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Parents, and especially mothers, are inundated with advice about what they should and shouldn't do to ensure their children's health. But not all of this advice is backed by evidence, says Emily Oster—and some of it can actually be harmful. 

When Oster, a professor of economics at Brown University, found that her first pregnancy came with a host of restrictions and very few explanations, she decided to do what any good economist would do—dig into the data. 

The resulting books—Expecting Better and most recently the New York Times bestseller Cribsheet—look at what the data actually says about breastfeeding, bedrest, nutrition, marital satisfaction, and more. 

She recently joined me on the CGD podcast to talk about misconceptions surrounding pregnancy and childcare (how best to handle food allergy risks?), missing data (how much screen time is too much?), ethical considerations (how to balance what’s best for kids with the needs of parents?), things we might never know (does breastfeeding affect IQ at age 60?)—and how policymakers can use this information to empower parents to make good decisions. 

 
Carleigh Krubiner is a policy fellow working with CGD's health program.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD does not take institutional positions.