Darwin, finches and the fallacy at the heart of natural parenting

goldfinch

Yesterday a young woman thought she would call me out on Twitter. It didn’t go quite as she had planned; she ended up looking very foolish.

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In the rant that followed, McGann who apparently prides herself on her knowledge of evolution revealed that she doesn’t understand evolution. A lot of natural parenting advocates have the same problem.

The key mistake is embodied in this tweet:

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Evolution teaches us that those who adapt and change are most successful, and those who insist on copying their ancestors will end up extinct.

#Breastfeeding is the result of a 7 million-year, randomized, double-blind, large-scale, longitudinal study called natural selection. This is not Appeal to Nature, but a sign post pointing right at where we should be directing the research.

So many errors in so few words:

  • evolution is not an RCT since evolution acts on all possible variables at once;
  • evolution does not create perfection;
  • evolution leads to survival of the fittest; by definition many will die.

But the key mistake, one beloved of natural parenting advocates, is the idea that we evolved for a particular environment and we should do all we can to recapitulate that environment. That’s the exact OPPOSITE of what evolutionary theory tells us. It goes back to one of Charles Darwin’s most important discoveries about the finches in the Galápagos Islands.

A few million years ago, one species of finch migrated to the rocky Galapagos from the mainland of Central or South America. From this one migrant species would come many — at least 13 species of finch evolving from the single ancestor.

This process in which one species gives rise to multiple species that exploit different niches is called adaptive radiation. The ecological niches exert the selection pressures that push the populations in various directions. On various islands, finch species have become adapted for different diets: seeds, insects, flowers, the blood of seabirds, and leaves.

The ancestral finch was a ground-dwelling, seed-eating finch. After the burst of speciation in the Galapagos, a total of 14 species would exist: three species of ground-dwelling seed-eaters; three others living on cactuses and eating seeds; one living in trees and eating seeds; and 7 species of tree-dwelling insect-eaters.

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The finches can teach us critical lessons about evolution.

1. Fitness is not static.

As conditions changes, fitness changes. And conditions always change, whether it is climate, pressure from other species, local events like volcanic eruptions, etc. There is no such thing as an animal that is “perfectly fit” because there is no such thing as a static environment.

Had Darwin’s finches behaved like natural parenting advocates, they would have whined that they were adapted for ground dwelling and seed eating and therefore, they should continue living on the ground and eating seeds regardless in the dramatic change in conditions.

2. Fitness is tied to the environment.

When the ancestral finch migrated to the Galápagos Islands, its fitness was determined by the environment there. In most cases, the ancestral finch wasn’t particularly fit at all, despite its fitness on the mainland. Evolution caused the finches to evolve new traits, specific to the specific environment.

How successful do you think the seed eating finches were on islands that had very few seeds of the type they had been evolved to eat? Not very. That’s why they evolved characteristics like changes in beaks to allow them to eat different seeds and, in some cases, switched from seeds to insects.

How successful do you think the ground dwelling finches were on islands that had ground dwelling predators? Not very. That’s why they evolved to live in both cactuses and trees.

3. The most successful animals are those who can adapt, not those who remain unchanged. It doesn’t matter what happened in the past, only how well the animal can cope with present conditions.

If we anthropomorphize the finches, we can see just what is wrong with the philosophy of natural parenting.

Suppose the ancestral finches who arrived in the Galapagos had surveyed the situation on each island and announced:

“We were evolved to live on the ground and eat seeds. Therefore, we will continue living on the ground and eating seeds and pretend we are still on the mainland.

“Any finches who sample the different local seeds are benighted fools and inferior to us. They aren’t adapated to eat those seeds so they will certainly not thrive but will become obese, get cancer and auto-immune diseases and die out quickly. We will be the ones who survive.

“Any finches who choose to live in trees or, heaven forefend on ugly cactuses, are also fools and inferior to us. We were evolved to live on the ground and so we will continue to live on the ground, no matter the existence of local predators. We simply need to “trust” that the ground is safe and that will make it safe.

“Nature has rendered us perfectly evolved and all we have to do is live like we have always lived.”

They would have been wrong in every conclusion. The finches destined to be most successful were those who abandoned the way they had evolved and sought out new food sources and new places to live.

It’s not hard to see the parallels with natural parenting.

Lactivists are equivalent to finches who insisted on eating seeds because they always ate seeds. In their view, breastfeeding must be superior because humans have always breastfed. But we no longer live in the state of nature and haven’t for more than 10,000 years. The parents who will be most successful evolutionarily are those who teach their offspring to take advantage of new foods like formula when beneficial. In nature, many babies died due to insufficient breastmilk; those babies can now survive on formula. They are fitter for the current environment.

Parents who advocate co-sleeping are equivalent to finches who insisted on living on the ground even though there were new predators on the ground. In their view, co-sleeping must be superior because humans co-slept in the past. But even if that were the case, they co-slept on the bare ground in the cold. Humans haven’t slept on the bare ground in the cold since fire was mastered. Just like the finches found ground predators on new islands, we now sleep in ways that are harmful to babies: on soft surfaces, with soft bedding, some of us having smoked tobacco, or ingested alcohol or pharmaceuticals. The parents who will be most successful evolutionarily are those who let their offspring sleep in a separate bed, on a firm surface, with no bedding or soft toys.

We have no trouble understanding that finches who insisted on living like their ancestors despite a new enviroment became evolutionary failures. Similarly, natural childbirth advocates who insist that giving birth like our foremothers is “best” are destined to be evolutionary failures as their children die at homebirths or because they refused routine prenatal testing and interventions.

The ultimate irony is that evolution teaches us that those who adapt and change are most successful, and those who insist on copying their ancestors will end up extinct.

  • SD

    After looking into Ms Bridget McGann I have to say that she is pretty amazing with marketing herself and branding. I don’t know if I am totally off here but…

    First of all her CV, linked in account, twitter, etc. quite misleading. Iniitally I assumed she is a Phd qualified medical anthropologist, has conducted extensive research, etc. who may even have some medical experience. However when I read her CV she has a BA with a major in Anthropology and then she lists two separate schools in which she “studied” evolution, infant development etc. in a non degree manner, she also does not put the length that she did this. She also currently says she is a student – but usually if someone is in a Phd program wouldn’t it say “Phd candidate at xyz”?Regardless, how qualified are you to be “publishing” papers on the internet and becoming a maternal health advisor on the eitiology of maternal mortality in Ethiopia? I also had many issues with her power point presentation ” Political Economy of Maternal Mortality in Sidama Region of Ethiopia” … I admit I am probably reading to much into this but on one of her slides titled “Maternal Mortality in Ethiopia” She lists that the maternal mortality rate is double in the hospital vs home and double in city vs rural (not that any of the rural or home data would be 100% accurate in the first place) – both of listed sources for this I could not find that the mortality rate was double for hospital vs home.
    On the next slide she discusses the causes, she states ” another cause commonly listed is obstructed labor which doesn’t seem to be a cause in an of itself but can contribute to uterine rupture and hemorrhage”

    I am concerned about the narrative- I read over some of her other papers. It’s this insidious agenda that I have read and heard over the many years from hb midwives “pitocin bad” “homebirth good” “hospital bad” “Doctors=pregnancy is dangerous” “Midwives=pregnancy glorious and holy”
    This is a microcosm of what is wrong in the present day in our society where everyone is entitled to their own truth and their truth is real for them, everything is relative, etc. this postmodern philosphical ideology.Pregnancy IS dangerous, that is an objective truth, it’s a fact, but it is also an incredible and amazing experience- but no, apparently you have deliver at home sleep in same bed with baby, exclusively breastfeed and commit to attachment parenting.

    I also don’t understand and find it hard to comprehend how someone who has absolutely no medical experience could possibly contribute to the solutions for decreasing cesarean sections, and mostly above all Bridgett in particular she is not qualified and yet the way she has marketed herself is genious, and now that her papers are all on the internet now the inevitable future pregnant patient with a million things to worry about will now have more dribble to be concerned about.

    • Caylynn Donne

      You are only a PhD candidate once you’ve passed your comps – your written or oral comprehensive exams in your field. Typically done after first year of a PhD program, but sometimes later. You aren’t considered a PhD candidate until you’ve passed your comps. Before that, if you call yourself a “PhD candidate,” pretty much all the professors will shake their heads at you and call you “full of yourself” for you are assuming a degree of accomplishment that you haven’t acquired yet.

      So for most people in the first year of a PhD program, they are only graduate students. Once they’ve passed comps they can use the term “PhD candidate.”

      • SD

        Ahh..Ok, so it’s definitely possible then she could be a student

    • swbarnes2

      The “twice as likely to die in hospital as at home” might be true if the hospital births are self-selected to be the ones most likely to be going wrong. If the hospital is hard to get to, or hard to pay for, many women might stay home is labor is progressing okay, and only the dyads in dire straits (like, prolapsed cord, or lots of blood) are transferred to the hospital.

      But the conclusion to that is not to cheer that so many women are giving birth at home, but to work to get women in low-resource settings more access to care.

      • Azuran

        I’m pretty sure people who take an ambulance to go to the hospital are more likely to die than those who drive themselves there. Obviously, we should avoid ambulance, as they clearly increase your risk of dying.

  • Sarah

    I don’t think she’s actually that young. Was apparently doing college courses in 2004-5 which makes me think she must be getting on for 30 minimum, even if she did them in high school.

    • CSN0116

      I see that now. Yikes. I just saw her picture. I started college in 2004 and let’s just say I don’t look 14 lol. Lucky her 😛

    • Heidi

      I dunno. . .Here in ‘merica 32 is young enough to sexually assault a 14 year old and for it to be discounted as a “folly of youth.”

      • Sarah

        I presume the 32 year old was a white male?

        • Heidi

          Of course. Former Alabama judge Roy Moore.

          • Sarah

            Colour me astonished.

  • yugaya

    In case anyone was wondering just how big an ideological idiot Bridget is, check out her claims regarding homebirth transfers:

    “If you know anyone who has had a home birth transfer please share
    this with them. Evidence-Based Birth (an informational site and
    educator-training program run by a Ph.D. nurse) is looking for stories
    and images of home-to-hospital birth transfers to go with their upcoming
    coverage of the topic.

    I am glad that Evidence-Based Birth is
    taking on this topic, because it is 1. One of the most misunderstood
    aspects of home birth, and 2. That misunderstanding, in my opinion,
    contributes to negative outcomes. One of
    the biggest problems is that the hegemonic medical system in most
    communities does not collaborate with midwives in training EMTs and
    triage nurses in hospital transfers. Many people use hospital transfers
    as “evidence” that “she obviously shouldn’t have chosen a home birth
    because it is too dangerous.” (Or worse, they say “obviously she
    couldn’t handle it without drugs” — often an attempt to make themselves
    feel better about their own insecurities about having had birth
    interventions. Clearly it doesn’t matter, because drug-free births are
    obviously impossible anyway and my baby is fine!) In reality, transfers
    happen for all sorts of reasons, including maternal choice, and when it
    is recommended by the midwife it is usually either just a precaution or
    WELL before the situation becomes an emergency. Midwives necessarily
    must be more cautious in their practice than physicians ever would be,
    because state laws usually severely restrict their practice, but also
    because mistrust of midwives means that they are more likely than
    doctors to get sued for the exact same outcome, and more likely than
    doctors to lose their license as a result. They operate in a
    misogynistic world that absolutely hates them and wants to see them
    eliminated, and often have to work twice as hard, know twice as much
    about birth, and fill out twice as much paperwork as any physician as a
    matter of pure self-preservation. And since the medical community hates
    them so much, and the mothers, they often get treated poorly by nurses
    and physicians once they arrive at the hospital. The staff often misses
    out on important information because hospital policy dictates that
    out-of-hospital midwives not be given hospital privileges upon
    admittance. Staff often won’t listen to a word the midwife has to say,
    let alone recognize her as the patient’s primary provider. It is one
    thing not to respect the midwifery model of care (despite the evidence)
    but it is quite another thing to act rude and completely unprofessional
    to a patient and their chosen care provider, simply because you don’t
    like the way they chose to care for their body and their baby.

    So next time you hear about someone who had a hospital transfer, maybe
    think twice before judging them. It’s way more complicated than you
    realize.”

    • Anj Fabian

      ” Staff often won’t listen to a word the midwife has to say..”

      This could be because lay midwives have a reputation of being lying liars and often encourage their clients to lie as well. Estimated due date? How long have they been in labor? When did their water break?

      The other reason to ignore the midwife is simple:

      • yugaya

        “The other reason to ignore the midwife is simple:”

        Yeah. Failure to risk out, failure to transfer in time, failure to provide accurate information upon transfer

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/47b2cbec807d9a747340fe660340379485626c1339eb8776b9c2c665e390ed0c.jpg

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          Wait a minute. Does that actually say the NotaDoctor tried a vacuum extraction at 1:30, failed, quit trying and then left at 4 am with the patient still in labour?

          “The baby is close enough we are going to try vacuum extraction”
          “Whoops, that failed. Oh well, you are on your own…”

          • yugaya

            Nine times. They attempted vacuum extraction NINE times. The woman ha been in labour for a day I think before that an pushing for eight hours. NotaDoctor then advised transfer. The lovely midwives said no need. They instructed the woman to decline transfer even after her baby was born dead and she had lost at least a liter of blood. They never called 911 at all – a friend of the mother did that.

            Because evil doctors hate them according to Bridget. Not because this was another trainwreck by the same midwives in same birth center. Let me find the full record.

          • Are these awful people still practicing? This is horrifying.

          • yugaya

            Yes. http://www.oregon.gov/OHA/PH/HLO/DisciplinaryActionDocs/Dolin_APO_11_6546.pdf

            Jessica Dolin still attends births, and Andaluz birth center is still open despite multiple completely preventable losses that they were disciplined for .

            http://www.oregon.gov/OHA/PH/HLO/Pages/Disciplinary-Actions.aspx

          • Charybdis

            Tangent: Does anyone else hear the principal from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in their head when they read “Nine times. They attempted vacuum extraction NINE TIMES.”?
            “I don’t remember him being sick nine times.” (Mrs. Bueller)

            “Nine times!” (Principal)

          • MaineJen

            “I asked for a car. I got a computer. How’s that for being born under a bad sign?”

          • yugaya

            Dolin Jessica, 2010 birth. At 41 weeks 1 day she was leaking fluid, having contractions and vomiting and entered the birth center under another DEM
            as primary. Notes claim client refused IV fluids at
            24 hrs mark – client states no such thing happened. At 30 hours of labour a chiro arrives. “The chiro recommended that the client try pubic pivot technique” is all that is in the records. “Respondent did not tell the Client that the labour was abnormal. The client was only told that transport was one of the options.” Then at Andaluz birth center NINE VACUUM EXTRACTIONS were attempted by a ND. Even after that failed, the mother was only told that “the baby will be born soon” and was not made aware of need to be transferred. This poor baby was delivered with no signs of life after two days of labour. EMS WERE
            EVENTUALLY CALLED BUT BY A CLIENT’S FRIEND, NOT BY ANYONE FROM THE BIRTH
            CENTER.

            But hey. Bridget has an opinion that this baby died because doctors hate mothers who have homebirth.

      • yugaya

        Still the most horrific example of lies that homebirth midwives will tell in order to CYA is this – when the attending midwife failed to inform the EMTs that the baby had been dead for at least an hour before they were called, and based on false information that she gave they initiated resuscitation. Courtesy of lovely Ontario homebirth midwives https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6f76870c9e3079d7a2292ff731e3dc29aad9148e6cebd7b66032251be177452d.jpg .

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        Why would the hospital staff pay attention to anyone the words of someone without medical credentials? They can provide histories, if they know it, but the doctors will do their own diagnoses, thank you. And, as we know, it’s not like midwives are all that honest in their histories they give.

        Don’t blame hospital staff for the incompetence of midwives. Hold the midwives accountable and maybe then there can be some hope for collaboration.

    • MaineJen

      “Fill out twice as much paperwork as any physician” ???

      How about NO

      • Azuran

        Even if they did, twice the amount of lies and crap is still not being helpful.

      • Charybdis

        How do they know that? I mean, don’t they tend to show up in the ER with a couple of “Notes” jotted on a post-it or napkin? If they do 2x as much paperwork as a physician, then what happens to it? Where are all their detailed notes on “Strong heart tones”, recommended castor oil as a “natural inducer”, no gestational diabetes test, no GBS test, but advised mother to shove garlic up her vagina, maybe some hibiclens douches, the multiple, crossed-out EDD’s, etc?

        I doubt they fill out ANY paperwork, never mind 2x as much as a physician.

    • kilda

      midwives are more likely to get sued than OBs? That’s bullshit. Because they have no insurance, they are usually impossible to sue. What a brazen lie.

    • Sarah

      Scientific credibility?!!!

    • Roadstergal

      ” the hegemonic medical system ”

      Oh, fuck right off.

  • yugaya

    Bwahahahahahaha. Ahahahahahahaha. That idiot got pissed at me for calling her precious dr McKenna a misogynist twat. Ahahahahahahaha.

    Yeah she’s full of it.

  • Gæst

    I was on leave for eight months. I had all the time in the world for my babies. But I would cut anyone who tried to claim colic wasn’t “real” while I was in there dealing with it. It’s so real that no one would even take the baby to give me a break.

    • Daleth

      I would cut them with you! Holy shit. I had colicky TWINS for 12 weeks. Fun times.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      I am so, SO sorry you didn’t have support and help.

  • Gæst

    “Don’t retweet me it hurts my professional credibility” is the most absurd thing I’ve ever read. As if A) you can ask someone not to repost something you’ve posted, and B) we judge people based on *who* retweets them and not the content of their tweet.

    • Sarah

      To be fair, the more people who are aware of her work, the greater the damage to her professional credibility will be. So she’s not entirely wrong…

      • SD

        What are her credentials exactly? I see a BA in Anthropology?

        • Sarah

          And a volunteer doula. Of course.

        • Heidi

          Looks like she may have taken an adult education class with James McKenna. I mean it was non-degree seeking so I’m imagining something like “How to bedshare…$250 per student, Tuesday 6pm-9pm” in one of those brochures you get from local colleges/universities.

  • Sarah

    Has anyone read her full list of work on the Indiana Edu site? It’s quite something. I’d love to read her colic and section pieces, don’t seem to be uploaded unfortunately. I imagine they would be quite something.

  • Mel

    Does she have a research mentor? Neither of the blurbs are presenting new research – more like a literature review as a wrap-up for a class.

    Her mentor should give her a few writing tips.

    For starters – get rid of the parentheticals in the title! The title sounds plausible and professional enough – until you hit the parenthetical. That sounds like it was written by a college student.

    The blurb for her second presentation is three unconnected sentences that wastes four words by stating “this presentation” – twice. Also, I doubt anyone could hit the evolutionary, physiological AND cultural dimensions involved in Western infants crying in a hour. Pick one and do it well – otherwise she’s just inviting really hard questions from the faculty when she’s mentioned evolution – so the population geneticists start in….

  • crazy mama, PhD

    Anyone who says colic isn’t real has obviously never had a colicky baby.

    My first kid had colic. My second does not, and the difference is frankly miraculous. He’ll sleep in the baby carrier for long periods of time! A walk in the stroller calms him down! We can actually engage with him during tummy time because he doesn’t immediately start screaming his head off! He’s still a lot of work because he’s an infant and infants are a lot of work, but it feels very different.

    • Excuse me, but were you maintaining constant contact with your baby and breastfeeding her every 15 minutes like the !Ngo of the Kalahari? No? Well.

      (In all seriousness, congratulations on surviving colic. Brrrrrrr.)

    • Steph858

      Apologies if this sounds like I’m being smug and rubbing my good luck in the noses of those less fortunate; that’s not my intention.

      I would like to offer myself up as a counter-example which anyone may use whenever some moron tries to create a link between “Mother did something ‘unnatural'” and “Anything at all wrong with the baby.” I had a C-Section, mostly formula-fed, our diet is decidedly non-organic and we’re all fully-vaxxed. Apart from the usual winter sniffles, a couple of bouts of conjunctivitis, a brush with impetigo and a tummy bug or two, no health problems to date.

      The only chronic health problem my son has is hayfever. I’m sure the woo types would try to claim this is caused by our artificial lifestyle but given that there’s family history of allergies on both sides (I had childhood eczema and am allergic to penicillin, my sister had childhood asthma and both my parents suffer from hayfever; hubby is allergic to prawns), he was bound to inherit some allergy or other. Frankly, he got off lightly getting only hayfever. Especially since it’s easily well-controlled by any OTC meds which are to hand, unlike my parents’ which won’t respond to anything.

      PS: Whenever I want to feel smug, I remember that I know mothers who give their kids Piriton to get them to sleep. These are mothers whose kids don’t even get hayfever/allergies. I, on the other hand, follow GP’s advice and give him Cetrizine because it’s supposed to have fewer side-effects (i.e. non-drowsy), and I only administer it when it’s needed, not every day ‘just in case’.

      PPS: Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that ‘all-natural’ mums tend to be sticklers for cleanliness? There was recently an exodus of woo-type mums taking their kids out of my son’s preschool because a recent OFSTED rated them inadequate; this rating was based on a lack of cleanliness – everything else (quality of teaching, relationships between carers and children, etc) was rated as good. My response to the report was, “If the inspector thought they’re dirty, he’d have a heart attack if he saw my house!”

      • Daleth

        Ditto! Let’s start a club for moms like us! If woo moms want to call themselves “natural,” we could just call ourselves “civilized.” 🙂

        My twins had colic, but apart from that, after an elective c-section, full vaccinations for the whole family and all caregivers, bottles of formula at birth even before their first boob meal (I was too busy almost dying to breastfeed), 3 months of semi-combo feeding (80%-90% formula, the rest breastmilk) and 9 months of exclusive formula feeding, here’s what we’ve got:

        Two tall, slim, healthy happy boys who only got one cold in their entire first year, no diarrhea or vomiting (other than spitups at feeding), and no ear infections. Oh, and no allergies to anything. Also: no cavities and they’re doing great in preschool, both socially and academically. Also: they’re so powerfully bonded to me and their dad that I now believe Krazy Glue exists on the emotional plane, not just the physical.

        • Steph858

          WRT bonding: I fretted the first few months because it’s so hard to follow all the advice health visitors and midwives give about the stuff you’re supposed to do (basically give up your own life and devote yourself 24/7 to baby) to bond.

          3 years on, and he’s now going through such a clingy phase that I often think, “Can’t you give me 5 damn minutes to myself?!” I dread to think how much worse it would be if I’d followed all the Attachment Parenting BS which was pushed on me.

          As for cavities: none for him yet. But it seems every other kid over the age of 5 has half a dozen fillings. This shocks me; I’m 26 and only 1 filling to date. And that was due to the tooth in question almost being knocked out in a cycling accident – no fillings due to decay yet. My upbringing was also decidedly ‘artificial’.

  • PeggySue

    She’s really kind of a dim bulb, isn’t she? And really, really, REALLY young. Even if she turns out to be 40, she’s really, really, REALLY young. For her best interests, I hope she gets an ass-kicking professor or five, and LISTENS TO THEM.

  • CSN0116

    Where the fuck did she learn how to research? Our 101s leave better able to identify examples of RCT, blinding, etc. Yikes.

    Who is she? A professor? Does she research for breastfeeding medicine (still laigh every time I write those words next to each other)?

    • CSN0116

      Appears to be a very young sociology/anthropology STUDENT who specializes in qualitative and ethnographic research but has zero research publications. So, that explains that…

      How funny that this will all live for infinity on the interwebz even as she tries to job search lol.

      • PeggySue

        Indeed, but don’t anyone retweet her or it will diminish her scientific credibility.

        • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

          I always wish anthropology students would go live in the wonderful forest for a year or two, in the way the lucky people in pre-history lived: You walk to get buckets of (happy parasites!) unsanitized/unfiltered water for everything (cooking, washing, bathing), you make your OWN clothing from what is available in nature (skins, pounded plant matter, etc), if you get sick or hurt you fix it with what is available in nature (willow bark, aloe plants, honey, urine)

          Double bonus points if they go through pregnancy and child birth with just what is available in nature where ever they happen to be (no transfusions, no indoor plumbing, no antiseptics or antibiotics). And if they don’t have enough breastmilk or they need a C-section, oh well!

          Have these people ever even been tent camping for a week? They seem to have a very romanticized view of living “in nature” as they post on the Internet…

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

            I guess I am not so impressed by the idea of nature, my mom grew up in a house where the bathroom was an outhouse until she was 8 (very rural northern Vermont in the ’30s) she had the all natural fun of scarlet fever, mumps, measles, and whooping cough. She and her brother worked helping deliver and pick up milking cans for their uncle, and drinking unpasteurized milk. Their aunt died of TB at 28. The baby born a year before my Mom was still born (RH factor).

          • Blame Rousseau, and the “noble savage”. He’s got a lot to answer for.

          • AnnaPDE

            Camping is hardcore survival skillz.
            Have they even ever run out of water on a 3-hour hike in summer, or had to go #2 during a car ride through a largely uninhabited are with only a few rest stops along the way?

      • Wait, is this The Spiritual Anthropologist?

        • MaineJen

          No, I’m pretty sure that one was a guy.

      • Russell Jones

        There are a couple of common reactions to experiencing college education. One is being gobsmacked by how much there is to learn and humbled by how little one actually knows. Another is becoming severely and unjustifiably impressed with oneself.

        I wonder which way young Ms. McGann went.

      • Sarah

        I don’t think she’s that young. Her CV and linkedin say she was doing college classes in 2004. I’m not from the US but I would have thought she’d be no younger than high school age then? Also a trustee of something in 2003. I reckon she must be 30ish at the youngest.

        She was also a volunteer doula apparently! Imagine dealing with that at your birth…

  • Mel

    I hate evolutionary dilettantes like that. The fact that breast-feeding survives means that it works well for some members of the population – not all members of the population.

    Look – infants could survive in the total absence of breast-milk long before the amazing technologies of nutritionally balanced formula and clean water.. The last name “Exposito” – and assorted spellings on that – was given to infants abandoned at foundling homes. Some got wet nurses – others survived on nutritionally sub-par, bacterially contaminated gruel.

    It wasn’t ideal – but a few of those babies hung on until they could gnaw on enough foods to grow.

    If babies can survive that, you can see how a mother could supplement a weak supply with whatever they could cook, grind, mash or pre-masticate to keep a baby going until the kid could eat real food.

    That’s ignoring other evolutionary kludges like gene combination XYZWET produces breast-milk insufficiency in daughters – but cranks male reproductive success up by 50% through greater sperm production. IOW, the fact that the girls in the family have horrible reproductive success is offput by great male reproductive power.

    Oversimplification like that makes me go nuts.

    • Roadstergal

      It’s just like vaginal birth. Bigger brains and narrower hips are selected for when it comes to thinking and running; they’re counter-productive for childbirth. We hit some sort of equilibrium at a point where _plenty_ of babies die, just not enough for the species to die out.

  • Russell Jones

    Bridget McGann believes she has “scientific credibility” that’s subject to being “hurt.” Sad.

    “But the key mistake, one beloved of natural parenting advocates, is the
    idea that we evolved for a particular environment and we should do all
    we can to recapitulate that environment.”

    Thanks but no thanks, natural parenting advocates. I prefer the actual world, in which we evolved with abilities to alter and overcome environments.

  • LaMont

    OT: A friend of mine has written a play (I’ve read it) that is being championed by conservative outlets as a proper feminism-bashing work (it is). He keeps begging me to come see it, and I haven’t had the heart to tell him that conservative white men who think that sexism and racism are in the past and that people should bootstrap themselves out of oppression without being a bitch about it SHOULD NOT WRITE PLAYS ABOUT SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUES. Anyone have applicable experience in what I should say? I’m avoiding him 🙁

    • Allie

      I think you should say “conservative white men who think that sexism and racism are in the past and that people should bootstrap themselves out of oppression without being a bitch about it SHOULD NOT WRITE PLAYS ABOUT SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUES.”

    • Russell Jones

      “conservative white men who think that sexism and racism are in the past”

      If that’s what your friend believes, you should call him a RINO. The current wingnut narrative has careened right hell past “racism and sexism no longer exist” all the way to “racism and sexism is rampant, and the white man is the victim.”

      • LaMont

        He believes that “feminism” of the old-school, supporting women who have traditional lifestyles, is just as valid as “feminism” that transcended the traditional (the “lesbianism/abortionism” style of feminism, as the *National Review* review of the play called it. He is friends with the NR writer and called him “not anti-feminist”, which like… wow. He thinks that there is still a meaty discussion to be had about how meeeeen feminism can be to stay at home wives/mothers, that it needs to be “balanced”. His stuff is just so behind the times. He also writes about race issues. He thinks that progress is important, just that it’s all settled now. He’s SO CLOSE and yet so far….

        (The “not anti-feminist” NR reviewer said this in his review: “How did ‘housewife’ become a condescending term? How did a woman who called marriage ‘slavery’ stake her claim to speak for women generally?…’there are abundant reason to be skeptical of the official story of feminism’.)

        • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

          Love it when two men get together to pontificate on a subject they know nothing about. At least they have each other to think one another are brilliant!

        • Has he even listened to modern American evangelicals? Wives are explicitly supposed to submit and obey, and sometimes people will practice “Christian discipline” which means physical punishment for the wife. That is pretty explicitly slavery- the wife is the maid, nanny, broodmare, and sex toy, without any ability to say “no” to anything, and beaten if the master husband is displeased.

          For fuck’s sake, did he even look up the coverture laws? Married women weren’t even legally separate people, pretty much.

    • Dr Kitty

      Presuming that you want to keep the friendship…

      “I’m afraid that after reading it, I just don’t feel that I need to see it in a theatre. You and I have some very different opinions and I’m afraid that while I admire your craft and writing, the way you have treated the subject matter of the play means it is just not my cup of tea. I’m sure you’d rather the audience enjoyed the piece as you intended”.

  • Roadstergal

    Not all finches were meant to live?

    I like this analogy a lot.

    • Roadstergal

      Also:

      “#Breastfeeding is the result of a 7 million-year, randomized, double-blind, large-scale, longitudinal study called natural selection.”

      Not randomized.

      Not single-blinded, let alone double-blinded.

      Not 7 million years (the first mammals were approximately early Jurassic, so off by a couple orders of magnitude).

      Not a study.

      I mean, if you stand on your head and squint, you might call it a single-arm ‘study,’ but the conclusion would be “Breastfeeding has a high mortality rate.”

      • Lilly de Lure

        Apologies for the paleontological pedantry but if we’re talking about lactation the current evidence suggests that that actually goes back to our ancestral link to mammal like reptiles, specifically a group called the synapsids who lived in the early Permian period – so we’re talking more like 300 million years plus (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1022896515287) – sorry that the paper is a little elderly (2002) but its description of mammalian evolution is still pretty accepted as far as I am aware).

        To be strictly fair to her the 7 million year figure *might* be a reference to when hominids split from the rest of the Great Apes – at least her dating would be OK then (http://www.biology-online.org/10/14_early_hominids.htm) but what this has to do with breastfeeding I have no clue, unless she believes that other Great Apes do not lactate?

        *Removes pedant hat*

        • Roadstergal

          I luuurve pedantry and appreciate the info!

          • Lilly de Lure

            Thanks – was worried I’d come across as a know -it-all, but I do love all things fossil!

    • Russell Jones

      #NotAllFinches

  • sdsures

    An acquaintance of mine stubbornly persists in espousing co-sleeping, because “nothing bad ever happened to her kids as a result, amirite??”

    *FACEDESK* All I know to do is not to engage with her. Sigh.

    • aikimoe

      “Nothing bad happened to me,” is definitely not a good reason to espouse anything, but it’s quite possible to co-sleep safely, as long as parents are light sleepers and very conscious of risks.

      http://www.parenting.com/article/ask-dr-sears-co-sleeping-a-sids-danger

      I think it’s a personal decision, like how much we drive our kids places (the most dangerous activity), how we educate them, or what we feed them. Risk is everywhere, and our main responsibility is to be aware of it.

      • sdsures

        It’s possible to jump out of a plane, have your parachute fail, and not die. Why take unnecessary risks, with doing an activity that is optional?

        • aikimoe

          We all take unnecessary risks with our kids whenever we put them in a car. When we let them walk to the park, unsupervised, when they’re 10 or 8 or 6 or…when we let them go swimming, etc.

          I think that these are deeply personal decisions, but If there’s evidence that suggests that cautious co-sleeping is more dangerous for babies than any number of things we regularly choose to do with our kids, I’ll definitely think about my opinion on this.

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

            I don’t understand what you mean by cautious cosleeping? Why not have them in their own bed in your room if you don’t want them in a separate room? How cautious can you be if you are asleep? Do you sleep with no pillows or blankets? How will your baby learn to self sooth if they never sleep alone?

          • aikimoe

            By “cautious cosleeping,” I mean being aware of the materials, mattress firmness and size; conscious of how one sleeps and moves at night. It’s probably not terribly different from the way that people in many parts of the world (not to mention, primates in general) have slept with their babies since forever.

            We were never concerned with self-soothing, and it was never a problem for us or him, then or now. But like anything, it’s not for everyone, certainly. Everybody has a different circumstance and set of personalities, which is why I think people approach these things in so many different ways.

          • swbarnes2

            Yes, babies have been bedsharing forever, and some babies have died from it.

            1 Kings 3:19, if you want a rather old example.

          • aikimoe

            Some babies die in the car on the way to the park. Some die because their parents were dog-owners. Some die because their parents had a pool. Dying from an activity/circumstance doesn’t mean the activity/circumstance is inherently more dangerous than many others.

          • swbarnes2

            If more babies die in their parents’ bed than in a crib, then that makes the former more dangerous than the latter.

            I’m pretty sure that having a pool is indeed quite a lot more dangerous than not having a pool. If parents want to say “We think the benefits we can name here are worth the tiny risk”, that’s one thing, but let’s not pretend that everything is equally risky, or that all risks are equally reasonable.

          • aikimoe

            I don’t mean to imply that everything is equally risky, only that there are lots of things we do with our kids that involve risk.

            Taking your baby to the park in a car is more dangerous than taking a bus. Allowing your kids to walk to the park alone, or swim at the beach, is more dangerous than not. My point is that we all make these choices every day with our kids. I’m not aware of evidence that careful and considerate co-sleeping is much more dangerous than the above activities.

          • swbarnes2

            You know who else on these boards says “Babies can die on the way to the park”? The women who think that unassisted V2BACs are a smart way to give birth. Bed-sharing obviously is not as unsafe as that, but throwing out “everything is a little unsafe” isn’t a real argument.

          • aikimoe

            “Everything is a little unsafe” isn’t my argument for co-sleeping. I’m not saying co-sleeping is “smart.” I’m saying that unless there is evidence that co-sleeping is demonstrably less safe that driving your kid everywhere (or letting them drive at 16), or letting them swim in the ocean, or play football, etc., then condemning the practice doesn’t make sense.

            Educating parents about the risks of co-sleeping (and every other risky thing) makes sense.

          • Charybdis

            There’s co-sleeping, which involves the baby sleeping in the same room as the parent/s, in it’s own sleeping space (crib, bassinet, sidecar sleeper, etc) and then there’s bed-sharing, where the baby sleeps in the parent/s bed WITH them. People tend to use those terms interchangeably, even though they don’t mean the same thing. Co-sleeping (room sharing) IS safe, provided you follow the safe sleep recommendations (firm sleeping surface, no blankets, pillows, bumper pads, etc) and put the baby on it’s back. There’s nothing IN the crib/separate sleep area except the baby, so the risk of suffocation is mighty small.

            Bed-sharing involves pillows, sheets, blankets/comforters the potential for mattress toppers and one or two other people. All of which can potentially cause issues for the baby; being rolled over on, rolling into the trough next to the parent, softer sleep surfaces, potential for being tangled in the covers, rolling/falling out of the bed, falling into the crack between the bed and the wall or between the head/footboard and mattress, etc. This option is LESS SAFE than the room-sharing option. However, each set of parents has to evaluate the risks and decide what works for them. Bed-sharing was NEVER an option for me, because I hated it. Baby slept in his own crib in his own room from the day we came home from the hospital. I also, personally, did not see the allure/upside to bed-sharing. There just wasn’t one, for me. There is a regular poster here who will stomach-sleep her babies; she is aware of the whole “back to sleep” thing, but after evaluating the risks, opted to stomach sleep her babies. I think she followed the rest of the safe sleep recommendations (no blankets, pillows, bumper pads, stuffed animals, etc and a firm sleep surface), but she IS aware that it is going against the “safest recommendations for infant sleep.” True informed consent/decision making is what matters, because people will identify risks differently.

          • Box of Salt

            Charybdis ” People tend to use those terms interchangeably”
            That is because Dr Willaim Sears introduces the term “cosleeping” to mean in the same bed (what you are calling “bedsharing.”
            https://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/sleep-problems/sleep-safety/cosleeping-safely

            People have redefined “cosleeping” as “withing arm’s reach withing the same room” in an attempt to distinguish it from the much less safe practice you now call “bedsharing.”

            They started as the same thing.

          • Charybdis

            Oh, I know. I just find it more precise to differentiate between the two terms so everybody knows *exactly* which practice is being discussed. But I’m kind of a stickler for word meanings, i.e., “less” and “fewer” are not interchangeable, even though people use them like they are. It drives me crazy.

          • Box of Salt

            Charybdis, in that cases if I were you I’d introduce a completely different term for the in-the-same-room-with-baby’s-own-safe-space practice. Don’t try to redefine the term already being used for the more dangerous practice. You are adding to the confusion, not reducing it.

          • Athene

            Yes, but most of those deaths are preventable.
            Allowing a dog with high prey-drive and behavioral problems around your child is negligent. So is allowing your child to be unattended near a pool long enough to drown. Or not appropriately strapping your child into a suitable car seat.

            Sharing a room with an infant child near your bed is one thing. Adults sharing a bed with an infant child ups the risks to the child significantly.

            Owning a dog may not be inherently problematic, but if that dog is aggressive, or very anxious, then the risk to the child has been increased significantly. Owning a pool may not be inherently risky, but leaving your child unattended near a pool is.

            Parents intentionally putting their children into high risk situations is different than children dying in freak accidents. One is easily preventable, the other is not.

          • Athene

            I was haunted by that example, as well. That story made a very strong impression on me in Sunday school.

          • sdsures

            “By “cautious cosleeping,” I mean being aware of the materials, mattress firmness and size; conscious of how one sleeps and moves at night. ”

            You can’t be conscious of any of these things when you are unconscious.

          • aikimoe

            I don’t believe I’ve every purchased bedding or made up a bed when I was unconscious. Knowing how one sleeps depends on having a partner who can provide that information.

            Still, I take your point, and I can see how co-sleeping in the first year is particularly dangerous.

          • sdsures

            Don’t forget to take single parents into account.

          • yugaya

            ” conscious of how one sleeps and moves at night” Oh that is bullshit. You spend 1/5 of your sleep in deep non-REM stages, when you are unconscious. Every night. Or you die.

          • aikimoe

            One can be conscious of how one sleeps if an observing partner reports it accurately. And I’m not saying it’s safe or that people should sleep with their infants; I’m only describing how my kid’s mom and I co-slept with him. This was 18 years ago, and while we knew about dangers of SIDS, we were told that co-sleeping could be done safely if we were careful. So we tried to be.

            I wouldn’t be surprised if you are 100% correct on this issue, and I understand the frustration and weariness that must come with arguing with anti-science types, but remember, some people who ask questions or even make questionable assertions can still be pro-science, and merely looking to become better informed.

          • yugaya

            “One can be conscious of how one sleeps if an observing partner reports it accurately.” So one adult was always awake while bedsharing? Each and every night? Yeah, still total bullshit.

            “”One can be conscious of how one drives drunk if an observing partner reports it accurately.”

          • aikimoe

            I think there’s a slight difference between the two activities.

            But, again, I’m not arguing that the practice is safe with infants, I’m just describing how we approached it. If I’d known then what I know now, I probably would have voted to postpone co-sleeping until a year or so had passed.

          • yugaya

            “I think there’s a slight difference between the two activities.”

            Both are completely preventable risks – one for driving, one for infant sleep – that cause the largest number of fatalities.

          • yugaya

            “and while we knew about dangers of SIDS,” You were aware that over half of all SIDS happens to babies that are placed in adult bed? That adult bed as sleep place raises that risk 40 times regardless of bedsharing? You were aware that risks that contribute to SIDS like overheating due to proximity of large adult body or adult bedding cannot be mitigated while bedsharing? You were aware that only 1%-to 2% of all SIDS is truly unpreventable, while 98% will have at least one preventable, modifiable triggering risk factor, and that when you bedshare you are entertaining multiple risks simultaneously, which is the deadliest scenario:? You were aware that bedsharing friendly researchers like dr Blair define additional risk factor of overtireness – same category of risks as drugs or alcohol – as “baby slept less than 4 hours the previous day”, and you never ever bedshared when your baby was fussy, teething, or cluster feeding, on top of never ever ever bedsharing when either of you was overtired?

            Yeah, thought so.

            Proponents of bedsharing attribute these deaths to specific risk factors, such as: maternal smoking, prone infant sleep, drug use, sleeping with other children, sleeping on pillows or in beds with gaps and, expect parents to identifyand eliminate ALL risk factors, even when we don’t necessarily know what all the risk factors might be, in order to “safely cosleep”. Those are an awful lot of caveats to try and make an UNSAFE practice seem safe for a very select population of super-moms who would have to be vigilant to their infant’s safety even
            while sleeping.”
            http://www.onondagachildfatalityreview.com/pdf/cfrt-cosleeping-talk.pdf

          • aikimoe

            As I said, we were not aware of the risks of co-sleeping with infants at the time. Doctors and nurses gave us information on SIDS, which focused on positioning, blankets, and types of cribs, while telling us that co-sleeping could be done relatively safely. Also, as I said, I probably would have waited to co-sleep if I’d known then what I know now.

            Also as I said, I’m pro-science and very open to learning and knowing that I’m wrong about a lot of things. It’s a shame you’re not able to share your considerable knowledge without being rude and condescending. Maybe it’s just because it’s late and you’re grumpy?

          • yugaya

            “Maybe it’s just because it’s late and you’re grumpy?” Stop projecting. Btw it is morning where I live.

            Maybe it’s because you have spent a considerable amount of time on this post perpetuating pretty much every bedsharing excuse and myth there is.

            We knew the risks.
            Everything is a risk.
            I’m conscious how I sleep when I’m in unconscious deep non-REM sleep stages.

            + the obligatory full blown naturalistic fallacy

            “It’s probably not terribly different from the way that people in many parts of the world (not to mention, primates in general) have slept with their babies since forever.”

          • aikimoe

            Others here have been able to be informative and disagree with me without being rude at all. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, so I’ll assume that if we were speaking in person, you’d find a way to inform and educate without being so thoroughly unpleasant.

            But since being unpleasant is apparently how you disagree with people in this medium, and since life is far too short to spend with unpleasant people, I’ll just have to say “Adios Amoeba!” and wish you the best.

          • yugaya

            “Others here have been able to be informative and disagree with me without being rude at all.”

            I’m “rude” for pointing out that you used bullshit of dr Sears grade .as your evidence, resorted repeatedly to ill logic, and even managed to top it all off with a naturalistic fallacy used to justify bedsharing ON A BLOG ABOUT NATURALISTIC FALLACIES USED TO JUSTIFY BEDSHARING.

            ” I’ll just have to say “Adios Amoeba!” and wish you the best.”

            Good luck with that. As a regular on this blog I tend not to shed any tears over people who flounce when they get called out on their bullshit.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Wow, you call that rude?

            I would note, that you are not quite the person to be talking about rudeness with your “Maybe it’s just because it’s late and you’re grumpy?” comment.

            Make no mistake, commentors here do not suffer fools lightly, and if you can’t take criticism, you won’t last long.

            Flounce away…….

          • Oh, now don’t be rude; she might just be on the rag, you know how we women get….

          • yugaya

            It’s not my job to educate or inform anyone on the internet while simultaneously pleasing them. Now if someone is willing to pay me to do that, we can negotiate style and language use in the contract. 😛

          • yugaya

            “and I understand the frustration and weariness that must come with arguing with anti-science types” You mean people who link to fucking dr Sears as evidence that bedsharing could be/is safe, safeish, safe enough for some special or especially privileged people like Tara Haelle just because she can afford to buy a new adult bed mattress for bedsharing?

            What is frustrating is to come here and have that happen. Take a hint from dr Tuteur – despite her personal choices and any potential biases arising from them, she has never failed to criticize unsafe infant sleep advice that is not based in science (see her past blogs on this topic).

            That is the sort of intellectual integrity that Bridget McGann will never have while she orgasms over dr McKenna youtube videos in which he claims that breastfed babies do not move around in adult bed enough for it to be a risk.

          • sdsures

            Unnecessary? Hardly. Most people can’t function in today’s developed countries without a car, so it’s a necessary risk. Hence the mandated use of seatbelts.

            Parachuting, on the other hand, is completely optional.

          • sdsures

            Calculated risks are part of life. It’s the risks like smuggling drugs or jumping out of a plane for fun, or climbing mountains – that are unnecessary to basic survival – that I’m thinking of.

      • crazy mama, PhD

        Dr. Sears is definitely not an unbiased source on co-sleeping.

        I don’t judge parents for thoughtfully bedsharing; we’ve all got to run our own risk/benefit calculations when it comes to babies and sleep deprivation. I let both my kids sleep in baby swings, which the AAP advises against, and I let my youngest nap on his stomach when I’m awake and in the same room. But you’ve got to be honest with yourself and acknowledge that you’re not choosing the safest possible sleep situation.

        • swbarnes2

          If you look at the AAP paper on sleeping surfaces, you can follow the links back to the papers it’s based on…there is actually very very little data about sleeping in baby swings, as opposed to other things like car seats.

          There’s a lot more data about the unsafeness of bed sharing.

          • crazy mama, PhD

            Good point.

          • yugaya

            Actually it is a bad point – risks of infants sleeping routinely at home in that category of devices – car seats, swings, bouncer seats are well documented through mechanism of injury that kills them when they sleep there – for younger infants i is arousal compromise an positional asphyxia, for older infants risks of strangulation, wedging and entrapment more.

          • crazy mama, PhD

            You have different sources on swings, then? It has been a while since I looked at the literature on this, but from my memory, swbarnes2 is correct. Infant swings, used correctly, recline more than car seats, so there have been fewer cases of head position blocking the airway.

            In any case, I’m not really interested in getting into an argument about it and I’m kind of surprised the responses about the relative safety of swings have been so aggressive in either direction. Swings are less safe than sleeping on the back in an empty crib. I know this.

          • yugaya

            Yes CPSC data is available for 2010-2015, it gives a more complete picture of dangers of routine sleep in infant swings than the dr Moon review.

            Most victims are not babies with cause of death ruled to be positional asphyxia due to head slumping/ SIDS in unsafe sleep environment – it’s accidental injury deaths of infants who are routinely placed to sleep in them who end up dead because they turned around or upside down, or were found hanging out of the swing still buckled, or strangled by the harness.

          • crazy mama, PhD

            Thanks, looking at their “Nursery Product-Related Deaths and Injuries” reports now … they report 1–2 deaths per year associated with “portable infant swings.”

            (As an aside, those reports pretty clearly highlight the dangers of loose blankets and pillows!)

          • yugaya

            FOIA is your friend for full reports and investigation details for all deaths reported to CPSC. These are only a fraction of actual number of deaths, there’s single year single state child death review reports with that many cases (when swings are reported separately from bouncy seats or car seats or strollers like here: https://www.ok.gov/occy/documents/2015%20CDRB%20Report%20Final%20%282%29.pdf ). Some time between now and next set of AAP recommendations there is a need for a systematic review of NCDR-CRS data because it captures all cases.

            There is also a huge blind spot currently in the fact that placing infants to sleep in these devices, as well as placing them in elevated cribs – sleeping in semisupine position on incline – is not recorded at all. In all the reports these babies will be recorded as placed on their back, same as baby placed supine on a flat, firm surface. Only when that starts being recorded we can begin to measure the real risks accurately, and not just the most obvious ones that are product specific risks for injury death.

          • crazy mama, PhD

            I guess I’m still not sure why you decided to jump in and be snarky at me? The data all seem to be in agreement with what I’ve read previously and the comment that I was “good point”-ing above. Namely, that the AAP lumps swings and car seats together, but car seats are the more dangerous sleep environment of the two, and both are safer than bedsharing. (For instance, in that Oklahoma report you’ve linked, 50% of infant sleep-related deaths occurred in an adult bed.) If you want to be mad at me for letting my own babies sleep in a swing, you can do that, but I was and am aware of the risks in making that decision.

            Totally agree with you about the lack of data on mattress wedges and such.

          • yugaya

            “I guess I’m still not really sure why you decided to jump in and be snarky at me?” Projecting, take two.

            “The data all seem to be in agreement with what I’ve read previously and the comment that I was “good point”-ing above. Namely, that the AAP
            lumps swings and car seats together,” Because injury mechanism is the same.

            “but car seats are the more dangerous sleep environment of the two, and both are safer than bedsharing.” You have data on prevalence of use of each of these products separately as usual location where infants sleep? There is such data for adult beds.

            Colvin et al 2014 found that for youngest infants 0-4 months risk of placing infant in adult bed (category) was the same as when placed in car seats (category that includes swings when identified as such) or other ( category in which swings also end up when not separately identified as a swing).

            So no, that claim you just made, based on the evidence used by AAP, is not really true.

          • crazy mama, PhD

            Fair enough re: denominators. You good now?

          • yugaya

            “If you want to be mad at me for letting my own babies sleep in a swing, you can do that, but I was and am aware of the risks in making that decision.”
            “You good now?”

            I am, but you really should check your biases – taking things this personally is usually cognitive dissonance talking. Which means that the risks were either bigger than you like to admit, or you were not really aware how big they are.

            Baby NOT sleeping in a crib, bassinet or pnp is the deadliest sleep location. Swings included. 78% in that report I shared is typical for them all.

          • crazy mama, PhD

            You’re welcome to think whatever you like about my brain. 🙂

        • aikimoe

          That last sentence is very important and I agree wholeheartedly. I could see that Sears wasn’t unbiased, but what did you think of his arguments, and is there evidence that careful bedsharing is particularly dangerous?

          • crazy mama, PhD

            I’m not particularly interested in engaging with the arguments of Dr. Sears (or his favorite anthropologist James McKenna) again. Make of that what you will.

            I’ve yet to come across a study that shows that bedsharing becomes as safe as crib sleep when you account for smoking and other risk factors. Have you?

          • aikimoe

            No, I know it’s not as safe, I was just wondering if there’s a way to know if it’s more dangerous than other common activities for kids. It’s hard to figure out the “right” and “wrong” of it all.

          • What common activities for kids have a relatively high death rate? I’m pretty sure we discourage things that have a relatively high likelihood of killing children, or at least mitigate them- for example, helmets when riding bikes and seatbelts in the car and such.

            I can’t think of anything we do with older kids that has such a huge risk of death as bed sharing does for infants, especially those below 4 months old. Can you?

          • aikimoe

            I guess that’s where I’m having difficulty, in understanding the relative risk. I know that car accidents are the leading cause of death for kids over five years old, drowning for kids between one and four, and that suffocation is the leading cause of death for babies less than one year old (which includes choking on foreign objects). As I’ve been discussing this with you patient people and reading about it, I certainly can see the danger of taking an infant to bed in certain circumstances. But I just haven’t seen the numbers that make me understand that bed sharing is that much more risky than other activities. The risk that come with bed sharing obviously decreases as the child grows older, so perhaps the main message shouldn’t be not to co-sleep, but to wait until the baby is of a certain age, and only with great care and caution.

          • It’s not so much bed-sharing vs other activities that older kids do or are involved in, so much as bed-sharing vs other activities one does with infants. Older children are much more mobile, and they do stuff on their own and increase their independence, so it’ll never be fair to compare infant activities to older kid activities. We can only really compare infant activities to other infant activities, at least the way I see it. And bed-sharing is one of the riskier things you can do to/with your infant, at least in the developed world where diseases aren’t likely to kill a vaccinated infant and formula is available to feed them.

          • Tigger_the_Wing

            Exactly. We have to compare like with like. Nobody says “It’s perfectly OK to leave my infant unrestrained in the front seat of the car, because she might grow up to be a parachutist anyway.” We compare risk in the here and now. So the comparisons we make are: which is safer: drinking alcohol during pregnancy, or remaining teetotal for the duration? Which is safer: freebirth or giving birth in hospital? Which is safer: co-sleeping or having one’s infants sleep in their own cots in the same room? We don’t say “Which is safer: letting my toddler ride her tricycle in the road, or letting her join the army when she’s eighteen?”

            Our job as parents is to make the safest choices for our children until they are old enough to make choices for themselves, guide their choices until they are adults, and then be there for them if things go awry.

          • AnnaPDE

            To put it simply though, the whole point of bed sharing is to try and get some sleep when your baby otherwise wouldn’t really let you (e.g. by waking up and screaming loudly if you put them in a separate crib.)
            Because let’s face it, as cute and cuddly as they are, babies make horrible bedfellows. They are incredibly active sleepers who will constantly kick and punch and squirm and squiggle and turn, which you notice very acutely when trying to sleep next to them. It’s much nicer to sleep with a safe distance and preferably a physical between baby and parent, which not only keeps baby out from under the parent, but also baby’s hands, feet and head out of the parent’s face, stomach and groin.
            It’s desperation due to a baby not sleeping when put down that drives people to bed-share in the first place. And this problem is usually worst when the baby is very young.

          • yugaya

            “I guess that’s where I’m having difficulty, in understanding the relative risk”

            Bedsharing in adult bed is as likely to kill your baby as are all other causes of accidental injury death combined
            from when they are born until they are old enough to get a drivers license. It is a completely preventable risk.

          • aikimoe

            Do you have a link for that? Also, I’m assuming that the risk decreases significantly after the first year?

          • sdsures

            Choking on food. Mitigate that by cutting up grapes, etc.

        • Sarah

          The word ‘choosing’ is not necessarily one that is relevant to all co-sleeping situations either. If you’re blessed with a baby that simply won’t be put down, that rather limits other options.

          • Tigger_the_Wing

            I think that the best bit of advice I was given when I was pregnant with my first was “Remember, a baby yelling in a cot is safe. Much safer than one in the arms of an exhausted and irritable parent. If you find yourself on the verge of snapping, put the baby down and walk away.” Even if it was only as far as my own bed, and I was curled up sobbing nearly as loudly as the baby, that advice helped hugely with my sanity when I was coping with a colicky baby.

            We have strong instincts to calm a crying infant; but what we no longer have, in modern Western culture at least, is the support of large numbers of relatives on hand to take over the soothing of the infant so that we can rest.

          • Sarah

            This, unfortunately, was my second rather than my first, so I also had the sleep and daytime care of a toddler to consider. It wasn’t snapping that worried me: sitting crying in the face of it would’ve been more my style at the time. It was what might happen if I unexpectedly fell asleep caring for either or both.

            And this was with a partner who had 3 weeks of paternity leave on full pay, during which he did all night feeds because yay formula, and also for a couple of weeks thereafter, and several hours of assistance from other family members during the day after my husband had to go back to work. So I was very, very lucky compared to many. I can’t imagine how much worse it could’ve been without that support- you are right to highlight it.

            Unfortunately though, the baby’s period of refusing to be put down lasted longer than the paternity leave did, and the family assistance still left several hours of the day with me solo. Having had an an EMCS and a haemmorhage left me rather more wiped out than I’d expected to be. We did split shifts while my husband was on paternity leave, but after that, he could no longer stay awake all night then catch up during the day, and I was still having trouble staying awake and was afraid of what might happen if I got even more tired. We were not under any delusions that what we were doing was optimum, but the baby co-sleeping with the not ill parent was the best option available to us at that point.

            Choice didn’t come into it.

          • crazy mama, PhD

            Hey, that sucks, and I’m sorry that my use of the word “choosing” has made you feel like you need to defend yourself. You considered the risk of dangerous levels of sleep deprivation and did what you had to do. What bugs me are the attachment parent types who claim that bedsharing is totally safe. (Dr. Sears actually claims that it lowers the risk of SIDS!)

          • Sarah

            Oh don’t worry about it, it was intended as an explanation rather than anything else. If it’s helped anyone understand why cosleeping might not be a choice, it was more than worth me writing it.

            It’s something I do feel is important because sometimes in discussions on here, there isn’t always acceptance or even awareness of the fact that bedsharing frequently isn’t a choice. I have seen it questioned whether guidelines for safest bedsharing should even be provided, which is a perspective I very much disagree with.

            We had no choice but to cosleep, but were at least able to minimise the risks by availing ourselves of guidelines re sofas, duvets etc. It is actually quite possible that those guidelines saved my child’s life- who knows whether we’d have decided sofa was safer than bed in the absence of them?- so I feel quite strongly about this.

          • Yeah, and all the idiots who tell you that letting your baby cry will mess her up for life ARE NOT HELPING.

      • sdsures

        You’re only a light sleeper/not wriggly sleeper… until that one time when you’re not.