Why Modern Alternative Mama Katie Tietje is dangerous

Beware Dog Sign

Katie Tietje, Modern Alternative Mama, is whining again in a post entitled Why The “Science” Critics are Dangerous.

You might be confused into thinking that Tietje is lamenting critics of science, but her helpful use of scare quotes around “Science” signals that she is whining about people who use science to criticize her.

She places herself in lofty company:

Just a few weeks ago, a group of doctors called for Dr. Oz to be fired from a staff position at a university because of his TV show — they didn’t like that he makes strong claims for supplements and alternative health products, and felt that this interfered with his ability to be employed as a serious doctor…

It may or may not surprise you that as a popular blogger in the alternative world, I’ve faced the same types of criticism — obviously on a smaller scale. There are entire groups dedicated to “stopping” me. These groups leave comments on my Facebook page almost daily, telling me how “dangerous” I am and linking to some article that’s pro-vaccine, pro-GMO, etc. They regularly — at least a couple times a month — write articles about me and all the “woo” I peddle.

I ignore them, generally, as do many of my colleagues. (Food Babe is another huge target for these people.) But it seems that despite ignoring them they’re only speaking out more and more. They’re doing so more publicly. They’re writing for major media and calling people out. (emphasis in the original)

Heaven forfend! How dare they speak out! How dare they do so publicly! How dare they write for major media and call people out! Only Katie is allowed to do stuff like that.

And you know what? It’s not okay. Which is why I’m taking a stand today. I think these so-called “science” critics are dangerous people. And it’s time everyone knew.

Why are bloggers like me dangerous?

The real point is, it’s my goal to provide people with another view point. Alternative information. The mainstream isn’t exactly kind to people who choose home birth (or to reject some/all vaccines, or eat only organic, or…). It’s not exactly accurate or remotely unbiased.

There are people looking for that information. People who want to know what “the other side” really thinks about these topics. And they deserve a safe place to go to access that information.(emphasis in the original)

Safe from what, precisely? Is anyone threatening them? No. When Tietje says “safe” she means “safe from demands for proof.”

For Tietje a safe place is one where she can be validated and she can’t be validated if she’s asked to provide proof for her claims because there is no proof. And that’s dangerous.

It is ironic that one of our greatest technological advances has provided an incomparable boon to scientific illiteracy. I’m referring, of course, to the internet. Prior to the advent of the internet, wacky pseudo-scientific “theories” were relegated to the fringes and had to be deliberately sought out. Now pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo can be widely disseminated.

But perhaps more important than the actual dissemination of misinformation is that feeling of validation that internet communities provide. Pseudoscience can thrive when believers congregate on message boards that validate bizarre beliefs and ban information that undermines those beliefs. They don’t call it validation, though; that’s too clinical. They call it “support.”

Hart et al. explore this phenomenon in their paper Feeling Validated Versus Being Correct: A Meta-Analysis of Selective Exposure to Information. The authors explain:

… Receiving information that supports one’s position on an issue allows people to conclude that their views are correct but may often obscure reality. In contrast, receiving information that contradicts one’s view on an issue can cause people to feel misled or ignorant but may allow access to a valid representation of reality. Therefore, understanding how people strive to feel validated versus to be correct is critical to explicating how they select information about an issue when several alternatives are present. (my emphasis)

Avoiding cognitive dissonance is central to the search for validation:

… According to dissonance theory, after people commit to an attitude, belief, or decision, they gather supportive information and neglect unsupportive information to avoid or eliminate the unpleasant state of postdecisional conflict known as cognitive dissonance.

Minimizing cognitive dissonance requires selective exposure, seeking out information sources that confirm existing beliefs and avoiding sources that undermine those beliefs.

Tietje is correct that her critics are dangerous; they are dangerous to her self-esteem. Asking Tietje for proof or offering scientific evidence that she is wrong creates cognitive dissonance and Tietje and other believers in quackery cannot abide cognitive dissonance. Tietje finds cognitive dissonance unbearable, not merely because it causes leads to questioning her core beliefs, but because her self esteem rests on those beliefs.

Tietje’s claims about the dangers of critics of quackery would be hilarious except for the fact that she actually believes them.

They think that the mainstream view is clearly “right” and they’ll do anything to prove it.

Earth to Katie! Earth to Katie! That’s what science, real science, is all about. It looks for the right answer and the answer can only be right if there is proof.

These are people who will go to any length to say that there is ONE correct view.

That’s because there often is only ONE correct view. You can pretend that there is no gravity, but that doesn’t eliminate gravity. You can believe that the earth is flat, but that doesn’t make it flat. You can insist that vaccines are dangerous, but that doesn’t mean they’re actually dangerous.

And yet, they take no responsibility for the results of these actions.

Because Katie always takes responsibility for her recommendations. Oh, wait! She never takes responsibility.

I provide information; it’s up to you to read more, ask questions, and make a decision to use or ignore it.

Just so long as you don’t ask Katie any questions or request proof.

It’s time to stand up and say NO to these people.

… They do NOT have the right to harass people with an alternative view point.

Harass? Asking questions is not harassment. Insisting on proof is not harassment. Criticizing someone who publicly posts her beliefs for the entire world to see is not harassment!

Her conclusion (Irony thy name is Katie!):

Stand up for what you believe in and choose. Share information even when people don’t like it. Don’t let them make you stop.

Let me assure you Katie, that I’m taking your advice. I’m standing up for science. I’m sharing information whether you like it or not. And there’s nothing you can do (even whining about me) to make me stop calling you out for your dangerous quackery and your equally dangerous belief that you should be “safe” from any need to provide proof.

  • kalilily

    There must be a way to leave speculation open to investigate and try time-tested home remedies and to accept the fact there there alternative healing methods, often passed down through the generations, that do work — AND still use current medical science as a base line for dealing with any kind of health issues. This war between current medical science and alternative ways of treating and healing (as a supplement to modern medicine) needs to stop. There is some middle ground to meet in, but, of course, the extremists on each end get all the publicity and the related financial rewards. Where are the voices that encourage-open minded discussion, investigation, research and information sharing. I’m tired of Skepchick and SciBabe as much as I am tired of MAM and Food Babe. It’s all ego-blather.

    • Nick

      “Do you know what they call alternative medicine that works? Medicine.”

      The issue is not that people seek alternative remedies, it’s that they seek these remedies when there are real proven (scientifically, not anecdotally) treatments available. We take umbrage at the fact that Foodbabe, MAM and their ilk have made “natural” out to be a synonym of “better”. And people are dying because of it.

      • kalilily

        I don’t disagree. I’m just suggesting keeping an open mind and investigating, scientifically, relevant procedures that are still considered “alternative.” I’m also suggesting that the scientific community needs to avoid using the same kind of social media propaganda tactics that the “natural advocate extremists” use. It diminishes scientific credibility.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          NCAAM. It’s there, it’s working, it’s mostly finding that alternative medicine is ineffective.

        • LibrarianSarah

          An open mind is good but you shouldn’t keep your mind so open that your brain falls out.

    • yugaya

      There is no extremism or mainstreamity in how science works – follow scientific method, provide scientific proof, design scientific ways to safely use it as medicine.

      That’s it. Everything else is not science, and it don’t matter how many generations swear by it.

      • kalilily

        Everything else for which there an anecdotal history is is worth examining and considering, investigating and researching. Many “old wives tales” about healing do have “scientific” bases, but the folks back then didn’t know the science. I’m just suggesting keeping an open and curious mind about what might be possible that we just don’t understand YET.

        • yugaya

          “Everything else for which there an anecdotal history is is worth examining and considering, investigating and researching.”

          Homeopathy? Accupuncture? Primrose oil for inducing labour? All of these things have been placed under scientific scrutiny and failed miserably. Other than effects in the normal range of expected placebo – nothing.

          What exactly are you talking about? “Keeping an open and curious mind” ain’t good enough for scientific proof, sorry. No standard of care today can ethically be based on “well we do not understand how this works YET but let’s do it anyway”.

        • NManning

          I don’t know – HOW many? How many of those old remedies don’t do anything at all?

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      Q: What do you call alternative medicine that works?
      A: Medicine.

      Mainstream medicine is perfectly happy to take up “alternative” ideas that work. Heck, the NIH has a specific department (admittedly of dubious value) dedicated to examining alternative medicine claims and bringing those that work into mainstream practice. This department has been a disappointment to its original advocates because it has largely found that most alternative medicine practices simply don’t work.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      I’m tired of Skepchick and SciBabe as much as I am tired of MAM and Food Babe. It’s all ego-blather.

      This is really a false equivalency. It’s like looking at the “controversy” of whether the earth revolves around the sun or the sun around the earth and saying that both sides are equally wrong and it’s all “ego-blather” because really the sun and the earth both revolve around a gravitational point that is between the two (but very, very, very much closer to the earth…as in deep in the earth’s core, due to the differences in mass and therefore gravitational pull of each*.)

      Yes, it’s technically true that the earth exerts a gravitational force on the sun, but the people saying that the earth revolves around the sun are MUCH closer to right than those that say the opposite. Similarly, those who say that alternative medicine is mostly hype designed to separate you from your money and make you feel guilty for your illness are much closer to right than those that say it’s a vast pharma conspiracy and you can be responsible for your own health with a little kale and positive thinking.

      *Of course, it’s really even more complicated than that what with the other planets, but I’m trying to keep this reasonably simple.

      • yugaya

        Yeah, there is no equally legitimate “real world” of SciBabe and MAM’s real world as its alternative.

        There is legitimate science and its conclusions obtained via scientific methodology, and there is unscientific, unproven *other ways of knowing* quackery.

        • yugaya
          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            Though I would say that the evidence can be ambiguous and sometimes the answer to the question “does the evidence support the idea” is “um…kind of?” In that case the answer is “design a way to get clearer evidence” and not “ignore the bits that you don’t like while taking those that you do like to mean that Science supports you.”

          • yugaya

            Agreed, but too often is “warrants more and better designed study” result deliberately misrepresented as proof . Like in the case of the whole microbiome thing.

      • kalilily

        It’s not what they say; it’s the way they say it. Those “science” social media hacks are using the same kind of language and propaganda tactics that the anti-vaxxers use. I am not anti-science, I use my Medicare constantly. I and my kids were all vaccinated. I use antibiotics when I need them. I’ve even had surgery. On the other hand, acupuncture cleared up a “frozen shoulder” that meds and therapy did not relieve. What I really object to is those science and skeptic “babes” lowering themselves to using the a propaganda machine to combat the other side. (And using it all to get publicity and funding.) It’s one thing to fight the anti-vaxxer types with facts. (Neil deGrasse does it with elan!) It’s another to disparage folks for whom Air-Borne works to head off colds, eating fermented foods aids digestion, and using saline solution that has grapeseed extract in it works a whole lot better than Flonase to subdue sinus flareups. Yet those “alternative” substances are thrown in with the “alternative” stuff that’s lethal. The science community certainly needs to keep countering blatant and dangerous lies (like the anti-vaxxers promote) while at the same time looking at the possibility that there is another side to some other issues. GMO foods, like nuclear power, has some positive benefits but also has some possible negative ones. Objective scientists will present both the pros and cons of such issues, but too often they go to the extreme and say “science is always good because it’s science.” There is also the issue of ethics.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          GMO foods, like nuclear power, has some positive benefits but also has some possible negative ones.

          Like what? I can think of a number of potential theoretical concerns, but none that have so far played out as real problems. But I’m open to the idea that I’ve missed something.

          Airborne doesn’t work. The company ended up paying a $30 million settlement for misleading claims. I don’t want to disparage people who use it, but I do want to discourage them from continuing to waste their money on what is essentially an expensive placebo.

          I have no problem with any “alternative medicine” that can prove its claims. It’s just that when it does, it really does become just…medicine.

    • NManning

      Ego-blather? I agree that there is a ‘middle ground’ of sorts, I have no problem using ‘home remedies’ and the like – providing that they actually do something for you. But I will still get some antibiotics when I have a sinus infection. The problem I see with the whole ‘organic/natural’ crowd is that they take to the level of a belief, almost a cult-like belief. It is never just ‘eat fresh food and avoid chemicals’, it is BIG SCIENCE is bad, BIG THIS is horrible, BIG THAT is out to steal your money, ONLY what I tell you is true!’
      Vaccines work. They do not cause autism. Think MAM accepts that?
      No – its the old ‘Shill for BIG PHARMA’ sort of retort. From MAM’s vaccine “education” page:

      “…we provide both information about vaccines and the diseases they cover, and thought-provoking responses to common pro-vaccine rhetoric. ”

      So, the conclusions of literally hundreds of studies is just “rhetoric”, while her ‘information’ is cherry-picked outliers and anecdotes and un-referenced essays.

      Good grief.

      • Guest

        You make a point but ask yourself why most of them do?
        You can only be burned for so long. Millions burned.

    • Of course there’s a way to have home remedies co-exist with traditional medicine: Testing!

      When Katie posts a homemade herbal bug spray (http://www.modernalternativemama.com/2015/05/01/homemade-herbal-bug-spray/) or homemade sunscreen (http://www.modernalternativemama.com/2015/05/11/natural-gentle-sunscreen-salve/), she’s providing recipes without testing them, but claiming they work. That’s irresponsible at best (bug spray) and cancer-causing at worst (fake sunscreen).

      So why not start up a blog that tests these homemade recipes and compares them to off-the-shelf alternatives? Make homemade sunscreen and put it on sun-sensitive paper next to commercial sunscreens of various SPFs. See what happens. Yes, it’s Mythbusters-quality science, but it’s cheaper and faster than a full peer-reviewed study.

      • DelphiniumFalcon

        I suddenly want to create this blog when I have money and free time.

        I actually use home made goat’s milk soap myself because my skin is very easy to irritate. I figured if I could source everything and quality control the oils and other ingredients that go into it, I could use a process of elimination until I have a soap that works but doesn’t make my skin riot.

        I love science and new technologies but I think some old remedies have merit. Ginger for upset stomachs for example.

        Hmmm… Tests.

    • LibrarianSarah
    • Guest

      Says The “MD” who books people every 5 minutes, drugging people to death with untold side effects… yeah

      Here it is:

      MD’s: good for “some” things (physicals, diagnostics, extreme situations where an antibiotic is needed, etc)

      Functional Medicine: good for everyday health and prevention from seeing MD’s, and needing those drugs.

      But I agree. There has to be a middle ground with all this. It’s always one extreme to the next.

      In all reality people are fed up and the MD’s making jokes out of us, abusing us and our children with unnecessary drugs, and can only blame themselves for people taking a stand for thiier everyday health and quality of life. Without that what do we really have??

      My wife went to you “MD’s” with terrible fatigue (and other unusual symptoms for such a young women) for 15 YEARS… and never once was tested for hashimotos although she presented classic symptoms.

      It was the wellness mamas of the world that educated me to order the proper testing myself, and low and behold the discovery was made. We cleaned up diet, cut back on grains, supplemented glutathione, curcumin, vit D, and got off synthyroid, and within a month she was brand new woman. While you keep demanding proof and keep nitpicking studies, I’ll keep my wife. Countless stories just like this one.

  • Mom

    MAM has responded to this article in such a way that enforces the claims in this article. You can check out her angst on her Facebook page.

  • Julie D’Arcy

    This is my first time to your blog, and I really appreciate your thorough write-up. I guess the next question I have (likely rhetorical at this point) is, how do we break past the cognitive dissonance and get people to listen to scientific information without frightening them? As a scientist, I am more concerned with the end result, regardless of what we have to go through to get there.

    • Nick

      Eugenics.

      • sdsures

        In a sense, he’s right: enough babies have to die before NCBers realize that stuff has to change.

  • sdsures

    Well done, Dr Amy!

  • Empliau

    All these people who cleave to their brave maverick doctors, as though their very swimming against the stream made them more likely to be correct, our new Galileo – well, have I got a story for them about someone who actually did, in great part through sheer genius, make a breakthrough in the teeth of the experts. When many scholars of classics and archaeology were trying everything to decipher Linear B, the Bronze age syllabary of the Mycenaeans, an architect named Michael Ventris came up with the answer.

    Yes, he gets Brave Maverick Genius points – but he teamed up with a professional in the field, John Chadwick, to publish the results; he submitted them to the scrutiny of the world’s scholars, to stand and fall on their merits; the decipherment was fully accepted when more evidence (in the form of more tablets, which were read and made perfect sense with the decipherment) was found. And sadly, his work built on the work of a woman scholar, Alice Kober, who did not get credit for her contribution.

    Ventris was amazing, but you aren’t a Ventris because you have a brilliant idea. When your idea is tested, supported by evidence, and stands the tests of reproducibility and time – then you are significant. You’ve given something to the accumulating knowledge of the world.

  • A

    Did she just call “colleagues” her quack friends? As if being a quack were a serious occupation? I know that they’re making a living out of it, but they shouldn’t pretend peddling pseudoscience is a profession.

    • sdsures

      She’s a big duck who doesn’t want to leave her small pond. (Quack, quack!)

  • yugaya

    The whole natural childbirth/alternative mothering is like a parody of itself really.

    You want to give birth and raise your child “natural” and look for advice how to do it? You will be told to read a book on childbirth written by a woman who killed her own premature baby by having a homebirth and refusing medical assistance.

    You want to raise that child using as little conventional medicine as possible? Grab a book written by a mother who refuses to seek adequate medical treatment even when her kids break bones. Katie Tietje hasn’t managed to kill any of her children in order to comply with her own doctrine yet, but she is actively working on that ( currently planning another HBAC).

    Do you really want your own child to go through such borderline child abuse pain of broken bones left untreated for days?

    Do you really want to listen to anything suggested by a woman who says that she would be ok if her child born one way died, because her other child born another way is oh so much better?

    Do you really want to take any child related advice from these monsters?

    • sdsures

      When she was a kid, my mom had a girl friend whose family were Christian Scientists (this would have been in the 1950s). The friend broke her collar bone. It was never set or treated medically. *wince*

  • attitude devant

    Oh dear. You’re in trouble if your claim to legitimacy is that people are complainting about you just like they complain about Mehmet Oz, only less frequently…..

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      Can I like this x1000?

  • Sue

    Delusions of grandeur. This woman used to be a music teacher. She has a few kids. She is not a serious commentator on anything. Yawn.

    • attitude devant

      This is better than practicing scales, I’m sure…

    • yugaya

      She’s about to go all in and unhinged with her “safe advice” as her homebirth due date approaches.

      She’s also the kind of person who is more likely to kill her baby or herself in homebirth due to the narcissistic component of being such a prominent blog authority on the subject, and the fear of losing her stand if she transfers care or seeks medical help.

    • Amy

      Woah there, don’t go tarring all music teachers with the same brush. Most of us are fairly normal.

      • sdsures

        A little insanity now and then helps my music. ^_^

  • Rachel

    That last quote: “Stand up for what you believe in and choose. Share information even when people don’t like it. Don’t let them make you stop.” makes it sound like what she is really mad about is a recent post on the blog Dawn’s brain about Facebook pages you should stop sharing (because they are wrong about everything). I can’t put the link because it sent my first comment to spam but if you google “dawn’s brain ten pages part 2” it is the first result.

    • Rachel

      She seems to think the post somehow “bullies” by handcuffing people to prevent them from sharing on Facebook rather than using logic and facts to persuade that she is an unreliable source. I, for one, was convinced!

      • Sullivan ThePoop

        She is really dangerous. Probably more so than a lot of people. The things she says about her parenting makes me believe she is a horrible mother and trying to encourage others to be horrible as well.

        • Chi

          There is an article she wrote once upon a time about how she loves her son more than her daughter.

          I can understand getting frustrated with a child’s behaviour. But to put that out there on the internet where everyone can see it. And the internet never forgets. You can bet your ass one day that girl is going to read what her mother wrote about her.

          So yes, I find it very hard to respect/take seriously a mother who is a walking contradiction. Especially a mother who didn’t realize that toxic black mold was growing in their flooded basement.

          She’s delusional. And she immediately bans anyone from her FB page who disagrees with her, no matter how polite and respectful their disagreement is. And yet, we’re the bullies for asking for proof when she won’t even let a WHIFF of differing opinions on her page.

          • rh1985

            Isn’t she the one who prefers her son because he was a vaginal birth and her daughter was a CS birth?

          • Chi

            Quite possibly. I’m going to see if I can find where it’s archived, cos it was a doozy. And for her that’s saying something….

            http://www.babble.com/pregnancy/mom-confession-i-think-i-love-my-son-a-little-bit-more/

            Yep, there it is.

          • Cobalt

            It’s been edited to make it less whacko.

          • Bugsy

            Wow, this is the _edited_ version? Yikes.

          • luckymama75

            Yeah I saw that, she took out the part where she’d be more OK with her daughter dying then her son. But see, tons of people have blogged about that paragraph alone. She can erase all she wants but there’s no such thing as deleting on the internet. I’d be willing to bet there’s a therapist that will be involved in that poor child’s life one day.

          • Bugsy

            That post is absolutely horrifying…never mind that it made no sense whatsoever. She laments the lack of bonding time with her daughter following birth, implying that it was a reason why she doesn’t like her daughter as much. Just a paragraph or two later, she states that then during her son’s pregnancy, she feared that she wouldn’t have the uninterrupted bonding time with her son that she’d had with her daughter.

            Frankly, she makes no sense in either this post or the one that Dr. Amy highlighted. My take-away message? She’s an attention seeker who uses the all-natural movement for her own ego and need for validation.

    • Cobalt

      That Dawn’s brain post is excellent. And hilarious. And part of a series.

    • Bugsy

      “Stand up for what you believe in and choose. Share information even when people don’t like it.”

      …somehow I think she forgets that when we say that we’re uncomfortable with how their decisions (i.e.: not vaccinating) could affect our children, they’re the first to cut us out. So much for encouraging parental choice (no matter what it may be).

      • Sue

        I choose to ignore “Mommy-Bloggers”.

        (Well – not EXACTLY ingore. Sometimes I play with them. Can’t resist).

      • SporkParade

        In all fairness, my entire family cut out the anti-vaxxer. Well, not intentionally. It’s just that none of us want her plague rat around our plague rats because her plague rat is a potential vector for deadly plagues.

        • Bugsy

          Oh but yes, don’t you realize that your rats could shed vaccines onto her precious snowflake? (Said in jest, of course…)

    • LK

      Those 2 Dawn’s Brain posts are pure gold!! Thanks for sharing that delightful collection I thoroughly enjoyed it!!!

  • Votre

    FWIW, the people who are often so quick to call in protective services have their own (often mad) agenda that has nothing to do with science. I see them at home/school meetings constantly. They’ll break into tears at the drop of a hat over the most innocuous remark. And they’ll deliver shrill and indignant speeches not related to a topic under discussion without provocation.These types are mainly battling their own inner demons by proxy. The fact that someone can call CPS for any -or even no valid reason at all – and for which CPS is required to respond to (by law) has little to do with this mother’s question. She could have said she was letting the child itch until she could see the doctor and provoked the same response from that rabid and self-nominated type of rabid child advocate.

    • Votre

      Sorry, this was supposed to be a reply to Name below:

    • Alcharisi

      FWIW, there IS a conversation to be had about overuse of CPS and overreaction to parental errors, calculated risks, or differences in practice. But to responsibly have that conversation, we’ve got to bring race and class into it. We need to ask why we’re criminalizing mothers, especially black mothers and poor mothers, and we need to do it in a way that doesn’t minimize the fact that some parents do genuinely endanger their children in a way that requires intervention.

  • Name

    Clearly, you didn’t read the whole article. The danger she is talking about is that a group of people called cps on a mom in one of her groups, for daring to ask if there were home solutions to a rash she could try…. While she waited until the doctor appt she set up for the child.

    She also talked about pro science people actively trying to force alternative people into doing what they want…. As seen by the cps calls. That mom was harmless, yet she got attacked for wanting to try something different thanks they would.

    Everyone is free to make their own choices… It shouldn’t cause people on the pro side to act this crazy.

    Both sides are escalating the situation. Both are getting more and more worked up. It’s ridiculous. Agree to disagree and move on. The only harmful view she holds is her anti vaccine one, and she’s not going around trying to force people to not vaccinate, she’s clearly stated she just thinks people deserve choice… And she doesn’t want to vaccinate until there are safer vaccinEs. You may find that stupid, I kind of do…. But it’s no reason to attack her… She isn’t dangerous… She’s a mom on a blog.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      “Child neglect is harmless”

      Is that a new meme of the anti-science people?

      • Name

        I never said child neglect was harmless, but good job pretending.

    • I am so glad someone called CPS when they had a concern. It is a lot more common for people to ignore their concerns. Being investigated is a hassle, its stressful, but its important that people call whenever they think something bad is happening. Its only a problem if you think having CPS called on you is a mark of moral failure on your part instead of the mark of a society that actually cares if you neglect your children. Its a good thing that these services exist.

      • fiftyfifty1

        “Being investigated is a hassle, its stressful, ”

        What most people don’t know is that the vast majority of reported cases aren’t even investigated. I am a mandated reporter, so I have had to make a number of calls over the years. About 75% of the time, no investigation is made, but rather the intake person on the phone says that my concerns don’t meet criteria or I don’t have enough evidence. Examples include the time I called because an extremely drunk mom drove her child to the clinic and then left the building and drove away when I addressed the subject of her intoxication. CPS said it didn’t qualify because I didn’t have a BAL or other concrete proof that she was drunk. Any teen that is being beaten by parents has to have fresh marks on his body, and a little bruising doesn’t count.

        • That must be terribly frustrating for everyone involved.

        • Medwife

          I’m convinced that whether or not CPS investigates is primarily based on whatever their caseload is that day. “Hmm, this pile on my desk is too big. If it’s a serious complaint they’ll get called on again.”

          • Sue

            CPS must be one of the most thankless jobs on earth.

            If you intervene, people hate you. If you don’t, they blame you. Our risk aversion increases their caseload, without increasing their resources.

          • Fallow

            I wouldn’t want to work in CPS for that reason (among many others), but my mom saw some situations that were really inexcusable. She was not hostile toward CPS in any way, but she did see them fail children who unambiguously needed to be removed from their homes. I’ll bet CPS varies a lot in quality from area to area, but the CPS she dealt with just sucked.

          • Medwife

            I learned today about the death of a baby a couple days ago whose parent was one big screaming red flag… I’m really not feeling charitable right now. Such a fucking avoidable tragedy.

        • Fallow

          My mother was a school counselor at an elementary school with many students who were in unimaginably terrible homes. She’s had a lot to say about this over the years, but one thing she’s repeatedly said is, “CPS has frustrated me far more often with their failure to act, than with their overzealousness.”

          I was about to include examples from her career, but I don’t think any of you want to cry today.

          • Cobalt

            I’ve seen CPS ignore some seriously bad stuff (drug addiction driven neglect and abuse), then put other families through hell for nothing (bonkers even at face value angry ex-spouse reports).

            They need better funding and better standards.

          • Sullivan ThePoop

            One of my Ex’s sisters called CPS on me and after they did investigate they brought charges against her. I should add she called them 5 more times

          • Somewhereinthemiddle

            They brought charges against her? I’m assuming for making false reports or some such? Now I’m curious…

          • Sullivan ThePoop

            Yes, for making false claims. They wanted me to press charges for harassment, but I just wanted it over.

          • Somewhereinthemiddle

            Thank goodness there was actually recourse for her making false reports. Sounds like a total nutcase.

          • Sullivan ThePoop

            She was, she told me crazy things like cats suck the breath out of babies, bandaids grow into babies’ skin, babies can’t breath night air .. and on and on and on

          • Monkey Professor for a Head

            And you didn’t support her alternative opinions? You monster!

        • Amy

          This. I’m in Massachusetts. About 5-6 years ago, we had a rash of cases where children whose families had been reported died over failure by CPS to act.

          • Liz Leyden

            There was another case last year, in the town where I grew up, where CPS lost a kid for almost a year. He was eventually found dead about 10 miles away.

          • Amy

            I remember that one! So sad.

      • SF Mom & Psychologist

        I am a mandated reporter and agree that most issues are under-reported in general and definitely agree that it is good that the services exist.

        However, in my personal life I have seen seemingly mild CPS reports turn into a personal nightmare for two different friends, with real legal and financial consequences (in certain states, it shows up in a background check years afterward, even if charges were dropped) – MUCH bigger than a stress or hassle or even a moral failing. I have seen the same in my work.

        It is an imperfect system that both overperforms and underperforms, and people suffer from both of those issues. I think the reporter can do a lot to influence the way that the CPS worker proceeds, which can be good, or it can be terrifying.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      No one should ever call CPS unless a child is in danger. You seem to have missed the point that Tietje’s advice IS dangerous. It is not merely nonsense, it keeps people from seeking life saving treatment for their children.

      What should people do when a child’s life is in danger?

      • Amayaonnaotaku

        This issue in point was the child has a rash for over four weeks and MAM’s group recommended rubbing SALT on it!

    • Sue

      “she’s not going around trying to force people to not vaccinate”
      “she’s clearly stated she just thinks people deserve choice”
      “she doesn’t want to vaccinate until there are safer vaccinEs”

      Three of the most common anti-vax tropes – she must have the handbook.

    • Nick Sanders

      “And she doesn’t want to vaccinate until there are safer vaccinEs”
      How much safer do they need to get before they are safe enough to use? Vaccine safety improves every decade, yet the opponents just keep on chanting “green our vaccines”.

    • Sarah

      Not wanting to vaccinate until there are ‘safer’ vaccines, ie choosing instead to be unprotected against diseases that are more dangerous than the vaccines, is absolutely a reason to attack her when it endangers her own and other people’s children.

    • yugaya

      She’s a clown who claims that all mainstream science is stupid – here is her comment from her page on that article:

      ” I’d never stop anyone from accessing all sides, or mock them for
      choosing differently than I would. I don’t troll mainstream pages and
      tell them how stupid they are.”

    • QuantumMechanic

      Was this the one where even the mom’s naturopath was worried the kid had scarlet fever and mom immediately started about what vitamins, homeopathic crap, etc. she could use instead of taking the kid to a real doctor because she was afraid of (gasp!) antibiotics?

    • Amayaonnaotaku

      The reason CPS was contacted as there was a child that had a rash for over four weeks and mam’s morons recommended rubbing salt on it

  • Bugsy
  • LibrarianSarah

    This is the woman who wrote a post about how she loves her son more than her daughter right? If she doesn’t want criticism she can always try not sharing shit like that with the entire world. Sorry you are not “brave” for sharing such personal and horrific information with everyone who can use a computer unless “brave” suddenly became synonymous with “stupid.”

    • fiftyfifty1

      I would love her to update that piece now that she has 4 kids (and another on the way). She could rank them 1-5, and bravely tell us which ones she couldn’t live without and which would be like a bummer if they died, but life goes on, you know?

  • Amy M

    As I said on the FB post last night, the freedom of speech and current internet rules allow anyone to post anything they want online. However, it would be awesome if things that are actually outright wrong (like “the Earth is flat” or “vaccines are full of toxins”) should be labeled as such, so anyone reading those things can make a truly informed decision. Trying to censor lunatics so people won’t make stupid decisions, is similar (though not the same) as lactivists deciding that women aren’t capable of making their own decisions about breastfeeding and are taken in by formula advertising. Allowing people autonomy means allowing them to make bad choices too. Hopefully most people would recognize total bs when they see it, or at least question it. Luckily, the kinds of people who agree with Ms. Tietje are a minority.

    I wish it wasn’t possible for crazy woo people to post any nonsense as absolute truth, but at least the other side of the coin is that once its on the internet, its forever—so if Ms. Tietje or someone like her actually commits fraud (by giving medical advice or selling something with totally false claims as to its efficacy), there’s evidence against that person. I see that Kate here absolved herself of any responsibility if someone following her suggestions is harmed—but depending on how she made those suggestions, the victim may be able to sue.

  • JJ

    Weird. Alternative types see themselves as people who are able to question everything and are so brave for going against the mainstream. Just don’t question them or spoil the fun with facts because that is harassment and mean! If you are going to be spouting off (dangerous) health information on the internet then you are going to need to provide the evidence without whining.

    • momofone

      That’s right–“Hey!!! The only ‘alternative’ ideas allowed here are OURS!”

  • “I Am Extremely Insecure”, a novel by Katie Tietje

    • Sue

      Brilliant – maybe an autobiography?

  • demodocus

    She uses a lot of quotation marks; I’m surprised she didn’t use one for peddle.
    For those of us who aren’t doing the actual research (rather than web searches) we have to decide whom to trust. Or, as I told the naturopath at the local yarn store’s stitch-n-gab, yes I’ve “done my research” and one thing historians know is that different people can have wildly different interpretations of the results. (Doesn’t mean that Holocaust deniers aren’t idiots) She can go a head and believe the 1 in 20 docs who aren’t sure about the vaccine schedule, I’ll listen to the other 19. (Just guessing at the numbers).
    OT: I shortened my nym, because it was beginning to annoy me.

    • Sue

      I would estimate the proportion of doctors supporting the vaccine schedule as something like ALMOST EVERY DOCTOR IN THE WORLD vs not very many.

    • Poogles

      “I shortened my nym, because it was beginning to annoy me.”

      Ha! I was just wondering if both spouses had been posting here all along and I just never noticed….

      • demodocus

        🙂 Right now he’s busy with Brony forums

  • Bugsy

    Great post, Dr. Amy. My favourite line: “They do NOT have the right to harass people with an alternative view point.” Well, now…that’s the pot calling the kettle black, isn’t it?

    • Name

      She was referring to the unnecessary cps call one of her readers recieved for no good reason… That’s legit in real life harassment, just for choosing a different way to handle things…

      • Bugsy

        I agree that calling CPS for no reason is harassment, however…

        …as someone who read the entirety of Ms. Tietje’s piece, I completely disagree with your interpretation of the statement I quoted above. Of the entire blog, there were two references to the CPS issue while at least ten times that number referring to her – or others – being harassed for publicly posting “alternative views.” In the context of where this quote appears in the blog, I do not have any question that she was referring more generally to the critique of alternative views.

      • Sullivan ThePoop

        I do not like the way that some people call CPS over internet postings. I mean, you do not even know if the person is telling the truth about what is going on. In this case though she really thinks that people criticizing her advice are harassing her.

    • Rachel

      The first time I read that sentence as: They do not have the right to harass [me/my friends by posting] an alternative view point [in response to me/my friends]. as opposed to what she actually meant: They do not have the right to harass people [who hold] an alternative view point [by doing other bad stuff].
      In fact, reading it again now I still think my initial reading is the more dominant interpretation. Can poor phrasing ever be considered a Freudian slip?

      • Bugsy

        I totally think so. She has a lot of Freudian slips, including the one Dr. Amy highlights in the title. No matter how many times I re-read the title, I can’t read it the way she intended it. My gut is telling me that there’s a Freudian slip there.

  • Squillo

    Tietje is clearly confused about the nature of publication. “Public” is right there on the tin. Publishing isn’t a “safe space” for anyone–publisher, writer or reader. It would be a tragedy if it were.

    • Bugsy

      If a safe space is what she’s after, wouldn’t a better option be to hire a private counsellor?

      • LibrarianSarah

        Or at least get one of those journals with a lock on it. I wonder if Lisa Frank still makes those.

        • Bugsy

          Good ole’ Lisa Frank! I loved her stuff when I was a kid.

          • LibrarianSarah

            She could write all about her sparkly unicorn birth in a sparkly unicorn journal.

      • momofone

        She should know, though, that even a private counselor (in the US anyway) is a mandated reporter in the case of known or suspected abuse or neglect. Poor thing. No place is safe! (sarcasm)

        • Life Tip

          Private counselor also means no adoring audience though. She means “safe space where everyone agrees with me and tells me awesome and alternative I am.”

          • momofone

            I’m sure she thinks that, but it’s not a realistic expectation–support doesn’t equal adoration. (Though she clearly doesn’t understand that.)

  • Angharad

    Also ironic is her insistence that she needs a safe place to advocate for practices that are actually extremely dangerous both for the participants and for other people (homebirth and refusing to vaccinate).

    • Name

      Homebirth, with proper care before and during, with a midwife, for low risk women…. Isn’t dangerous. Midwives are trained to see warning signs of things that would cause them to get the mom to the hospital. Data is often skewed when look at all homebirth, because some of those are unintended. When you look at studies that include only people who actively chose homebirth, the risk goes down to next to nothing. I’d never do it, but that doesn’t mean it’s dangerous.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        Midwives are trained to see warning signs of things that would cause them to get the mom to the hospital.

        Then why do they do such an apparently poor job of doing it?

        • Sue

          Because their attitude is to look for reasons to stay home rather than reasons to transfer.

          The old maxim from House of God: “If you don’t take a temperature, you don’t find a fever.”

          (Disclaimer: House of God was brilliant for its time, but no exemplar of good medical ethics. Many of the observations were acutely perceptive, however).

      • fiftyfifty1

        “When you look at studies that include only people who actively chose homebirth, the risk goes down to next to nothing.”

        Actually that’s not true. There are a number of US studies of homebirth that only include homebirths that are attended by midwives. So no, the terrible homebirth death stats actually don’t include any “oops born at home” babies. An example is the Oregon study that shows that planned homebirths attended by licensed midwives have a death rate 8X that of midwife attended births in the hospital.

      • Cobalt

        Actually, the data makes hospital birth look more dangerous, because intentional home births that end in disaster frequently get transferred way too late, but since death was proclaimed at the hospital it gets included in the hospital birth stats.

        Even in places where midwives are actual trained professionals, fully integrated into the medical care system, and homebirth candidates are screened and risked out, the perinatal death rate is higher.

      • Too bad midwifery orgs won’t define “low risk” pregnancy. Then when people die they say it didn’t count. Its a very pathetic no true scotsman fallacy. If they don’t ever officially define low risk they can claim that its safe and its impossible for other people to investigate the claim.

      • Fallow

        I know two people who had “surprise” breech homebirths. Somehow their midwives had no clue until the babies were on the way out. Or they lied to keep their patients. Which one sounds better to you?

        I also know another woman who had a homebirth whose midwife gave her a nonstandardized test for gestational diabetes – and then played down the risk of gestational diabetes to the point where this woman no longer seems to think it’s really a thing. In fact, when I nearly flunked my own GD test, she told me that doctors don’t know about gestational diabetes anyway.

        This woman had a pretty damned macrosomic baby, who was not a bit overdue. No one had any clue that was going to happen. Good work, midwives!

        • Bugsy

          Was the GD baby okay? Playing with untreated GD is playing with fire, from the perspective of having a kid who is simply too large for a vaginal birth to the perspective of the baby’s uncontrolled blood sugars immediately following birth. Assuming that the only issue was that the baby was big, she’s incredibly, incredibly lucky.

          • Fallow

            The baby turned out okay, thankfully. Even though the mother had a homebirth, she took the child to a real pediatrician on a normal schedule. The mother is a strange mixture of woo and sound thinking.

            But I don’t know much about the baby’s early days. On top of that, the mother normalizes a lot of bad childbirth/infant outcomes. She’s told me that I had premature labor because babies know when they’re supposed to be born. She downplays it when a breastfed baby loses too much weight after birth, or gains weight poorlyl. I don’t entirely trust her judgement when she says “everything’s fine”.

            I want to be clear, that I do not know for sure this woman had gestational diabetes. No one properly tested her, so we’ll never know. But her previous medical providers speculated that she had had undiagnosed GD in her first pregnancy, and that she should be watched for GD in the future. That didn’t happen, because she switched to a midwife who sold her on the whole “glucola is toxic” line of nonsense.

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            Ah, well, if babies know when they’re supposed to be born I guess I’ll just have to let Mom know she did the wrong thing being put on modified bed rest and medications to stop contractions with my sister at the end of month five! My sister just was so excited to get here she forgot her lungs didn’t work yet! Silly hospital and telling her to stay in there until her lungs matured!

            Seriously. Wtf. Babies don’t even have the concept of object permanence down yet and, if it worked that way, you want their due date to be their decision? Bad idea.

          • Fallow

            If we were in person, I’d be high-fiving you right now. If babies knew when to be born, my mother probably wouldn’t have had to been induced at 42 weeks, only to find that the placenta attached to me was turning into a withering old piece of jerky. Presumably, I’d have tried to be born earlier rather than cling to a failing life support system if babies knew when to be born.

            Personally, I found it very insulting/outrageous/infuriating for my friend to imply that the doctors had done a bad thing by giving me steroid shots and admitting me to the hospital to monitor the situation and try to stop it. It’s like she was completely oblivious to how awful she was being.

          • Kelly

            Just heard a story of a boy being born at 24 weeks. He was in the hospital for eleven months. Her second child was trying to come out at 22 weeks. The doctor would not stop her labor or do anything if he was born. So, this woman is saying that a baby knows to be born early knowing it will die? Crazy.

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            Seriously? Seriously?!

            Was this an oops baby and this avoids the stigma of abortion or a baby that was wanted? Because if it’s the latter, unless the child has an issue that incompatable with life, wouldn’t you want to fight for every extra minute that baby has to develop?

            I just don’t get it.

          • Kelly

            No, this was a baby that was very wanted. The parents wanted to have everything done to prevent them from going into labor and /or if he was born early but the doctors said they would not. I don’t understand the not stopping labor at all.

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            Ah I misread your post, I apologize.

            Then this family has all of my sympathy for having to go through that with a child they already loved. You’d think that’d be a violation of the doctor’s oath of do no harm. But I don’t know the rules on that. :S Did the baby make it?

          • Kelly

            Yes. He made it to 35 weeks. When they had the third one, they moved into another state in order to get around those rules.

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            Holy crap that had to have been an awful wait knowing they had no help! I’m glad this story had a happy ending though.

            What crazy state was this? Please don’t say Oregon. I have enough to be embarrassed about my home state for…

          • Kelly

            No, Virginia.

        • There is no excuse for undiagnosed breech. Nor for delaying immediate transfer to hospital if the baby is breech. Period.

          • Tigger_the_Wing

            In the UK, hospital births were, and possibly still are (I’m out of touch because I emigrated in 2000; I had my babies in the early 80s and early 90s), largely handled by fully qualified nurse midwives, with obstetricians on stand-by in case of complications. I lived too far from a hospital to consider home birth, and I also had ankylosing spondylitis and undiagnosed EDS, which led to me spending a lot of each pregnancy in hospital; and also to premature rupture of membranes and early (and fast) labours.

            Two of my sons were breech, despite having been head-presentation in the days leading up to labour, and I was already in hospital with both of them. I suppose that these days, with modern monitoring equipment, it is much easier to be sure which way up a baby is, but EDS also makes it much easier for babies to turn.

            My second son somersaulted the night before delivery, having been declared ‘head engaged’ by the OB/GYN that day, and the midwife refused to believe that a 36-week baby *could* turn, let alone believe me that he *had* – until his feet appeared. Cue OB and emergency forceps delivery with no time for pain relief of any kind.

            My youngest son turned sideways *during labour*, in the minutes after his much larger twin was born. So there was no chance of him being delivered, but the OB/GYN took the decision to try to turn him 90º rather than immediately go for surgery, and he came out feet first too.

            Even under the best of conditions it is possible for people to be in error; which is why I’m not a fan of home birth, to put it mildly (even though I and all my siblings were born at home).

          • Babies can, and do, turn right up to the onset of labor [although turning from vertex to breech is unusual]. My point is that, when first called to a patient in labor, the competent midwife palpates the abdomen, assesses the frequency, strength and duration of contractions, listens to the FHR and takes the mother’s vital signs, and examines PV [except in cases of bleeding] to discover dilatation and, when there is SROM, whether the cord has prolapsed and the liquor is clear.
            Then, if she suspects breech presentation*, she goes for the phone to arrange transfer.

            *The only time she might miss a breech is with a multiple birth — but that should not be done in the home either.

          • Wren

            My son turned in the last 24 hours before his birth, from vertex to breech, or at least that’s the official story. The other option is that a medical student was right and a GP, 2 midwives and an OB were all wrong and he was breech a few days before. I tend to lean towards the second explanation, only because I felt the strangest belly moving sensation a few days before he was born, before all those appointments. He was at term (40 weeks, 6 days at birth), normal sized and I didn’t have a ton of water. He just turned.

            The midwives at the hospital did pick up on the presentation when I was in labour, checked it on ultrasound and sorted out a c-section.

            I can see breech going unnoticed before labour, but by the time you get there it really is important to be absolutely sure.

      • Amy

        ….are you new here?

      • Rachel

        Homebirth is more dangerous than hospital birth. See the numerous posts on this blog making a scientific case to that effect. For example: http://www.skepticalob.com/2014/01/homebirth-midwives-reveal-death-rate-450-higher-than-hospital-birth-announce-that-it-shows-homebirth-is-safe.html

      • The Computer Ate My Nym

        The NARM data (that they’re willing to admit to) show an increase in neonatal deaths. Presumably any case that was registered with NARM is an intentional home birth.

      • Nick Sanders

        That’s a lot of caveats. And “proper care” is a total weasel word.

      • Sullivan ThePoop

        Home birth in the US is rarely safe. Home birth in a country where it is part of their medical establishment is still more dangerous than delivering in a hospital, but could be acceptably safe.

      • Poogles

        “When you look at studies that include only people who actively chose homebirth, the risk goes down to next to nothing.”

        Nope, not in the US. Even outside of the US, the risk certainly does not go down to “next to nothing” – in fact, I’d say the risk of childbirth, in any context, never gets down to a “next to nothing” risk level, but that may be just be due to my risk-aversion. This belief that childbirth is somehow naturally low risk is dangerous.

  • What is she talking about? Rational people accept skepticism and doubt as part of the scientific process. When something is proven to be a bad idea, we stop advocating it.

    • SporkParade

      You would be surprised how many “natural” parents consider it overprescribing when their doctors prescribes antibiotics for actual bacterial infections.

      • I wish I’d be surprised, it would mean none of them ever called me a shaman who needs to forsake medication for psychogenic seizures and embrace my gifts.

        *spooky wiggle fingers* Who are they to question a shaman, anyway? 😉

    • momofone

      OT, but my son and I had a really neat conversation a couple days ago about skepticism, because of this blog. He saw the tab with “skepticalob” at the top and asked me what it meant, which led into what skepticism is, and how important science and the information we get from it is, etc.

        • Dinolindor

          Thanks for this link, btw. I’ve been trying to think of more activities for my kids along these lines – more science and less pinterest – and this is awesome.

          • I’m so glad to hear that, I wish more parents took an active role in teaching their children how to reason. We would have a hell of a lot less foolish adults.

      • D/

        Same here with the grandkid recently. She asked about my “scary shit” favorite tab that I refill my reading list from and was a real trooper for the “how science is important” lesson that brought up. I suspect she was hoping it was a secret trove of horror movie recommendations though 😉