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on 11 May 2002
This book looks at baby care from the perspective of evolution. It argues that modern life as we know it is a mere blip, a nano-second in the time-scale of human evolution. The perils of living in a culture which has 'progressed' so rapidly in relation to evolution are examined. It is explained how babies born today have the same needs as those born back through the ages to hunter/gatherers, cave dwellers and nomads. The parenting goals for these life-styles emphasise strong attachments, good family ties and a sense of community. Children are seen as an asset, and are constantly protected from dangers. Thus babies' innate needs are for close-contact and continual comfort. Modern Western societies are often at odds with these. They are more geared up to independence and self-reliance, and children are seen as a burden and a tie. With this mis-match it is put to us that parenting can only be as good as a series of 'trade-offs' between parents needs and babies' needs. Real problems occur where it becomes counter-productive for the baby to communicate its needs: where incessant crying can trigger an abusive reaction, because the adult need for space is so out of sync with the infant's evolved needs.
The ideas are very convincing, and very reasurring to parents of babies with healthy expressions of evolved needs. The global perspective is emphasised, and western baby care advice is put firmly in its cultural context. There is no subjective opinion or emotive discourse, but plenty of solid research from which the reader can draw her own conclusions. A particularly fine book to quote at dinner parties I think, especially when the baby won't settle.
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on 20 December 2007
You can agree or disagree with this book but it certainly puts things into perspective. Although it may read as a touch too sociological, it is a simple and easy read that gives to your thoughts, opinions and questions a very important frame: it tells you how other societies and other people parent and makes you feel that everything can be normal. It de-constructs our west-centrism and euro-centrism and shows that one should feel closer to their babies and let their feelings and insticts guide them especially when their children are very young. Autonomy, independence and other dominant western ideas may be good for adults but need not start from day 0 in the life of the baby and of her parent. Babies need their parents, they need not a cold and dark room. And people in all societies at all times EXCEPT from 20th century Europe and North America have been parenting in much more natural and physically close ways. As a mother of three boys (now aged 2, 4 and 5) who all had trouble sleeping through the night on their own for at least the first 20 months of their little lives and who still often visit our bed if they wake up at night, I found this book liberating and so very informative!!!
I strongly recommend it.
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on 11 August 2006
As the other reviews say, this book give an evolutionary perspective on child care and babies' needs. I found this book quite wonderful and my only regret is that I read it when my baby was 1 month old - I wish I had read it before he was born. The evidence that babies are evolved to expect continual contact and care was very compelling - as was the evidence that endless crying jags and/or colic are not predetermined aspects of baby behaviour. This is not a manual - it is quite a scholarly academic book, but it is accessible and very well written, and as others have noted, allows you to draw your own conclusions about how you parent. It certainly has helped me, and it is also very interesting to read about baby care in many different cultures.
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on 1 July 1999
I highly recommend "Our Babies, Ourselves" to any parent interested in an anthropologically and biologically-oriented approach to parenthood, especially motherhood. It provides numerous data on how biology affects the parent-baby relationship as well as the baby's behavior and objectively presents how various cultures (including the United States') worldwide accommodate and/or neglect these biological factors and the impact that accommodation or neglect has on the parent/baby relationship.
I got this book when my baby was 3 months old and for me it confirmed every instinct I had as a first-time mother who knew nothing of raising a child prior to having one. I carry my baby in a pouch any time I can; I breastfeed; I'd let the baby sleep in my bed if I could (my husband and I have a waterbed and it's not safe for babies), etc. All of these behaviors are highly, highly beneficial to babies for specific biological reasons.
This is not a "how to" book, nor does it promote any particular approach to child rearing. It is objective and actually rather academic in nature, yet intriguing and easy-to-understand.
Read the book! It's worth it!
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on 30 December 2012
I have really enjoyed this book. I was interested in parenting in other cultures as a way of informing my perspective in my own adventures in Parent-Land.
I really enjoyed having information from observational studies laid out for me, as oppose to opinion/advice rammed at me as in other parenting books.
It has allowed me to feel quite relaxed about several things I was previously hung up such as lack of sleep, and feeding. I feel much more confident now about making decisions about parenting, despite them not necessarily being the most common thing to do in my own culture. I also enjoyed the authors conclusion in the book about respecting the choices others make because that is the situation they have found themselves in. In every culture, parents adapt their parenting to the needs of their lifestyle.
A little word of advice is to skim read the first few pages, not sure if it was the mood I was in, but they didn't really appeal to me, I was more than happy with the content of the rest of the book though, and have not stopped talking about its findings!

I would recommend to any parents or parents-to-be and of course any one with an interest in this subject. After reading it I feel much less inclined to need to read parenting books which which dictate routine and order!
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on 31 December 2005
I have had this book a couple of years and have just re-read it. It is very interesting and really makes you think about how parenting has evolved in our, and other, cultures.
It begins with evolution of our speicies and topics covered include sleeping, crying, working etc in these varied cultures. It is quite an indepth read but well researched and written in an easy to understand way.
It certainly made me question whether we really have the better society, and has given me confidence to parent in the way I feel comfortable with, even if it doesn't fit the current 'norm' for our western culture.
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on 3 August 1999
What a wonderful book! This is an excellent piece of work covering the new field, ethnopediatrics, which is something that it's about time Western culture had its eyes opened up to. I've always known something was wrong with many of our child care issues, and now I know that I'm right. Please, do our society a favor and read this book, buy it for expecting parents, and tell everyone you know about it. There are things in this book concerning our babies' health that need to be told.
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on 20 August 1999
As a first time parent I was unsure about how to handle all the millions of decisions regarding care of my baby and was confused and frustrated by conflicting advice and opinions. This book put things into a larger context and gave some insight on why we tend to emphasize certain things in our culture. It opened up other ways of thinking about parenting and helped me gain self confidence. It demonstrated that much of the "conventional wisdom" is often based on cultural or personal opinions, but not on science or infant biology. An excellent thought provoking book about what we value as a culture and how this translates into our parenting.
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on 30 June 2014
I love this book so much I get it for all my pregnant friends and hope it will cancel out the million copies of 'must have' baby books they get given. I haven't got time for a long review but just wanted to say this should be compulsory reading, and actually I think would be good taught at school along with parenting in general!
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on 13 March 1999
This is an easily read and fascinating book. It points out the influence of American values to raise independent and self reliant children. These values lead to parenting practices which do not take into account the biology of infants. She gives an excellent overview of current scientific studies of infants behavior as it relates to cry and sleep..I would recommend this book to anyone who is considering parenthood.
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