Monthly Archives: December 2011

Santa cry!

A while back I posted about taking Mabel for her photo with Santa, here.

Well, let’s just say it didn’t go well.

We had the picture taken at our local Sears Portrait Studio- it was cheaper than in the mall and having an appointment meant no indeterminate waiting periods in line.

We arrived early, and did have a long wait in a sitting area terrorized by twin 4 or 5 year old boys who had seen Santa that day and been given destructive toys that they insisted on hurling at the adults and children in the waiting area.  Their mother was more concerned with picking out her CHristmas pictures than watching her kids, so it was several dirty looks, and ‘taking matters into my own hands’ before we could wait without fear of losing an eye.

Finally, with eye sight intact, it was our turn.  Mabel looked adorable, she’d read some stories on Santa, we approached the studio area with excitement to see Santa!

I was carrying her, and the moment we entered the room she started crying hysterically and clinging to me with all her might.

Several minutes of trying to cajole her into sitting on Santa’s lap, and this is what we ended up with (since we’d pre-paid):

A few weeks later we tried Santa Story Time at a local library.  Mabel enjoyed herself… at least until Santa arrived.  Then she was scared and clingy, so we just left.

Now, she appears to be fascinated with Santa: wanting to look at books about Santa, point him out in those books, point out every lawn Santa she sees.

If you ask her about Santa, she says, “Santa cry.”  If you ask her what happened when she saw Santa she says, “Cry.”

Wonder what next year will be like.

Is your little one afraid of the big guy?

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Be careful who you ask.

In this age of Dr. Google, every Tom, Dick, and Harriet with a keyboard and a wifi connection thinks he/she can make informed health decisions, even if they contradict traditionally trustworthy sources- like the family doctor or the Centers for Disease Control.

I myself use Google extensively to find information on health and parenting topics.  However, I think I have a key stroke up on Tom, Dick, and Harriet, because I’m not Dr. Google, but Momma, PhD.  My doctorate is in Molecular Biology.  I spent far too long as an underpaid grad student studying breast cancer, and as an underpaid post-doc studying liver tissue engineering to fall prey to unscrupulous info on Google.

I’ve written in the past about how the media do a poor job vetting sources of scientific information or accurately interpreting that information for their readers.  There was this hubbub about radiation from Fukushima causing increased infant mortality in the US.  And this post about sensational headlines claiming crying it out/sleep training will cause long-term psychological damage- citing a blog post, but citing it as though it were peer reviewed, substantiated science.

So, when PhD in Parenting announced their “Carnival of Toddlers” I thought, what a great opportunity to talk about where/how to find reliable information on the internet.

A few of Mabel’s sources.

First up- how do you know a website/source is trustworthy?  Well.  It can be hard.  I often rely on the source.  Some random website with lots of ads- probably not a reliable source.  However, curated sites, like the NIH (National Institutes of Health), the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), PubMed (US National Library of Medicine), state health department websites, generally only contain peer-reviewed scientific information.  That means that the data presented or used to make the recommendations was vetted by other scientists and found to be rigorous and sound.

Other reliable sources can be long-lived organizations, like La Leche League or the World Health Organization– groups that do not kowtow to advertisers or editorial pressures or rely on sensationalism to get readers.

I REALLY avoid rumor-mill parenting sites like Strollerderby (or any of the Babble sites) or Shine (on Yahoo)- basically any clearing house for parenting content that’s generated by multiple lay people and doesn’t contain any references.  Articles/blog posts I do find on those sites- I ALWAYS look for the source of the info and go DIRECTLY to that source, so I can judge for myself if the information is trust worthy.  I’m picking on Babble and Shine because, as I mentioned here, they don’t vet their sources and deceivingly present other blog posts as scientific research articles.

Other sites with lots of user generated content are also unreliable.  Sites like The Knot or The Bump basically repackage the same old wives tales on how to get pregnant, how to predict your babies gender, etc. with ‘experts’ chiming in- even if those old wives tales have no scientific basis or have been disproven scientifically.  These types of filler content are notorious for their lack of references, and if you check the credentials of the ‘experts’ you’ll often find they don’t have any- other than being employed by the website.

References or citations are an excellent way of judging the reliability of information- just make sure that they aren’t lazily referring to another website, and instead to primary scientific literature.

I know it can be daunting or neigh impossible for lay people to read and get an in depth understanding of primary scientific research papers- thus many people rely on others to interpret the science for them.  I’ve done some of that interpretation myself here on this blog.  However, I cite my sources, and I cite primary literature.  This is crucial, because while my blog posts are only reviewed by me, the references I cite were peer reviewed by multiple scientists/experts in that field and found to withstand rigorous questioning.  So, you aren’t relying solely on an internet stranger, you are relying on a scientific community invested in maintaining the credibility of their body of work.

Then, there’s the tried and true- TRUST YOUR GUT.  Sounds too good to be true?  Probably is- you won’t lose the baby weight without changing your diet.  Sounds like sensationalism to get you to click through?  Probably is- there isn’t a deadly danger lurking in your fridge/your neighborhood/your Neti Pot as the nightly news may contend.  Sound like a fanatic?  Probably is- anyone with all the answers is automatically suspect.

Of course, I must stress, no matter how confident you are in your internet source of information, no source abrogates the need for your own doctor and medical caregivers.  I do my homework before and after taking my daughter to the doctor (or going myself), but I chose a practitioner I can trust for a reason.  I want to know that there’s a medically trained doctor with 20 years of experience treating patients to watch out for me and my family.  I know he/she won’t shy away from my questions, can back up their recommendations, etc.

My mother’s best piece of advice was- “Be careful who you take advice from.”

So, my last, ironic piece of advice:  Be careful who you take advice from.

Hope this helps.

Do you have a go-to place for info that you trust?  Share it in the comments and tell me why you trust it.

Edited to add:  This great post by Emily Willingham on Double X Science was written to help readers tell real science from fake science:  Real science vs. fake science: How can you tell them apart?

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Will letting your kid ‘cry it out’ harm them for life? The answer isn’t in a blog post.

Argh.  A few days ago I saw this sensational headline on Strollerderby:  Psychology Today:  Crying-it-out Can Cause Lasting Anxiety.

I thought to myself, “Hmm, I guess a psychologist published a study comparing children whose parents allowed them to ‘cry it out’ to those who did not.”

I assure you this was only short-term neglect. I made up for it later with kisses and breast milk.

I read the Strollerderby piece and while it included an excerpt of the article, there was no mention of the study design or data collected.  However, the piece did say,

In the new issue of Psychology Today, Associate Professor of Psychology at Notre Dame, Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D., writes about the dangers of letting a baby “cry it out.”…  Narvaez challenges the claims of the cry-it-out advocates with new research about how baby’s brains work. (Source)

Since the Strollerderby piece mentioned this ‘new research,’ by a bonafide PhD no less (!), in Psychology Today, I looked up what I expected to be a research article.

What did I find?  Well, first, Pyschology Today isn’t a scientific journal at all.  It’s a magazine full of news magazine type articles and blog posts!  Nothing peer reviewed about it.  According to their website:

Psychology Today is devoted exclusively to everybody’s favorite subject: ourselves. Founded in 1967, Psychology Today covers all aspects of human behavior and mental health, from the workings of the mind to the bonds between people and the larger cultural forces that drive our most intimate decisions.

Here at PsychologyToday.com we have invited the leading academics, clinicians and authors in our field to contribute their thoughts and ideas in the form of blogs — there are currently over 750 of them. The accumulated knowledge bank represents the largest archive of its kind in the world. (Source)

So, PsychologyToday.com published blog posts.  Dr. Narvaes’ blog is called “Moral Landscapes.”

According to the site, “Moral Lanscapes” is a BLOG (like this one), not a journal publication, not subject to peer review.  The blogger, Dr. Narvaez says:

The Moral Landscapes blog is typically about conveying to the public research findings related to moral functioning and living a good life. Sometimes I muse on things that I puzzle about (politics). I am very concerned about how much our society doesn’t seem to know about how to raise good, healthy and happy children, so I spend a great deal of time on parenting and other issues related to moral and virtue development. I also write about things that I am working on myself–the endless quest for virtue! (Source)

OK.  So this ‘article’ cited by Strollerderby really is just a post by a psychologist on her blog where she posts muses on things and attempts to convey research findings to the public.  Not exactly the journal article I was expecting, more like the opining I would avoid.

The “new research” mentioned in the Strollerderby article, I couldn’t find it.  Other than citing her own book, which is currently in press so I can’t see what sources the book cites, the most recent source cited in the blog post “Sample References” is a piece from the World Health Organization published in 2008 (and Dr. Narvaez does not link to the source).  Not exactly up to the minute information.

So, yes, Dr. Narvaez cited some sources, perhaps some are relevant- I doubt the Strollerderby author or any of its readers (except for me?) would bother to check them.  However, from her explanation in the text she makes no reference to any study that directly compared children whose parents used ‘cry it out’ versus those who did not.  Instead, she says, “There are many longterm effects of undercare or need-neglect in babies (e.g., Dawson et al., 2000).”

I’m certain that longterm neglect and lack of care is devastating to babies.  I don’t think that most parents’ implementation of sleep training would constitute longterm neglect.  Most parents who even know what ‘sleep training’ means are probably well-informed enough to have read up on infant sleep patterns, love their children, and are quite nurturing.

Comparing ‘cry it out’ to long-term neglect is like comparing sending a kid to bed without dinner for not eating what was served to starvation.

Letting a baby cry it out, or using the Ferber Method doesn’t equate with neglect.  Whether you think it’s a good approach to getting your kid to sleep through the night is up to you.  I didn’t write this post to debate the merits of sleep training, only to point out the flaws in the original Psychology Today blog post, and its misrepresentation by the Strollerderby piece.  Bottom line, I wouldn’t use this opinion piece to make a decision about sleep training- because while it has some “Sample References” it doesn’t include a lick of data.

I wasn’t going to bother posting about this- although the way the media misuse/misrepresent/misconstrue science is something that always irks me (see this post)- because I just couldn’t be bothered raising my blood pressure that much.  However, today, Shine had a sesational headline:  Is Crying It Out Dangerous for Kids?

What do they cite?  The Pychology Today Moral Landscape blog post.  How to they present it?  As a research article:

In an article published this week in Psychology Today, one researcher says that crying it out could be dangerous for children, leading to a lifetime of harm. (Source)

Let’s get some terminology clear.  In scientific parlance, the word ‘article’ generally refers to original research containing data that has been peer reviewed before being published.  A work that is a summary of the current literature on a topic with extensive references will be called a ‘review article’ to make it clear that it is not original research.  What Strollerderby and Shine are calling an ‘article’ is what scientists would call an ‘opinion piece’ or perhaps an ‘editorial’ or, as the author refers to it, as a ‘blog post’- but NOT an article of any sort because it contains neither data nor extensive references, and does not constitute a summary of the current literature.

Attention Media:  Please stop misleading your readership!  Please do not present blog posts or editorials or opinion pieces as vetted scientific research!

To my readers, whatever your stance is on ‘cry it out’ please don’t use any of these ‘articles’ as your source of information.

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Wordless Wednesday: Big news from a (soon to be) Big Sister

Since I’ve finally told my boss, I can tell the internet…

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Snapshot: Mabel at 23 months old

This week Mabel will be 23 months old.  Next month we’ll have a 2 year old on our hands!

She’s doing lots of adorable, and not so adorable, stuff right now and I want to remember it.

 

Her language is astonishing and she routinely uses new words (meaning we have to be super careful about bad language because she instantly copies it!).  However, the funny stuff is her pronunciation.

Bear is bipe.  Don’t know why.  It took Mac and I a while to figure this one out- which was very frustrating for Mabel.

Octopuss is applepuss.

Four is fowa (but not like a little kid who can’t pronounce “r” – like a cab driver from Brooklyn).

Garbage is gaw-beige.

Clock is cock.  Yup.

When she’s in the tub, she says, “Oh my Gaw, what a mess!” and proceeds to ‘clean’ the tub with a washcloth.  She also mutters “Dammit,” but only in the tub (and I take no responsibility for that one!).

She also knows her first and last name, and pretty reliably can spell her first name (Mabel is just her pseudonym).  She also knows my first name and Mac’s first name.  I really wanted her to know all our names in the event that something went wrong.  She can identify herself, as well as give our names if something should happen.  She’s also progressing on learning our home phone number.  However, Mac pointed out that her recitation of the phone number may not be believed since it’s repetitive, (our number is like 123-1234) and she tends to say it over and over (like 1234-1234).

Speaking of numbers, she can sometimes count to ten.  Other times she says, “1,2,3,2,3!” or “1,2,3,6,9,10!”

She can sing most of her ABCs, but only with her alphabet toy- she refuses to sing with me.  So much so, that I was unaware, until 2 night ago, that she could do this.  She always yells, “No!” when I start to since the ABCs.  I thought it meant she didn’t want to sing it, but now I’m wondering if it’s a reflection of my singing.  Two night ago she was playing with the toy she has that sings the ABCs, and she sang most of the letters along with the toy.  Mac knew she was capable of this- just goes to show how much I miss when I’m at work.

One of her favorite pastimes is talking on the phone.  She routinely requests to speak to her grandparents and aunt on the phone- getting upset when their voicemail picks up.

When we’re getting her ready for her bath, we had the habit of saying, “Naked baby!”  So now when she’s in any state of undress, she runs around announcing, “Naked baby!”  She’s also taken to shouting, “Naked mommy!” or “Naked daddy!” if she catches either of us changing.

The way she interacts with her baby doll is adorable.  Lots of hugging, patting on the back, kisses, and snuggles.

She’s really funny with the dog as well.  She’s always telling her “No barking!” or “Go on Tracy!” or “Good dog.”  At bedtime lots of nights she has to go into our bedroom and give the dog a hug and kiss goodnight.  However, she’s also been rough with the dog at times- poking her in the eye while saying “eye” or yanking on her tail.  Mac and I are grateful that Tracy is patient and doesn’t react, but we are being really firm with Mabel that being ‘mean’ and hurting the dog are unacceptable.  (I think the poor dog often confuses Mabel being in trouble with her being in trouble- because she gets a guilty look on her face)

Mabel is afraid of Santa.  Our visit with the mall Santa was panic inducing- with clinging and screaming.  The library’s Santa story time was similarly traumatic so we left early.  When you ask her why she is crying, she says, “Santa.”  However, she routinely points out our neighbor’s light-up lawn Santa with excitement.  So, not sure what’s going on there.

Mabel is generally a really nice and easy kid.  However, we can tell we’re approaching the terrible twos, because minor adversity she used to take in stride now can result in her throwing herself on the floor in a fit of tears.  Not looking forward to this…

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Let’s talk about evolution- still, again.

Earlier this week I posted about speaking up for evolution– in a video I participated in called “Let’s talk about evolution.”

Well, the video has received some wonderful coverage (and some not so wonderful coverage) by several blogs and sites.

I mentioned the Jezebel post: Female Scientists Patiently Explain That Yes, Evolution is Real.

Now it’s being covered by The Guardian: Let’s talk about evolution.  Which includes some troubling data from a 2006 Science publication showing just how few Americans actually believe evolution is real (shocker- it’s less than half!).

I must admit, I’m very happy that this video is being covered, being seen, getting people talking, and (hopefully!) having an impact on the ‘debate’ over teaching evolution in American public schools.

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