Most popular pieces of the year

2016 review banner in wood type

This is the 201st piece I’ve posted in 2016, but I’ve been privileged to be able to write for othe publications as well.

These are my ten most popular pieces of the year:

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The Skeptical OB blog and Facebook page reached more then 7 million people in 2016![/pullquote]

1. Closing Newborn Nurseries Isn’t Good for Babies or Moms on 68,090 shares

I’m deeply disappointed to learn that the hospitals in my state, Massachusetts, are closing their newborn nurseries. It’s a submission to the entreaties of breastfeeding activists (lactivists), and doesn’t accomplish its stated aim. Most importantly, it’s unsafe…

2. Why is American Home Birth So Dangerous? in The New York Times Sunday Review. 29,825 shares

IS home birth safe? That depends on where you ask the question…

But there are places in the world where home birth is relatively safe, like the Netherlands, where it is popular at 16 percent of births. And in Canada, where it appears safest of all, several studies have demonstrated that in carefully selected populations, there is no difference between the number of babies who die at home or in the hospital.

In contrast, home birth in the United States is dangerous. The best data on the practice comes from Oregon, which in 2012 started requiring that birth and death certificates include information on where the birth occurred and who attended it. The state’s figures show that that year, the death rate for babies in planned home births with a midwife was about seven times that of births at a hospital…

3. Dunning Kruger nation and the disaparagment of expertise. 18,399 shares

We live in Dunning Kruger nation.

What do I mean?

A variety of very loud “confident idiots” — anti-vaxxers, homebirth advocates, climate change deniers — actually think they know more than the experts in the respective fields…

4. How the natural childbirth industry sets mothers up for guilt and shame 11,385 shares

…[F]or today’s new mothers, the expectations for childbirth and breast-feeding are higher than ever. Women are supposed to have the most authentic possible experience: They should reject pain relief; eliminate C-sections; embrace midwives, doulas and childbirth educators; and even defy standard obstetric recommendations when they conflict with those goals.

Two powerful forces have arisen to push this dogma. First, the crunchy natural-birth subculture has slowly morphed into an industry, mainly catering to the most privileged women in society. Second, a cabal of natural-birth activists — online, on the air and even inside hospitals — has formed to shame pregnant women who eschew the right-thinking path. For these forces, childbirth has become less about having a baby and more about having an experience. And those who don’t have “the perfect birth” can’t possibly be good mothers.

5. What if we’re doing breastfeeding all wrong?. 8526 shares

It is an article of faith among them that formula supplementation interferes with breastfeeding, dooms exclusive breastfeeding and causes dangerous alterations to infant gut flora. What if they’re flat out wrong? And what if babies are being injured and even die because we aren’t recapitulating nature? …

6. The ultimate appeal of anti-vaccine advocacy: it flatters the ignorant. 8152 shares

One of the most attractive aspects of anti-vaccine advocacy, indeed of all alternative health, is that no particular knowledge is necessary to declare yourself an expert.

It doesn’t matter that you don’t have even the most basic knowledge of science and statistics. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have any understanding at all of the complex fields of immunology or virology. Your personal experiences count for more than the collective wisdom of doctors, scientists and public health officials. Hence Jenny McCarthy, a B movie actress with no training of any kind in science is touted by herself and others as an “expert” on vaccines. Hence Modern Alternative Mother Kate Tietje and similarly undereducated mommy bloggers parade themselves as “experts” on vaccination…

7. Seeing toxins everywhere is just another form of privilege. 7616 shares

It is axiomatic among quacktivists — anti-vaccine activists, organic food devotees, natural parenting advocates — that our world is filled with toxins.

But toxicophobia, fear of toxins, is really just another form of privilege. Only those in wealthy, industrialized societies who have access to copious food and clean water, and are protected from epidemics of infectious disease have the leisure time and financial resources to indulge in internet fantasies of being poisoned by toxins…

8. The theology of quackery; how pseudoscience has become a secular religion. 7606 shares

…It seems to me that for a large proportion of people, particularly people on the political Left, pseudoscience has become a secular religion, complete with creation myth, demons and ultimate salvation.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s plenty of pseudoscience on the political Right, too. But often that is motivated by adherence to standard religious philosophy, the idea that the Bible is the world of God and that anything that contradicts it cannot be allowed to be true. On the Left, where many abjure religion, quackery has become the new religion…

9. Why do anti-vaxxers think “nature intended” for them to survive? 5470 shares

…In reality nature doesn’t “intend” anything. Nature doesn’t “intend” the sun to shine; it shines because nuclear fusion is occurring inside it. Nature doesn’t “intend” the tides to rise and fall; it happens because of the moon’s gravity acting on the oceans. Nature doesn’t intend for people to survive or succumb to infectious diseases; it happens because bacteria and viruses attack people in order to feed and reproduce themselves.

Nature no more “intends” for people to survive infectious diseases than it “intends” for people to survive having a limb bitten off by a tiger. True, your survival might be aided by blood clotting factors that staunch the bleeding and antibodies that combat infection, but it’s equally likely that you’ll die in spite of your body’s defenses against traumatic injury and hemorrhage…

10. Vaccination is far more baby friendly than breastfeeding. 4344 shares

There’s a simple thing that every mother can do to keep her baby as healthy as possible. That’s why we should have a ten step hospital based program to support it.

No, it’s not breastfeeding; it’s vaccination, which saves a thousand times more lives in practice than breastfeeding ever could in theory.

This post also generated the most comments of the year, 2711 and counting.

My most popular meme of the year was this:


It reached 733,100 people on Facebook.

Overall the blog plus The Skeptical OB Facebook page reached more than 7 million people in 2016!

Of course, the most important thing I wrote this year was my book PUSH BACK: Guilt in the Age of Natural Parenting, published in hardcover, kindle and audio editions. The paperback version will be out on January 10, 2017.

It was a very good year!