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The Science of Mom: A Research-Based Guide to Your Baby's First Year

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  630 ratings  ·  92 reviews
It seems like every time a new mother turns on her computer, radio, or television, she is greeted with news of yet another scientific study about infancy. Ignoring good information isn’t the right course, but just how does one tell the difference between solid studies, preliminary results, and snake oil?

In this friendly guide through the science of infancy, Science of Mom
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 3rd 2015 by Johns Hopkins University Press
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4.38  · 
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 ·  630 ratings  ·  92 reviews

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Aug 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: baby-parents
Your baby needs iron-rich foods! Like meat and egg yolks!

Full review:

Why aren't there more books like this one? I discovered Expecting Better: How to Fight the Pregnancy Establishment with Facts fairly late in pregnancy, and similar to that book, this one is written by someone with a background in science who was frustrated by the lack of good research-based advice about infant care. Furthermore, the research-based advice out there often cherry-picks among studies, or is based on a single study
Nov 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, parenting
Over the past three years I've read pretty much every popular parenting book on the market, and I just finished this one (albeit a little late given that my son just turned one) and I am SO BUMMED that it wasn't available last year because it would have saved me SO MANY hours of googling trying to find unbiased, evidence-based parenting advice, as well as relieved a lot of anxiety/guilt about our choices as parents, and likely saved us from making a few well-intentioned mistakes (hello, iron def ...more
Jul 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Callahan dives right into the most hot-button areas of parenting, from vaccinations to breastfeeding to co-sleeping, and distills the available evidence from research studies into a readable format. Where the research is clear, she takes a strong stance; where it is mixed, she explains benefits and risk factors and leaves the reader to decide. She does a great job of continually reminding the reader that different families do different things with just as much success, and that no research studi ...more
Sep 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
As a pediatrician in solo rural practice for 25 years I am always on the lookout for information that will make what I read about in evidence based scientific literature approachable, digestible, and understandable to the parents of my patients. The Science of Mom does this well. It is for the intellectually curious families that , as smart as they are might be, find the amount of information found on the Internet on some hot topics that they will have to make decisions on (sooner rather than la ...more
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. Callahan does lit reviews about parenting topics, presents what the data says, does a bit of explaining, and then talks about what she decided to do. Some of it I just skipped over because it had already happened / I didn't have a choice (cord clamping), or I had already made a decision (vaccines), but some of it is extremely useful, like the nutrition science. I wish I had known about nutritional needs in babies before I started feeding my first! I'm definitely going to make s ...more
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-goals
If people saying I did this and I/my kids turned out fine makes you want to impale your ear drums on knitting needles, then this is the kind of book you'd want to guide you in parenting. It is data-based and seems faithful to the scientific method throughout. I wish I'd read it earlier in my child's life to have benefitted more from it (turns out there is no right order in which to introduce vegetables). I learned a lot and overall it's helped me relax about making parenting decision because for ...more
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
A lot of parenting books want to shame you. Like, they DISCREET shame you, but you're still sitting there reading along, like, "I don't even CARE that my kid isn't sleeping through the night, so why do I suddenly feel like a monster for this very fact?"

Thank the good Lord and cupcakes, this book doesn't do that.

It looks massive upon first glance, but the actual book itself is a pretty quick read; and faster, even, if you're a giant nerd like me & joyously soak up the info, page after page. I
Emily Oster's Expecting Better was probably my favourite pregnancy and parenting book I read while I was expecting, as it was a data-focused look at some of the most pressing pregnancy questions. After the birth of my daughter, I found myself wishing she had tackled the postpartum child-rearing phase as well. The amount of information available to new parents is overwhelming: cross-generational friends and family advice, countless books with varying degrees of expertise, pediatricians and family ...more
Lauren Price
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you read one parenting book, this should be it. all parenting books are rife with bias, but this one is extremely open about what the biases are and really tries to be open, honest, and admit that no information or recommendation is perfect. for example, i am a strong believer in bottle feeding my baby and although the author is clearly biased to believe in breast feeding, she still presents the actual data and research in such a way that a parent can clearly make their own informed choices i ...more
Amy Alice
Jan 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Can't recommend this enough. I loved Expecting Better because it was science based advice with a helping of "but here's the other side and why there is a debate". This is the same for the baby's first year. It gives you the foundation of science for all of the big things like feeding and sleeping, with other sciencey books to continue your reading, and still gives you room to layer on your own belief systems. A warning, where there isn't any science to support a trendy baby rearing technique, sh ...more
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book had me from the very beginning. It starts off with a good overview of the scientific method, different types of scientific studies, and clear objectives for its evidence-based review of infant health topics throughout the rest of the book. On topics ranging from cord clamping and vaccines to feeding and sleep, the author then points back repeatedly to the opening chapter to demonstrate why the evidence for recommendation X is or isn't strong.

The book isn't terribly long and I highly re
Apr 04, 2019 rated it liked it
I would recommend that parents ideally read this book before birth. Unfortunately, I came to it a bit a later so many of the chapters were no longer relevant to me. What I did read, though, was interesting and very well researched. The author has a PhD in Nutritional Biology, and the chapters on feeding were especially informative. The writing style is a little on the dry side but also compassionate and warm.
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
My wife and I (expecting parents) were so glad that we laid our hands on this book. The provides a sort of synthesis of research literature on the birthing and parenting process for infants. I really enjoyed the way the author provides a well-rounded review of studies pertaining to each area of child birth and growth.
Below are some of our key takeaways from the book (please bear in mind that the author does not always recommend one method over the other, so this is our takeaway from
Erin Stuhlsatz
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, parenting
LOVED THIS LOVED THIS LOVED THIS. I wish I'd read it first.
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: e-book, nonfic, babies
It's rare that a book appeal to both sides of my brain equally. I delighted in Alice Callahan's open-minded, coolheaded look at the studies and statistics that illuminate some of the most controversial aspects of early child-rearing (feeding, sleeping, vaccinations). But I also appreciated her empathic, nonjudgemental framing of these issues: her attitude is that if something works for your family, isn't harming your child, and you've educated yourself about the risks involved, go forth and be m ...more
Mar 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Great book. Learned at least six new things, and appreciated discussion of scientific process, how to distinguish meaningful research, and how evolution may have gotten us to a state requiring so much medical intervention. Will definitely refer to when baby starts solid foods. Frustrated by section on eye antibiotic ointment; I feel like no sources answer my questions adequately.
Oct 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Easy to read and understand. Good background on how to interpret science, especially in the absence of adequate and/or unequivocal evidence. The chapters on solid foods were especially helpful to me since that's on the horizon for my family. Worth a read and to keep on hand as a reference.
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: research
Very useful EVIDENCE BASED guide for baby's first year. Will refer back to it at different stages.
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: expecting mothers, new parents, fans of science writing
Shelves: parenting
I really liked this book. I have been frustrated trying to find parenting books. Most are condescending, opinionated without being informative, and/or poorly written. This is the first parenting book that I have really enjoyed.

Alice Callahan has a PhD and post-doc in fetal physiology (she also used to be a lab technician at the National Zoo! How cool is that!). She backs up all of her claims--there are extensive footnotes and appendices at the end of the book. She is clear and concise, with occ
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As a first-time mom, this has literally brought the science and clarity to so many mommy wars on going out there. Quality research is key. Anecdotal evidence and one research study, though have merits in itself and are powerfully persuasive, rank fairly low as quality evidence in research. Unfortunately, they are also used by the loudest voices out there bombarding first-time mommies like myself. This book teaches moms to look for big things like the following to make your decisions 1.) Scientif ...more
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In the 1970's Dr. Spock advised that babies should be put to sleep on their stomachs so that they didn't spit up and choke. This recommendation was based on neither science nor research and it's believed that this advice lead to the deaths of 70,000 infants. That's the power of bad advice and as a parent you'll receive a stunning array. Before you take any advice, however, you should inquire- where is your research? Alice Callahan, herself sporting a PhD in Nutrition, who later went on to study ...more
Ocean Gebhardt
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: parenting-stuffs
We have yet to tackle many of the issues mentioned in the book (solid foods, full night's rest, etc.), so I might change my rating slightly later on, but for now I'd say this is the perfect follow up to Emily Oster's "Expecting Better". Once again, the information given here is based on studies, and most of the information seems to be quite solid.

The book deals with nutrition, sleep, health, etc. So don't expect advice on getting your baby to crawl/walk/keep quiet in public/etc.

As a side note,
Michael Westbrook
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was looking for a book on parenting that had a lot to offer when it came to good data/scientific research and I believe The Science of Mom offers just that. I would say more than half of the books deals with questions parents might have from pre-birth to 4 months of age. Since my daughter is currently 4 months old I found the information interesting , but unfortunately I couldn't put some of it in practice. The book is full of resources when it comes to vaccines, bed sharing, sleeping practice ...more
Nicole Gonzales
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have read a lot of parenting and pregnancy related books since I found out I was pregnant about a year and a half ago, and this was the best. Filled with detailed yet concise summaries on important topics, it was incredibly helpful. I especially found the sections in nutrition and starting solid foods incredibly helpful. Also easy and fun to read, which is quite a feat for a sciency parenting book. In this era of anti-intellectualism, I find myself wishing there were more candid and straightfo ...more
Joni Baboci
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, food, kindle, kids
The Science of Mom is a great book touching upon the most important (and often controversial) parenting practices of a child's first year of life. The author deals with what happens just before and just after birth, breastfeeding, safe sleeping practices, vaccinations, weaning and feeding of solids. I believe it a great short read, with all the appropriate citations and relevant links to the research being cited. A great companion to Expecting Better (same approach to the prenatal development pr ...more
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So refreshing to read a book about parenting that is unbiased, evidence based and doesn’t cherry pick evidence to push a specific agenda. It also acknowledges the role of parental values and culture in decisions and that often there isn’t a one size fits all answer to issues such as sleep. My baby was already 7 months on reading this so most of it was just interesting reading, but found the last chapter on introducing solids really helpful and I’m making a few changes such as introducing fortifi ...more
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, parenting
Covers the scientific research into several hot topic parenting issues. Not preachy (except for the section about vaccines thank god), the author is clearly coming from a place of understanding that parenting is hard, messy business and nobody is perfect. She just wants you to have all the information available to make good choices. She makes it clear which issues are messy and not throughly hashed out (like sleep and feeding) and which are backed by hard science and are nonnegotiable (like vacc ...more
Anand Mandapati
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like Expecting Better by Emily Oster, this book lays out the current scientific consensus on a variety of topics of how to take care of your baby after he or she is born. There is very little bias that comes through (I felt the vaccines chapter was a bit weaker than the others but then again, I strongly agree with her) and Callahan for the most part shows both the current science and it's limitations and problems. She also documents her sources as any book like this should.
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Love love loved this book. Very sciencey and thoroughly researched (in the vein of Expecting Better), I feel so much more informed now about infants. There was so much valuable information in here I need to go get a physical copy of this book and reread sections and take notes (I read this on the kindle). Highly recommend for moms looking for non-preachy, non-biased, research-based information and advice about babies.
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Appreciated the explanations and description or overview of research studies. I did find it tricky to consolidate the main points from her discussions, but it did provide more details and references for those who wanted more medically supported and good quality research/evidence. Helps us understand what type of research studies or citations or sources are less confounding or full of biases than others. Covers a wide range of topics too.
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I am a former research scientist, now an author, blogger, and a college instructor. My first book, The Science of Mom: A Research-Based Guide to Your Baby's First Year, was published by Johns Hopkins Press in August 2015.

I'm mother to Cee (born in 2010) and BabyM (born in 2014). I live and work in Eugene, Oregon.

I started my blog in the fall of 2010 as I was adjusting to life as a new mom and off
“If you feel judged by others, remember that they don't live in your house at night, and they don't care for your child. You do, and you are capable of doing the right thing for your child.” 1 likes
“Among all of the topics I cover in this book, the choice to vaccinate on schedule is backed by the strongest, clearest, biggest pile of evidence.” 0 likes
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