read online books Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We ParentAuthor Meredith Small –

New Parents Are Faced With Innumerable Decisions To Make Regarding The Best Way To Care For Their Baby, And, Naturally, They Often Turn For Guidance To Friends And Family Members Who Have Already Raised Children But As Scientists Are Discovering, Much Of The Trusted Advice That Has Been Passed Down Through Generations Needs To Be Carefully ReexaminedA Thought Provoking Combination Of Practical Parenting Information And Scientific Analysis, Our Babies, Ourselves Is The First Book To Explore Why We Raise Our Children The Way We Do And To Suggest That We Reconsider Our Culture S Traditional Views On ParentingIn This Ground Breaking Book, Anthropologist Meredith Small Reveals Her Remarkable Findings In The New Science Of Ethnopediatrics Professor Small Joins Pediatricians, Child Development Researchers, And Anthropologists Across The Country Who Are Studying To What Extent The Way We Parent Our Infants Is Based On Biological Needs And To What Extent It Is Based On Culture And How Sometimes What Is Culturally Dictated May Not Be What S Best For BabiesShould An Infant Be Encouraged To Sleep Alone Is Breast Feeding Better Than Bottle Feeding, Or Is That Just A Myth Of The Nineties How Much Time Should Pass Before A Mother Picks Up Her Crying Infant And How Important Is It Really To A Baby S Development To Talk And Sing To Him Or Her These Are But A Few Of The Important Questions Small Addresses, And The Answers Not Only Are Surprising But May Even Change The Way We Raise Our Children

10 thoughts on “Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent

  1. says:

    I m not sure how many stars to give this book, because I had very mixed reactions The earlier parts of this book are full of interesting biological and anthropological descriptions of 1 evolutionary and biological information about babies, and 2 how parents in various cultures care for babies Totally fascinating, well described, and exuding open mindedness and curiosity about the wonder of human biology and the rich variety of human behavior.Then, suddenly, the book changes, and the second half is like You should co sleep, and breastfeed your baby forever, and wear your baby all the time, because that s what s NATURAL Which rings especially hollow because you just read about the incredible variety of human behavior across cultures You should wear your baby all the time, because that s what this tribe of hunter gatherers does But wait, didn t you just tell us that that tribe also beats their children to make them behave Should we do that too In this section, I started to become skeptical of all her discussions of research, because they seemed designed to bolster whatever claim she was making, and not to genuinely examine the evidence The book became ideological There were some ideological bits in the early chapters too, like her insistence on describing American parents as putting their babies in hard plastic seats Oh no, that s not judgmental at all totally neutral description So, I do recommend reading this book if you re interested in child development parenting, especially the early chapters, because there s some fascinating information and it was really thought provoking Even the parts that I argued with, made me think But beware the ideology Editing to add Recommend following this up with Mother Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy.

  2. says:

    This is the book I like to give every pregnant friend When you have a child, you inevitably receive a lot of well intentioned advice Writing from a biological anthropologist s point of view, Small helps you pick apart which bits of wisdom are cultural which is not to say that they should be discarded and which are naturally aligned with babies basic biological design This crucial knowledge, which most parents and even pediatricians do not possess, will help make some aspects of babies behavior eating and sleeping patterns in particular less mystifying It will also fortify parents with the confidence to take the advice from grandma, baby books, doctors, friends that works for them and their particular baby, and to ignore what does not work It is comforting to be reminded that all around the world different cultures know how children should be raised and the resulting advice is often conflicting Reading this book helps one to be selectively and deliberately accepting of the constraints of one s own particular cultural milieu.

  3. says:

    This was a really thought provoking read that overall I enjoyed quite a lot But I feel like she frequently repeated herself by the end I was pretty tired of hearing about the Kung San, and wished I had skimmed rather than read the whole thing Also, despite her overall commitment to a scientific approach, she did use fairly biased loaded language in her treatment of Western practices I often agreed with her, but it seemed a bit heavy handed.

  4. says:

    Written by an anthropologist, this is an intriguing account of how humans care for infants, from a cross cultural and evolutionary perspective It begins by providing a fascinating summary of infant care in several diverse cultures including three hunter gatherer societies and the modern industrial societies of Japan and the U.S The variety of practices described, not only of caring for the young, but also related to social structure, mating, pregnancy, and birth made for some interesting reading While I would have been interested to learn about the customs in even cultures, these summaries served the purpose of illustrating both the great variety of the practices in existence across the world, as well as how unusual the practices that we take for granted in the US and Western civilization actually are.For instance, in our society we take for granted that babies should sleep in cribs and often in their own rooms, but it is startling to realize that this practice has only been around for the last 200 or so years in Western civilization, that babies still sleep with their mothers in the vast majority of cultures in the world today, and that this is what humans have done for ages over the course of our successful evolution It points out the contrast between our cultural practice of infant solitary sleep and how infants have evolved biologically to sleep in close proximity to their mothers This data leads us to question whether our modern cultural practices are actual compatible with the biological needs of infants, and what is actually best for meeting the needs of infants.This relationship between culture and biology is the theme that guides the rest of the book In addition to sleep, two other topics which are central to the lives of infants are covered eating and state crying, temperament, etc Each of these chapters was packed with interesting information from historical, evolutionary, cultural, and scientific perspectives Some of the parts that stood out to me in the eating section were learning about weaning ages from a biological looking at humans within the spectrum of other primates and cross cultural perspective ranging from 2.5 to 7 years old , as well as the history of breastfeeding and formula in Western culture I was also interested to learn that insufficient milk syndrome only has a physical cause in 5% of the reported cases and is not found anywhere other than Western industrialized nations Rather, its cause is usually associated with separation from the mother at birth, interval feeding rather than feeding on cue or demand , and artificial milk presented as a reasonable alternative Such insights, if properly applied, could help us to prevent this frustrating problem for many mothers.Another eye opening topic was crying Crying is accepted in Western culture as normal and expected for babies, but in many cultures babies hardly cry at all Studies have shown that what helps babies to cry less is human contact picking up a crying baby, promptly feeding a baby that is crying out of hunger, and carrying the baby for hours of each day This may sound like common sense, but it is not the mainstream way that babies are cared for in Western culture Rather, babies cries routinely receive delayed responses and cry it out is a popular and widely accepted sleep training method for infants.It frustrates me that as many advances as have been made in Western civilization, in many ways it has failed us so miserably I wish I lived in a culture in which I could trust the mainstream cultural practices for infant care and everything else , but unfortunately that s not the reality we live in By broadening our perspective on infant care to cultures across the world and our evolutionary history, this book allows us to view our own culture in a new light and begin to look closely at what is actually best for our children.The information and perspectives shared in this book went well beyond what you would find in a normal Parenting book, and it kept me interested from beginning to end I highly recommend this book for parents and non parents alike.

  5. says:

    This was a fascinating read The author relates the parenting practices of different cultures around the world and talks about how certain parenting styles are due to the biology of human babies As a simple example, babies were designed to be breastfed, biologically speaking But in Western cultures, we ve decided to diverge from those biologically based practices to gain convenience and independence from the traditionally intimate parent infant relationship I like how the author says that there s nothing wrong with that, as long as we re aware of the trade offs of choosing that different path Babies will continue to be just fine, as long as they re not completely neglected But for me, the book reaffirmed certain parenting choices we ve already made return Breastfeed on cue for at least one year although the book convinced me to try for two years due to the biology of baby development return Respond to cries quickly because crying doesn t just indicate hunger or a full diaper but also the baby s developmental need for touch return Carry the baby as much as possible to help with on cue breastfeeding and responding to cries quickly return return These happen to be the choices my family has made so far, but I recognize that in some cases the trade offs for the other side of each choice make sense for certain families I think this book does an excellent job of giving you a full picture of each parenting choice so that you can make an informed decision The book was a little slow going for me at first, but once I got to the chapter comparing cultures, it really picked up and was very interesting.

  6. says:

    There is so much that I agree with in this book I loved reading about the anthropological support for the idea that attachment parenting is what is best for babies, and I really enjoyed reading about how babies are cared for in some non Western cultures today though I would have enjoyed reading about of them and also about Western countries other than the U.S That being said, I did find some significant flaws with this book For one thing, Meredith Small asserts at times that all parenting practices are fine and just need to be understood as part of culture, while in most of the book she argues that babies are evolutionarily designed to sleep with adults, breastfeed often for several years, be worn or carried most of the time, and be responded to quickly I don t think that she is consistent on these points, perhaps because she lacks the courage to criticize mainstream American practices without reservation.Second, I had hoped for explanation of why we should look to these aspects of traditional societies but not, say, infanticide.Third, I think that Small is at times out of touch with American views of parenting For example, she suggests that American parents are not concerned with socialization of babies children I think that Americans just view socialization in a different perhaps worse way than many other cultures While in most cultures, babies become socialized by being included in whatever their mothers are doing, Americans tend to believe in my view, wrongly that babies and young children need to be socialized by spending time with their same aged peers.Finally, I disagree with Small s suggestion that temperament isn t inborn That sounds like someone with one easygoing child who thinks that the easy temperament is attributable to great parenting Those of us blessed with babies who, from Day 1, are a little demanding than others, should, like parents of easygoing babies, meet their needs through attachment parenting We should also be prepared to love them, see the advantages in their personalities, teach them to control themselves as needed to function in our society, but not expect that our parenting will change their core temperaments And why should we want that anyway

  7. says:

    Well, nothing to make you feel insecure about your own parenting than reading about cultures where the kids get held for 3x the amount of US kids, and only cry for a few seconds at a time Gives you something to think about, but I don t think I ll be very successful at this until I have a whole village to pass my kid along to, or at least a back strong enough to wear a sling for than half an hour So far, long on introduction as in, I read the intro and am now 60 or so pages in and still feels like intro.After finishing plenty of interesting info, but wish there was diversity of cultures information Mainly focuses on Gusii, Kung San, and US Western cultures, with a couple other tidbits thrown in Much of it still reads like an intro to antropology textbook, and is repetitive enough that any college students assigned this may want to play a drinking game I d suggest every time she says that the Kung San breastfeed every 13 minutes.

  8. says:

    Excellent A review of the way humans around the world parent, including hunter gatherer tribes and Western, industrialized countries It is shocking how backwards many American traditions are Why are we concerned about facilitating a child s independence over their emotional security and well being That is the path that we are on when we stop breastfeeding a few months after birth, leave infants to sleep alone in separate rooms, and spend just twenty percent of the time in physical contact holding our children Yikes A MUST READ FOR ALL MOMS AND DADS TO BE

  9. says:

    Great book even for us dads

  10. says:

    Readable, informative, interesting, fact based what s not to love