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  • Megan Johanson

Data-Centric Book Review: Cribsheet

After reading Expecting Better by Emily Oster early in my pregnancy, which I found informative and reassuring, I moved on to her second book: Cribsheet. Cribsheet focuses on data for topics that parents encounter in the first year of their child’s life.

Cribsheet book image.


Emily Oster is an economist who tackled the enormous task of condensing research on pregnancy and infancy topics into bullet points that empower parents to make informed decisions. In this book she walks through the most common questions new parents have such as what postpartum recovery will look like, how beneficial breastfeeding is, whether vaccines are safe, and how much to focus on developmental milestone timelines.

As in her first book, Oster not only summarizes all the existing research that is available on a topic, she explains why some findings are more reliable than others, enabling parents to make an informed decision. I appreciate the combination of rigorous research and friendly writing style that Oster presents.

Here are the five most interesting things I learned from the book:

1. While there are benefits to breastfeeding, research does not support many of the more widely-known claims, such as reduced childhood obesity.

2. Research on sleep training shows no evidence of negative consequences for the child but is associated with improvements of parents’ mental health.

3. Sending your child to a daycare center will likely result in them getting sick more often, but ultimately helps them develop a stronger immune system.

4. Motor and language developmental milestones have a much wider distribution than the timelines seem to suggest. For example, although children usually start walking around 12 months, typically developing children can start walk anytime between 8 and 17 months.

5. Research shows that early consistent exposure to food allergens such as peanut butter and eggs reduces the likelihood of later food allergies.


Overall, I found the book helpful and I would recommend it to other new parents.

The only area that I wish there was more information provided was on what makes certain toddler discipline strategies, such as 1-2-3 Magic, so effective. The research generally supports consistently applying rewards and punishments, but I would have liked more details on the specifics of how to actually implement the strategies.


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