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4.6 out of 5 stars
Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2004
I love this book. My best friend gave it to me when I became pregnant, and I am now only reading it (my baby is now 13 months). Against family and most friend's advise, we co-slept with our daughter for the first year, and only stopped because we weren't getting any of our own sleep (waking three times a night for feeding, plus accomodating our 25 pound daughter in our bed). This book confirms what my heart has been telling me all along, all with sound research. I am not spoiling my baby, only giving her the things she tells me she needs. Just because all my neighbors are raising their babies one way, does not mean we all have to do it the same. And reading how other cultures are raising their babies really is eye opening. If you need a refreshing, open-minded reference on baby-rearing, this is the book for you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 1999
A MUST READ for any parent. By the time you've read about the basics of tending to your newborn's physical needs, such as how to take his or her temperature, how to diaper and swaddle, etc., you'll probably be receiving advice from various friends and family members about the best way to feed your baby, how to deal with colic, where your baby should sleep and a million other parenting issues. Before you blindly follow the advice of others on these and other parenting matters, read this book and get a broader insight on why we do the things we do as parents. As a new mother, I read lots of baby care books and was left wondering whether I was getting the whole picture. I wasn't. This book picks up where other generic baby care books leave off and challenges you to consider the best way to parent your baby.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2003
There is a lot of solid research packed in here, but presented in a coherent, accessible way with lots of great examples. This book is for parents who want to open their minds to other ways of parenting. Rather than telling you: Do this!, Small presents the research, links biology, evolution and culture, and gets YOU to wonder about what's best. By discussing the child-rearing approaches of other cultures, Small provokes us to look at our own in a new way. I've used this book both for work (my field is child development) as well as for personal use & reflection (I'm a mother of a 17 month old). Fantastic read! I also recommend "A World of Babies" if parenting across cultures interests you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2004
An amazing book, I cannot put down. Anyone who reads this book will definately rethink western, specifically american, ways of infant caregiving. Small forces one to rethink the ways we provide infant care, by making us diferentiate what we do as a biological dance with an infant to what we do as forced cultural constraints. A good overview of the research that is out there... makes one understand the biological necessity of co-sleep, carrying, and breast feeding.
Anyone who reads this book and then buys a crib, bottle feeds, or puts their child on a strict regime was, in my opinon, obviously not paying attention.
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on January 29, 2003
This is the book I wish I had read BEFORE my son was born. So many "baby experts" write books based on opinions rather than facts, which can make it difficult to decide what is "right" for your baby. Should you let them cry it out in a crib to sleep, or let them sleep with you? Should you breastfeed on demand, or is it better to schedule their feedings? Are you scarring them emotionally if you don't respond to their every whimper, or will it spoil them to pick them up? So many questions that new parents have, and so many conflicting opinions to wade through.
Ms. Small has written a book that gives real answers to these questions, by showing what babies are: physiologically, emotionally and culturally. She backs up everything she says with real science, although her book is not in the least a dry dissertation. I found her information to be inspiring and reassuring. I especially liked that she didn't glamorize nor vilify, the child rearing practices of any one people, choosing instead to show how each and every culture makes compromises based on environmental and cultural pressures.
This is the most important book for every parent to read. I can't praise it enough.
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on January 12, 2001
Although it is isn't a "How to" book, "Our Babies, Ourselves" is by far the best book I've read on baby rearing. Meredith Small presents different cultures' techniques for raising children, then analyzes them using an anthropological perspective. Small examines how these cultures differ in such areas as nursing, where babies sleep, carrying babies, and how quickly to respond to a baby's cries.
Small names specific studies as evidence. She uses research evidence, as well as her experience, to draw conclusions on benefits and drawbacks to these various approaches. She is not "objective" as one reviewer states -- she has her opinions, but she informs the reader what evidence and reasoning she bases her conclusions on.
The main message I get from the "How To" baby books I've read is "You should raise your child the way we say because we're smarter than you." Whether it's "What to Expect the First Year," the Sears books (which I agree with much of) or others (not to mention "Babywise"), the most evidence these authors give is "(unnamed and unexplained) studies say we're right."
Small presents the evidence in favor of quick response when baby is hungry, crying, or has another need. She also favors co-sleeping and slings for carrying babies, based on the research she presents. You can disagree with her conclusions (though I agree with most), but at least she is open with her evidence.
Besides further opening my eyes to other cultures and other ways to raise babies, this book was most beneficial to me in emphasizing that evolution determines how the human race developed and why babies have the needs they do. People pushing in the 1950's and 60's for bottle feeding, putting babies face down to sleep, letting babies cry it out, putting babies in separate rooms to sleep, etc., not only did it without scientific evidence, they also were going against babies' biological needs, determined by millions of years of evolution. Now I think of evolution and what reasons babies have for a particular behavior when deciding how to deal with an issue.
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on December 7, 2000
Small's book on the biological and cultural influences on human development and parenting provides some real food for thought. I found it so fascinating that I finished it too quickly and wished I had more to read. The extensive reference list should be helpful in that respect.
It can be so hard to get out of the rut of what you are used to, even when you actively attempt to do so. This book provides some real examples of how parenting is done in other parts of the world, as well as what the biological reality of the infant is (which often clashes significantly with Western practices). I found the anecdotes very helpful for adding to a repertoire of mental responses for various situations - the story of the gorilla raised in isolation from other gorillas who couldn't breastfeed her baby properly (can be used to argue for our society's need to be more exposed to breastfeeding) and the story of the "difficult" and "easy" Masai babies, in which the difficult babies were much more likely to survive a famine because they were best at alerting others to their needs (helpful in arguing with people who think "demanding" babies are bad babies).
I also enjoyed the photographs. A very nice touch.
This was honestly one of the most riveting books I've read. I hope that others will read it and give some of the perspectives a chance.
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on June 28, 2000
Our Babies, Ourselves has been making a huge impact on me and my approach to my almost 6 week old baby - strongly recommend it.
It's a look at ethnopediatrics, cross cultural study of babyraising. It's strong confirmation of a lot of our casual observations of how our baby behaves and responds, and is the most powerful thing I've read to confirm to me that my instincts about what to do are good and effective (my instincts and my baby's desires = strong alignment with how attachment parenting is described).
Not a how to baby book but really great. Looks closely and nursing, sleeping and contact. Powerful thing I just read: all babies cry, with the crying peak at 6 weeks or so. But babies who are slept with and held when parents aren't asleep (as our baby is - he's solo for only about an hour a day total exclusing of changing him) cry for far shorter periods of time. That is, it can be proactive - babies who are carried and held will cry much less when the do cry. If you pick them up only when they start crying - too late.
The book does a great job of explaining some of the complexities of the parent-kid bond, and looks at how different cultures parent differently according to their society's values, and how attempts to inculcate those values can sometimes (and not only in our culture) lead to babyraising practices that don't make sense developmentally. Really inspiring and smart book.
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on June 30, 1999
I highly recommend "Our Babies, Ourselves" to any parent interested in an anthropologically and biologically-oriented approach to parenthood, especially motherhood. It provides numerous data on how biology affects the parent-baby relationship as well as the baby's behavior and objectively presents how various cultures (including the United States') worldwide accommodate and/or neglect these biological factors and the impact that accommodation or neglect has on the parent/baby relationship.
I got this book when my baby was 3 months old and for me it confirmed every instinct I had as a first-time mother who knew nothing of raising a child prior to having one. I carry my baby in a pouch any time I can; I breastfeed; I'd let the baby sleep in my bed if I could (my husband and I have a waterbed and it's not safe for babies), etc. All of these behaviors are highly, highly beneficial to babies for specific biological reasons.
This is not a "how to" book, nor does it promote any particular approach to child rearing. It is objective and actually rather academic in nature, yet intriguing and easy-to-understand.
Read the book! It's worth it!
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on October 16, 1998
I bought this book immediately after hearing an interviw with Dr. Small on National Public Radio. I was very impressed with the fact that she did not try to tell anyone how to raise their child, simply what other cultures do and why. Obviously something done to socialize a child for one particular culture might or might not be appropriate in your culture.
It did leave me with the question, what culture did I grow up in? Even though I grew up in the US, I found I drew instinctively from the practices of many other parts of the world. This book helped confirm my belief that by respecting what my child tells me he needs, while keeping in mind that my job is to teach him about the world, we can strike a balance that allows him the security he needs while he is learning to live in this society.
I still don't know what culture I grew up in, but at least I know a lot of what I felt was different about how we raise our child is standard practice in most of the world.
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