual swear word, but my kids were nearby and despite being incorrectly strollered and not constantly talked to, they all somehow managed to pick up the nuances of not just one language, but two). Once I recovered, I went to look for the actual study over at the website of it publisher, the British National Literacy Trust. Here it is for your perusal.

Study I was carried out by 57 volunteers located throughout the UK. Each volunteer sat in a location overlooking the main street of a given town/city for a period of 30 minutes, and was asked to make certain observations about each and every child under the age of 3 who passed by during that time: The estimated age of the baby (0-1/1-2/2+ years old), who they were with (Mom/Dad/both), the baby’s mode of transport (buggy/carried/walking), whether the buggy was facing toward or away from the adult pushing it, what the child was doing (vocalising/silent/seeking parent/crying/sleeping), and what the adult was doing (talking/not). Note that unless the child actually stopped within view or earshot of the observer and were the only child on the scene at the time, the baby and parent/s were probably seen for no more than 10-20 seconds, all told.

I was thinking of dissecting this part of the study in detail, but truth be told, it’s enough to read what was done in the study itself and compare that to the rather far-reaching, definitive statements arrived at by the researcher. Can we say “jumping to conclusions” here? I would like to point out a few things that jumped out at me, though:

The researcher claims that since the seconds-long observation of the infant/parent dyad was made at a random point in the child’s journey, “Statistical logic allows us to predict that, if talking behaviour was random, we should have observed parents talking (to their children) as often as we observed them not talking”. However, she fails to take into account that some people are less likely to talk to their infants in crowded public places. Not everyone is comfortable talking in a high-pitched singsong in front of others, but that doesn’t mean they don’t talk to them when unobserved (at home or on a deserted side street).

Even if we assume the proportion of time spent vocalizing by both parents and infants (some 20% overall for both groups) is accurate, I’m left wondering why Zeedyk thinks this is an insufficient amount of time, and what amount would she consider sufficient – 40%, 75%, 100%? Is a parent never allowed, while pushing their baby in a buggy, to be lost in their own thoughts, or focused on getting to wherever it is they’re going, or even – good heavens! – have a conversation with someone else? Talking to the baby and baby ‘talking’ back each on an average of 12 seconds out of every minute sounds plenty to me. I get that the study was done with the collaboration of the ‘Talk to Your Baby Campaign’, but does that necessarily mean ‘Talk to your baby incessantly’? I doubt it.

Study II, upon which lean most of the press release’s claims, involved 20 mother-infant pairs, most of whom were of high educational and economic status. The infants were 9-24 months old (average 13.6 months) and, for the most part, were accustomed to riding the “wrong” way (at least as defined by Zeedyk). The mothers first took their babies in one type of stroller along a predetermined route for about 15 minutes, then switched midway to the other type of stroller for another 15 minutes. The babies were attached to heart rate and audio monitors (the latter for picking up mom’s and baby’s speech); this was known to the mothers. Half the babies started their journey in the stroller facing away from the mother, and the other half in the stroller facing toward her.

Zeedyk found that mothers in the study talked more to their babies when in the Mommy-facing strollers, and the babies also vocalized more. Additionally, she found the babies’ heart rate was slightly (and non-significantly) lower when the babies were in the Mommy-facing position. The higher heart rates were taken to be a sign that the babies were stressed by the stroller’s orientation. It was also noticed that more babies (10 vs. 4) fell asleep during the Mommy-facing ride than the away-facing one; this, too, was attributed to the de-stressing effect of the interaction with Mom. More babies also cried during the Mommy-facing ride as well (also non-significant), but the author declined to attribute this to the babies being stressed, for some odd reason.

However, both groups of mothers talked an awful lot – even when using the away-facing stroller, they spoke to them at an average rate of 6 sentences per minute (as opposed to 15 sentences/minute in the Mommy-facing stroller). I suspect this has a lot to do with the mothers’ knowing they’d be recorded. While there’s a good chance the infant’s positive response caused the mothers to talk even more, either way, they were yakking their poor babies’ ears off.

Zeedyk admits that obtaining a reliable heart rate measurement is problematic in a moving buggy; in any case, elevated heart rates, even reliably obtained ones, are not necessarily due to stress. The away-facing babies could have been excited (in a good way) by the new sights and sounds, whereas the familiar sight of Mommy (not to mention all that talking!) could have bored them to sleep. It’s of value to note that heart rate goes down while asleep – so the proportion of sleeping babies on its own could explain why the average heart rate was lower during Mommy-facing stroller rides, and neither parameter need have anything to do with stress. (One way to partially get around this might have been to have a third journey, this time in the babies’ own strollers. The familiar stroller environment might be expected to be a stress-buster. And of course, to exclude the periods in which the infants slept).

Most mothers rated the Mommy-facing strollers as providing the better perambulation experience, however they didn’t see any difference in their babies’ enjoyment of the rides. One wonders if the mothers were told the study objectives and working hypothesis in advance.

To make an already long story short…what we’ve got is a study which claims to show far, far more than it actually does, and whose author makes statements about harms to babies which are far from being demonstrated here. Zeedyk is neither a novice nor, as far as I can tell, an incompetent researcher; I wonder what caused her to run with these half-baked results to the press, instead of submitting her study to a peer-reviewed journal?

Of course, the AP/NP types (who aren’t exactly known for their understanding of what makes a good study to begin with) are smugly lapping this up. Here’s one example:

Just one more reason why babywearing is such a great way to promote attachment with your child or at least get a stroller that can be turned around or at the very least make sure you think about talking to your children when they are facing away.

Not so fast, Toots. See, if you believe the study’s results are valid – i.e., having your infant facing away from you when moving around makes you talk less to her, her talk less to you, and raises her stress level, then carrying your baby in a sling with her back to you, or even worse – with her on your back, maybe even like so – should have a similar, emotionally-impoverishing effect. Unless you talk to her at the rate of at least 15+ sentences per minute, all the time… 😉 .

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50 Responses

  1. Can’t remember the last time I was called Toots! Probably never. Not really a politically correct term around here, but anyways…

    I never wear my baby in a position where she is forced to look away from me. She is either facing me or is in a position (like on my hip) where she can look at me or look out at the world.

    That is one of the reasons that most babywearing advocates feel that the forward facing baby carriers or positions are not as good as others. So while I do not support outward facing baby carrying, it would have one advantage over outward facing in a buggy. At least the baby would be touching the parent i.e. if not connected by the sense of sound because the parent isn’t talking and not connected by the sense of sight because the baby is looking away, at least the baby would be connected by the sense of touch.

  2. Oh great, now I’m even babywearing wrong if I wear my kid facing out? Damn it.

  3. Isn’t the term politically correct so five minutes ago? or more like one decade ago?

  4. “Is a parent never allowed, while pushing their baby in a buggy, to be lost in their own thoughts, or focused on getting to wherever it is they’re going, or even – good heavens! – have a conversation with someone else?”

    Come on Esther, you know the answer, unless you nullify every need you have and sacrificy yourself for your children, their are doomed. Taking a bath?!? who’s interacting with them while you relax! Reading a book!! Unless it’s reading it to them it’s a no no. Having an adult conversation?!?! only valid it you talk to other AP parents about how to improve your parenting, otrherwise why aren’t you talking to you future einstein

    • I agree. My goodness, how long are they really being pushed in a stroller on average, a few minutes at a time? When would they get a chance to experience and take in the outside environment? The sights, sounds, smells, colors, all of which don’t need narration all of the time. Thank goodness we still have our own minds and can make the decisions we, as parents, feel are best for our child.

  5. I’m not very PC. Oh well…

    I know babywearing ‘advocates’ frown on Bjorns because they supposedly put undue strain on the baby’s spinal column (which I doubt), but never because of the not-facing-Mommy issue. I’ve also never seen a babywearing ‘advocate’ frown on wearing your baby like this:

    Or on one’s back. Or are there degrees of perfection in babywearing I was previously unaware of? 😉

    Mind you, I selected the papoose image precisely because the baby is not only hanging face-out, but you’ll notice the papoose it attached to a frame. So the baby isn’t actually touching Mom at all, but somehow, this is considered ‘instinctual’ and correct because it’s done by an ‘authentic’, primitive culture. And they, you know, never ’emotionally impoverish’ their children like us moderns do!

    As for whether merely touching with one’s face to Mom’s back or outward constitutes emotional enrichment, I don’t think that would fly according to Zeedyk. She maintains (read the preamble to the study) that babies can’t make sense of the outside world unless their Moms are there to mediate the information for them, and be ‘cognitively and emotionally available to them’ all the time. It would, in theory, be almost as hard to divine an infant’s cues (esp. the subtle ones such as facial expressions) while a baby is worn on one’s back or facing outward.

    Of course the whole premise and conclusions supposedly gleaned from this study are so craptastic to begin with, even if I were an APer, I’d probably not use this study to make my point.

    Interestingly enough, this study does somewhat demonstrate that even mainstream parents are quite responsive to their infants even while maintaining healthy boundaries of self. There’s the ‘plenty of talking’ issue, as well as (in Study I) – a high % of the babies being carried were crying. I could act all stupid-like and pretend that this proves carrying causes crying, but it’s far more likely this is a case of reverse causality – i.e, babies who cried were picked up. Imagine that…Teh Ebil mainstreamers responding to their babies and not pushing them away! 😆

  6. Great entry, esther! Also, how frigging obnoxious is the handle “Ph.D. in parenting”? As opposed to mainstreamers’ mere GEDs in parenting, I suppose.

  7. What a bunch of horse crap. I wish my Son would have stayed in the stroller. He was a pick me up baby. But if he would have stayed in the stroller. Life would have been easier for both of us. Also when in the stroller they get to look at the world. Have their own space.

    My daughter loved her own space. Strollers were fine with her.

  8. Oh my God, I read more of that blog and…I have no words.

  9. The CIO entries on that blog make my head hurt. I get the feeling the blog auther isn’t trained in the sciences, that’s for sure.

    I am, in fact, ‘wearing’ my 3 week old right now. Not because of hippie crunchy I’m-a-better-parent reasons, but because this kid has a much higher need to be carried than my first ever did and the carriers let me get things done (by which, of course, I mean ‘surf the internet’). We’ll see if she turns out any differently than her never-worn older sister, who had very little need to be held and in fact preferred to chill out in a bouncy seat or stroller and observe the world, and yet has somehow managed to become a well-adjusted and securely attached 3 year old.

  10. @egrrl – I’m glad to see you are listening to your baby’s needs and instincts. That is, after all, what parents are supposed to do. A lot of people would say you are spoiling her and that you need to wean her off of those horrible habits. They would say you should just put her down and let her cry, that she’ll get over it and that she needs to learn to self-soothe. It is that type of parenting that I am raging against.

    @Tricia – I’m not saying I have a PhD in Parenting. I’m saying I’m working on it, i.e. I research the choices I’m making, I consider both the art and science of parenting, etc. I explained it this way on my blog:

    “I’m working on my proverbial PhD in Parenting. As someone that has spent a lot of years in a classroom, I learned that sometimes I need to take notes and explain things to others before I can truly master them. I spend a lot of time thinking about and reading about things that will help me to be a better parent, so I decided to start writing about it to with the hopes that more of it will sink in.”

  11. I read your blog. It’s still obnoxious. Many of us who do things differently than you do have also researched and considered and come to the conclusions that make sense to them. I can’t stand the “if you just did the research you would see that my way is the RIGHT way” argument.

  12. Wow. I was really open-minded until I read this part:

    “Of course, the AP/NP types (who aren’t exactly known for their understanding of what makes a good study to begin with) are smugly lapping this up.”

    Why is it necessary to insult an entire group of people because you don’t agree with one woman’s study?

    We cosleep, I’m doing extended breast feeding, no CIO, but I did have a facing away stroller and do feel like studies do need to be taken with a grain of salt. For instance, is wine good for you or bad for you? etc. So please don’t put all AP advocates in a group of smug idiots. It really takes away from your legitimate argument.

    Egrrrl – Aren’t you kind of saying that YOUR reasons for babywearing are better than the “hippie crunchy” people? Isn’t that what you’re accusing them of? Just saying.

    I’m surprised everyone is so angry about this. I mean, we’re all doing what we think is right for our kids, so let’s feel confident that we’re making the right choices and that other people are also doing that for their own kids…


  13. Good lord, could you be sanctimonious? how many parenting experts suggest letting A THREE WEEK OLD cry to learn to self-soothe? None that I’m aware of. Yes, I’m listening to my baby and doing what she needs – at 3 weeks old, that’s perfectly reasonable. However, there comes a point for every baby where you have to balance their needs with the needs of the rest of the household, and for many of us – who have done our research as well – that means something like CIO sleep training. I used it with my first, and if I feel it’s appropriate, I’ll use it with this one too.

  14. Greta, I’m saying my reasons work FOR ME. I’m not smugly proclaiming that everyone should do it, which is what the average APer likes tto either outright claim or imply.

  15. Egrrl I think there are probably tons of APers who don’t tell everyone else what to do, so to say “the average APer”…you’re probably talking about the more outspoken ones who have blogs or write books, etc. APers aren’t the evil, bossy group you seem to think they are.

  16. If it makes you happy, Greta, you can read the sentence you object to as “more outspoken AP/NPers who have blogs or write books, etc.” . The shoe certainly fits. Our friend Phdinparenting here also does quite a bit of anti-CIO proselytizing in the comments of other blogs and messageboards (using the “Harvard study” and Doc Sears as her ‘objective scientific evidence’ as it were).

    When someone says “I do X because this is my preference”, unless I have good evidence X is horribly detrimental…no skin off my nose. But when someone makes claims that X is scientifically proven to be better and proceeds to disparage people who do otherwise, they had better make sure they actually have science firmly on their side, or others (like me) will justifiably call them smug and arrogant.

    I don’t know any expert (or anyone at all, for that matter) who recommends full-blown CIO at 3 weeks. My opinion is that I find it distatseful and unnecessary that early, and that there is the potential for harm if a child that young isn’t allowed to feed during the night. But that’s my personal opinion, and you can see that I’m stating it as such…not “your baby’s brain will be awash in cortisol, which will kill off her neurons and rob her of the capacity for empathy”. See the difference?

  17. I’ll read the sentence that way if you type it that way!

  18. Oh, please, Greta. It’s far too cumbersome to write “more outspoken AP/NPers who have blogs or write books, etc., and everyone who believes them and cheers them on” every time I refer to that demographic. If the shoe fits, by all means, wear it. And it seems to fit quite well, as a matter of fact.

    But hey, thanks for proving my point 😉 .

  19. And Egrrrl, I don’t rmember if I told you congratulations on the birth of your daughter, so…congrats! 🙂

  20. I am not sure why you are so combative. All I was originally saying is that if you want to have a better argument, cut out the personal attacks and generalizations. You seem to have a vendetta against people who think differently than you do, which is exactly what you accuse APers of. If they aren’t nice to you, maybe it’s just because you’re not a very nice person.

  21. Thanks, esther! She’s doing great, not quite as laid back as her sister was, but so far pretty easy to handle (crosses fingers that that continues).

  22. Just throwing this out there but it does seem to me that AP as a philosophy does seem to have this almost crusade-like quality above and beyond what individual parents think and do.

    Am I wrong on this?

  23. Considering that many APers are agnostics, no.


  24. Not hugely an APer, but was on a RAF base where I was doing most of my parenting when the Adorable Child was small. I did extended feeding, I carried, I signed with him, I talked, I cloth nappied, I made all his food (no jars) and I chose not to leave him with babysitters.

    It’s the last bit that works for me – I chose. I was at a time in my life where I didn’t have to work, I could choose to devote myself to the amazing miracle of creation that was my first born.

    Because of that choice, and bearing in mind I didn’t critcise anyone elses choices, I got it in the neck at toddler group, at parents group, at church, at mums and tots, and from friends. As a consequence I did become very defensive, and had to fight against the urge to insult other methods of parenting as much as mine were insulted. I personally didn’t give a monkeys about how other people raised their baby, he or she was a different baby to my baby, with different needs and likes. They had different priorities and philosophies. Fine! Leave the baby at nursery 3 times a week for her social good if you think it’s fine. I choose not to do that. All I wanted was that choice, that less mainstream choice, respected as well.

    But because it is less mainstream, even those of us who aren’t combative get tarred with the same brush. Or for me, I was accused of being too damn happy with my life, putting the womens movement back, being prehistoric about my feeding choices. That makes a person defensive.

    That went on a bit. Sorry!

  25. Yes, Nancy, there is certainly a quasi-religious element to AP philosophy. Even though many APers don’t subscribe to organized religion or even to the concept of a God, they have made AP their religion and crusade on its behalf. Phdinparenting is a sterling example, but she’s not the only one or even the most persuasive. You could probably also work out a hierarchy of prophets, Messiahs and apostles – Sears, Tine Thivenin, Peggy O’Mara, Jim McKenna, Henci Goer, Tina Kimmel…if you really wanted to.

    As for you, Greta, I strongly suggest you look up the psychological term “projection”. I’m not the one calling you a tool or wishing you get hit by a truck. And FYI, yes, I am quite sure of what I’m saying.

  26. Yes, I said that about you. I was angry. I was saying that to a friend online. If you want to go searching for things people are saying about you, I’m sure you’ll find more.

  27. sarah, good luck getting these people to meet you halfway.

  28. But there are no “these people” nor them and us, there is merely the fact that if we are caring enough to write about it, then we are all trying to be good parents.

    I know that there are choices I make that do not match with other people’s choices. That’s ok, they work for me and they harm no-one. With the next baby, I may have to put him or her into nursery to cover the house bills, and I may have to pump feed, or even use disposables if the nursery are not amenable, or if I don’t have time, or whatever, but I’ll cross those bridges when I get to them, and I’ll be open minded until then, or else end up hating myself for being a “them” when I used to be an “us”.

  29. Group hug, everybody!! You don’t want to be like this, do you? —

    I don’t like [insert name of group to disparage here]. They think they are sooooo superior. Thank god I’m a [insert name of your tribe here]. They’re just so angry and judgmental. To hell with them. To them, I say: Oh, please. If the shoe fits, wear it, crusader.

    My two cents (currently worth 0.0155301 euros): the study seems rather silly to me. There are a million paths to raising psychologically healthy kids, and whether you choose a forward- or rear-facing stroller seems highly unlikely to be the determining factor. The methodology they used also seems … amusingly amateurish, you might say.

    On the other hand, getting one’s knickers in a twist about such a silly study, and claiming that it proves something about “those people”, is equally silly.

  30. Sarah – I’m a big fan of “whatever works” parenting myself, as long as it’s not neglectful or abusive. You sound like you were unfairly judged by other parents, though as you pointed out yourself, there are APers who present their choices not as “what works for me”, but as superior, natural, instinctive…implicitly (or maybe even explicitly) telling other mothers they’re inferior. And you’re right, those types ruin it for the rest of you. I’m glad you and Greta are talking about it.

    Greta – there are very few secrets on the Web these days. If you come here and state “So please don’t put all AP advocates in a group of smug idiots” (presumably using yourself as an example of one who isn’t) and then turn around and prove yourself quite worthy of the title on Twitter…don’t expect me not to call you on your hypocrisy.

    Jim – the study is moronic. However – the media response to the study, the possible effect this will have on the public (remember the MMR/autism kerfuffle?), and the gloating from certain smug, idiotic (to use Greta’s words) quarters, is quite knickers twist-worthy.

  31. Since phDinparenting and Greta are both so sure that Esther is wrong, perhaps they’d like to address the actual science? There are many blog posts here where I’m sure Esther (and some of us other commentators) would be happy to have a conversation about the science, since I believe the whole point of this blog (and she’ll correct me if I’m wrong!) is to look at what the various studies actually say and actually prove.

    The problem many of us ‘mainstreamers’ have with APers isn’t what they actually do – hell, I could list out my crunchy credentials and I’d probably qualify as pretty much completely AP, if it weren’t for that pesky sleep training – it’s with the argument that science has shown that AP is better or more natural. Because when you start investigating that claim, you discover it’s full of holes you could drive a truck through.

    Gah, I hope that made sense, I’m really incoherent today. My 3 weeks old sleeps pretty well, but waking up to nurse every 3 hours still takes a bit of a toll on the old brain…

  32. @Egrrrl – sorry, which point in particular did I say Esther was wrong about and that you would like me to discuss the science of?

    My recollection is that I was objecting to her saying that the way I carry my baby (which isn’t the way I carry my baby) would be just as emotionally impoverishing as always facing outwards in a stroller.

  33. Actually, I was referring more to your CIO posts – Esther has some good ones on the same topic, and you have very different interpretations of the same research.

  34. “The problem many of us ‘mainstreamers’ have with APers isn’t what they actually do…it’s with the argument that science has shown that AP is better or more natural.”

    YES. In fact I do use both baby carriers (mei tai and ring sling) and strollers; I have an exclusively breastmilk-fed 5 month old, for whom I pump while I’m at work. We used some gentle sleep training when our older daughter was waking up every 45 minutes, but because she now sleeps through the majority of nights, when she DOES cry we go to her immediately, because we know it means she needs us. So I’m not coming at this from a place of doing everything the opposite of AP – I take what works for us and use it, but I don’t presume to know what works for anyone else.

  35. I loved sleep training. I used it as a lovely way to escape a depressed and drunk husband by saying “No, I have to sit in the baby’s room until he goes to sleep so he feels secure. Yes it did take an hour of me sitting in the rocker reading to myself whilst he dozed, but that’s the best thing for him!”

    I don’t know if I’d count myself as an APer. I know others do, but I’ve also been called a skanky hippy earth mother (I took out the expletives, it was the mans ex-wife!) but I couldn’t be sorry for being “too damn happy” with my life, and I was bloody glad I was extended feeding when he was almost hospitalised for dehydration until he and I just went to bed and fed and fed and fed when he was almost 2 and had croup to the point of exhaustion.

    It’s just different, and different is good. I find these things come more naturally for me, but so does computer programming and working with autistic children (and theres an example of a bad reaction to one small stupid study). They come naturally to me. To my sister, they are utter anathema. She rides like a dream, she is a vet nurse and wanting to heal comes naturally to her. Ugh! Blood! Injections! Horses! One end kicks, the other end bites! BLEUGH!

    It’s only different. My other half had a very different parenting style to me, and we have merged the two, taking the best bits, and we’ll see what happens when we start our own babies.

    No one way has it right for every baby and every mother, else we deny the whole point of so many of these things, which is individualism.

  36. estherar – “and the gloating from certain smug, idiotic (to use Greta’s words) quarters, is quite knickers twist-worthy.”

    Actually, no, it isn’t, imho. Off the top of my head, here are six things more dangerous and outrageous:

    – Poverty
    – War
    – Disease
    – Lack of education
    – Pollution
    – The current economic crisis

    But since these problems disproportionately affect the billions who live in dire poverty … we first-worlders are free to get upset about parenting research. I’m not complaining or trying to inspire guilt, just suggesting that perspective is a healthy thing. These thoughts always come to me around Thanksgiving time …

    But it’s your blog, and if you want to use it to declare you outrage, that’s your prerogative.

    PS: whenever I’m outraged by something, this makes me feel better:

    PPS: I can assure you that Greta is neither smug nor an idiot. Endearingly foul-mouthed, yes … easily annoyed, yes … sometimes indiscreet, certainly … but not a smug idiot. Being her husband, though, I might be biased. 😉

  37. Jim – I suppose you could consider this blog as my puny effort to combat disease (via my posts on vaccines, mainly) and lack of education, particularly health education. For me, it’s a natural extension of my paid work. Either way, the “don’t you have anything better to do?” gambit is really, really old (and might better be directed to your wife and her buddy Annie). I will point out that in the comments of my previous post is a release from the NHS about this study. Apparently, they, too, understand the power of the media and the effects of studies like these on parents.

    I didn’t know Greta existed as of 24 hours ago, but was quite struck by the discrepancy between her “can’t we all get along” demeanor over here vs. her snark with Annie on Twitter. I let her, in a way, speak for herself. You might consider doing the same.

    Egrrrl – You’re quite right that the purpose of the blog is to “to look at what the various studies actually say and actually prove” with regard to AP dogma claims. The blog is called “Mainstream Parenting Resources” because it’s my attempt to collect links and produce articles (i.e., resources) that can serve as rebuttals to such claims on blogs, messageboards, etc. I’ve had some modest success in this regard (and I know you’ve used my posts this way on Annie’s blog, for example – thanks!).

    Annie – I think people are quite capable of seeing that you used the study on your blog in a manner that bashes mainstream parents, and accepted its results as gospel truth. This is less about what you personally do than about what you claim people who don’t practice AP do and their purported motives. If you want to comment (as per Egrrrl’s request) on the CIO threads and start a substantive debate, please feel free to do so on the relevant threads (you know where they are, or can find them easily under the “Infant Sleep” category).

  38. I have to laugh at the crunchier than thou crowd crying sanctimony. Just about nothing is more sanctimonious than APers and their unalterable parenting beliefs.

    I write that as someone who had no epidural, co-slept and breastfeed my daughter until she was two. What a pity the whole Mothering dotcommers often turn reasonable parenting practices into a do it my way or your child will turn into a serial killer blundgeon!

    Nice work Esther on the stats.

  39. estherar, I didn’t mean to suggest that you ought to find something better to do, but rather that the degree of your outrage is out of proportion to the problem. That’s just my opinion, though, and it’s clear that you feel otherwise.

    You might find it difficult to win many converts with your take-no-prisoners rhetorical style … but happy Thanksgiving anyway.

  40. Jim– You are quite mistaken as too the scope of ‘the problem’. The philosophy that sparks so much stridency about baby wearing is the same that goes into dangerous birthing practices and vaccine rejection. As for the birthing practices, well, those harm someone else’s children so I can’t get too worked up about that. If someone is happy with their birth experience, despite a dead or damaged baby, well that doesn’t really effect me. Vaccines on the other had… thanks to all the ‘wisdom’ and ‘research’, my area has seen a rise in infectious diseases that were previously under control. I am talking measles, mumps, pertussis, really scary things that AP/NP adherents are very flip about.

    As for conversion, well, I don’t think that is Esther’s purpose at all, that’s for your side of the parenting pool. What her website, thankfully, does is provide a sane place for sleep deprived parents to go when someone stridently says ‘this is the only way to do something and I have studies to show it’. This particular post is a great example. Who’s to say that babies facing their parents aren’t bored out of their minds with mummy. The babies I see forward facing are usually start at the time they grow out of the infant car seat and are excited by every new experience. Maybe the higher heartbeat is due to that. we can’t know from this study because the person who conducted it showed a bias toward a very silly conclusion.

  41. I don’t think Greta was trying to claim that we should all get along. The way I read it, she was objecting to you making disparaging comments about a *whole category* of people, many of whom will have done nothing wrong. I don’t think that there’s anything contradictory about believing that that’s wrong, yet believing it to be acceptable to make disparaging comments about specific individuals. (Whether either of those behaviours is acceptable is a matter up for debate; what I’m saying here is that I see no contradiction or hypocrisy in holding both.)

  42. Converts?! That’s an odd way to put it.

    Unlike AP/NPers (see definition below), my goal is not to cause everyone to parent exactly the way I do. I see it more in terms of providing counterarguments to AP dogma in order to prevent undecided people to ‘convert’ to AP ideology, and to provide moral support for mainstream parents. If you need a religious analogy, you could say I’m more interested in keeping Jews Jewish than converting the Christians to Judaism.

    I have to clarify here that *I* see AP/NP as being not so much what you do, but how you think about what you do. As I’ve pointed out in the past, I (and certainly many of the other commenters here) have practiced many of the AP tools – breastfeeding, ‘babywearing’, co-sleeping etc. But as Sarah the Suburbanite put it so well, they were things which came about not out of a rigid ideology, but which grew out of a given situation, or even a given child. It doesn’t mean that what I do is worthy, for example, of multiple blinkies in my messageboard siggies in which I attempt to ‘convert’ people to doing what I do. It also means that while I acknowledge that what I do is ideal for me in my situation, it’s not an absolute ideal.

    In contrast, I see those who practice AP/NP as thinking exactly the latter…and if anyone does differently, they’d better have a good excuse handy or they will be accused of being inferior and ‘uneducated’. If others dare criticize their way of thinking (which is what I did to Annie in the OP)? Oooh boy. If you can’t brand ’em as merely uneducated, then they must be a tool (of da Man, Big Pharma or whatever), displaying insecurity or defensiveness. Ring a bell?

    So yes, I consider the category of people I disparaged to be thoroughly deserving of it, and I think Annie and Greta (correctly) saw themselves in that stereotype and responded exactly according to type. I think they both knew very well I wasn’t talking just about people who merely use AP practices, nor did I interpret their conversation on Twitter as pertaining only to the denizens of this blog (Annie, as you know, has been particularly zealous in tarring mainstream parenting with a particular brush). Hence my response.

    BTW, Jim, thanks for the well-wishes, but I don’t really ‘do’ Thanksgiving every year. Hope your turkey (or is it tofurkey?) was good.

  43. Conversations like this are the reason I don’t want to be an AP/NPer. The blind faith of the extremist APers in what they do, and how they must convert others to save the human race degrades the choices I made for my son, in my situation. The science is best attitude of the fundamentalist mainstreamers takes away the individuality of parenting. Most parents are somewhere in the middle, trying to do the best they can, in a world that tells them every single choice they make is wrong. There are negatives to every decision, yes, but there are also positives. Carrying a child is good for the relationship, enables closer communication. Front facing buggying a child enables it to have more experiences, to see the world, and receive a commentary from the parent at appropriate points. (and I have cheerfully announced “Look, there’s a fire engine,” and then just as a passrby thanked me for pointing it out with a big smile on his face, I remembered that my OH had taken the child to the toilet and the pushchair was empty….)

    I’m looking forward to reading more of this blog though. Whilst the comments are clearly drawing lines in the sand, the initial articles are balanced in most cases.

  44. estherar — of course we had tofurky — an organic, free-range tofurky, no less, with a delicious Self-Righteousness Sauce (a secret recipe only available to MDC members). Afterwards, we played our favorite party game, Pin The Guilt On The Mainstream Mother (it involves chanting, “bad parent, bad parent, hurting your child!”). To wind up the night, we listened to Dr. Sears’ secret annual Webcast, which began, “Comrades! Our plan to destroy civilization is almost complete!” I could tell you more, but then I’d have to eliminate you.

    All in all, it was an excellent holiday. We’re looking forward to Christmas, when we plan to go around and de-vaccinate all of the neighborhood kids.

  45. Esther – Surprised to hear you describe preventing the undecided from converting as a goal of yours. I’m delighted for any parent to do things whatever way they feel suits their family, as long as that isn’t a choice made based on skewed information (the difference between “Wearing baby in a sling everywhere – wow, what a cool idea! I’d love to try that!” and “Oh, no – you mean that if I don’t wear my baby we won’t bond as well? I’d thought I was happy with the way we were doing things, but I’d better get a sling if that’s really the Best Way to do things”). Or, in religious terms, I don’t care who believes what as long as they’re not using it as an excuse to lord it over others or to propagandise. I would have thought you felt the same way?

    BTW, going back to the topic of the study – is it just me, or did she totally mess up her statistics? I’m really rusty on this stuff, but surely she’s confused on some really basic stuff about parametric/non-parametric terms and the correct way to use a two-tailed test of significance?

    Jim – good on ya. 😉

  46. Sarah – this comment, just like the one I made before it, refers to AP the One Best Way ideology, not the particular practices that make it up. And while I have little to no control over other people’s thoughts, I would prefer it if most mothers didn’t subscribe to AP dogma, because I believe this would, eventually, result in public policy consequences that would effect us all and many *would* be driven to lord it over others. So yes, I *am* hoping to some degree that my arguments help sway people – not to prevent them from wearing their babies or some such, but to prevent them from becoming AP die-hard ideologues.

    About the stats – TBH, I gave them only a cursory glance when reading the study initially, because even if they were perfect, the study fails on the common sense front. I’m no stats expert either, but AFAIK, she’s right when she says the database in Study I is non-parametric and the mothers’ ratings in Study II are parametric (but due to the small sample size need non-parametric analysis, perhaps?). And directionality of the predicted effect would, in principle, decide whether you use one- or two-tailed tests. Or am I missing something here?

  47. Hmmm… We spent $2K on a pram my son won’t sit in. We hope he’ll appreciate it when he’s old enough to discover the joys of being wheeled around. Ironically, he prefers the cold, metallic shopping cart to a nice cushy pram – go figure…

    I “wore” him for a long time because it was easier and less painful on the arms. I didn’t like the forward facing positions because it was a strain on MY back (as opposed to his). Now he won’t go into a sling so I treat shopping trips as my version of “weight training”.

    BTW, I practice AP, but no, I don’t insist that everyone else does, although I will tell you why I practice AP if anyone asks me or if anyone challenges my parenting methods. But yes, I believe everyone should do what’s best for their child and as the parent, only they know what works best for their child and nobody else’s.

  48. I think the most interesting point to all of this is the incredibly FLIMSY “scientific evidence” that gets play in the media. Then everyone gets all worked up about it — but when Esther explains the actual studies, you can see the MAJOR problems with the conclusions immediately!!

  49. Thank you for the information. I was not aware of that study.

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