Emily Oster

6 min Read Emily Oster

Emily Oster

Your Best Parenting Advice

A post from the archive

Emily Oster

6 min Read

Three years ago yesterday was my first newsletter post, which covered antibiotics and allergies, Zika, and the best travel baby carrier. It starts with: “Lately, I feel that it’s hard to avoid discussions of the microbiome.” This is still true! People are still very into the microbiome. 

Many things have changed. The email list is 80 times larger. We’ve been through COVID and are mostly out on the other side. Some things haven’t changed: in a real sense, I’m back to what I thought the newsletter would be when I began this journey. I still stand behind that travel baby carrier recommendation (the Bitybean). 

Today, to mark the occasion, I wanted to return to one of my favorite early posts — your best parenting advice. A version of this post originally ran in June 2021, and it crowdsourced parenting advice from all of you. I thought it was absolutely great. The results are below. 

When reviewing this, our team realized that there was so much more in the advice we got than was surfaced in the original post. We wanted more! So we put together a spreadsheet with all of your answers from back then (take a look here).

Thanks for all your support over the past three years, and hopefully many more to come.


We all get a lot of parenting advice. Much of it, as a friend of mine often says, “is worth what you pay for it.” But is there any actual good advice? At the end of Cribsheet, I talk about the best parenting advice I’ve gotten — from our first pediatrician — which boiled down to: try not to think about it. Part of the reason this was the best advice for me is that I think about everything far, far too much.

But I got to wondering: is there anything systematic about the best advice? Is there some universal best advice, or is the best advice different for us all? Of course, the only way to answer is with data. So I did a little survey, and about 350 people weighed in with answers to two simple questions: What’s the best parenting advice you’ve gotten, and who gave it to you?

The best advice

Some of your best advice goes for the very practical. Here are a few of those that I think we can all use.

  • Frozen mini bagels make the world’s best teething rings. They’re cold but also tasty.
  • When out with a stroller — reverse through doors.
  • To reset, put babies in water or bring them outside.
  • Read the manuals for baby gear you get before the baby arrives. (Ed. note: This reminded me of the time Jesse almost threw the snap-and-go base into Lake Michigan when we couldn’t fold it up after the first pediatrician visit. Ah, memories.)
  • Use dye-free Tylenol so it doesn’t stain anything when they vomit it back up.
  • The shoulders in the onesie are so you can pull it down when there’s a poopsplosion.

But most of the best advice was more general — more about how to approach parenting, rather than literally how to deal with a mess. To attempt to summarize this a bit better, I coded the responses into categories and put them in a pie chart.

The winner

The most popular category of advice was what I call “It’s a phase,” which 16% of people said some version of. The main tenor was, as one person said: “It will pass. Bad things (and good things) last two weeks max.”

I found this really resonant. So much of early parenting in particular feels eternal in the hard moments, and there is something so helpful in recognizing that it will end. You won’t be (this) tired forever, your child will not have this type of tantrum forever, they will eventually poop alone. A natural implication is to try to enjoy the good parts of right now, and not despair at the tough ones.

Just relax

A lot of responses centered around a version of “It will be fine” or “Do what works.” The message was some combination of “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and that you cannot be ruled by the advice of others (e.g. “They can have an opinion, but they don’t get a vote”). Another piece of this is letting yourself off the hook (e.g. if you feel you’ve got it 60% right, it’s a good day!).

I also got this gem: “The only fracture that can’t wait until morning is an elbow — so if it ain’t an elbow, and the child is comfortable, no need for the ER at night.”

Value yourself

As parents, we are not always the best at recognizing that we — or our relationship — needs attention too. A number of people pointed to advice from others to put themselves first, at least some of the time. “You have to take care of yourself first so you can best take care of your baby — the airline/oxygen mask rule.” More concretely: “Go to therapy.”

Beyond yourself, people gave advice about prioritizing your relationship with your partner, if you have one. As one person put it: “Your spouse is not the enemy; the baby is the enemy.”

Sleep-related

And finally, in the big categories: sleep. Many of us benefit from advice on sleep. I know what you’re thinking — what is the advice? Tell me right now. However, there wasn’t one distinct type of advice. The “best” advice came in the form of bedtime routines, encouragement to sleep train, permission to co-sleep, and embracing the concept of “wake windows.” Sleep training came in, in this group, for the most positive votes, but I’m guessing that reflects my audience.

Summary

This was fun to read! I definitely learned some things (e.g. the thing about fractured elbows). In very broad strokes, my read of much of this is some version of: have perspective and play the long game. A hard thing to remember when you’re in the weeds, especially early on, but a good one.

The best advice givers

Who’s the best advice giver? I made a word cloud. Moms, friends, pediatricians, and therapists for the win. Colleagues, books, aunts, and siblings come in next. Oh, and Instagram. Shout-out to the Cup of Jo account, which was the most commonly mentioned.

Best parenting advice giver word cloud.
ParentData

A final note

I will leave you with this piece of best advice to contemplate:

“If one is to be a parent, one must adopt the disposition of a placid cow.”

Mooo…

Two women stand on a balcony chatting. One is pregnant.

Feb 27 2023

6 min read

Your Best Parenting Advice

ParentData is 3!

Emily Oster
A line graph with pink, yellow, and blue dots representing life's ups and downs.

Feb 21 2023

3 min read

Wins, Woes, and Autism

Your stories for the week

Emily Oster
A toddler sits on a couch poking at an iPad and smiling.

Feb 16 2023

4 min read

Infant Screen Time and Academic Success

Infant screen time and breakfast cereal terror

Emily Oster
A teddy bear sits on a chair in a doctor's waiting room.

Feb 06 2023

11 min read

New AAP Guidelines on Childhood Obesity

What does the data tell us?

Emily Oster

Instagram

left right
Happy Father’s Day to the Fathers and Father figures in our ParentData community! 

Tag a Dad who this holiday may be tricky for. We’re sending you love. 💛

Happy Father’s Day to the Fathers and Father figures in our ParentData community!

Tag a Dad who this holiday may be tricky for. We’re sending you love. 💛
...

“Whilst googling things like ‘new dad sad’ and ‘why am I crying new dad,’ I came across an article written by a doctor who had trouble connecting with his second child. I read the symptoms and felt an odd sense of relief.” Today we’re bringing back an essay by Kevin Maguire of @newfatherhood about his experience with paternal postpartum depression. We need to demystify these issues in order to change things for the better. Comment “Link” for a DM to read his full essay.

#parentdata #postpartum #postpartumdepression #paternalmentalhealth #newparents #emilyoster

“Whilst googling things like ‘new dad sad’ and ‘why am I crying new dad,’ I came across an article written by a doctor who had trouble connecting with his second child. I read the symptoms and felt an odd sense of relief.” Today we’re bringing back an essay by Kevin Maguire of @newfatherhood about his experience with paternal postpartum depression. We need to demystify these issues in order to change things for the better. Comment “Link” for a DM to read his full essay.

#parentdata #postpartum #postpartumdepression #paternalmentalhealth #newparents #emilyoster
...

What does the data say about children who look more like one parent? Do they also inherit more character traits and mannerisms from that parent? Let’s talk about it 🔎

#emilyoster #parentdata #parentingcommunity #lookslikedaddy #lookslikemommy

What does the data say about children who look more like one parent? Do they also inherit more character traits and mannerisms from that parent? Let’s talk about it 🔎

#emilyoster #parentdata #parentingcommunity #lookslikedaddy #lookslikemommy
...

SLEEP DATA 💤 We asked you all about your kids’ sleep—and got nearly 15,000 survey responses to better understand kids’ sleep patterns. Comment “Link” for an article that breaks down our findings!

This graph shows sleeping location by age. You’ll notice that for the first three months, most kids are in their own sleeping location in a parent’s room. Then, over the first year, this switches toward their own room. As kids age, sharing a room with a sibling becomes more common. 

Head to the newsletter for more and stay tuned for part two next week on naps! 🌙

#parentdata #emilyoster #childsleep #babysleep #parentingcommunity

SLEEP DATA 💤 We asked you all about your kids’ sleep—and got nearly 15,000 survey responses to better understand kids’ sleep patterns. Comment “Link” for an article that breaks down our findings!

This graph shows sleeping location by age. You’ll notice that for the first three months, most kids are in their own sleeping location in a parent’s room. Then, over the first year, this switches toward their own room. As kids age, sharing a room with a sibling becomes more common.

Head to the newsletter for more and stay tuned for part two next week on naps! 🌙

#parentdata #emilyoster #childsleep #babysleep #parentingcommunity
...

Weekends are good for extra cups of ☕️ and listening to podcasts. I asked our team how they pod—most people said on walks or during chores. What about you?

Comment “Link” to subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster, joined by some excellent guests.

#parentdata #parentdatapodcast #parentingpodcast #parentingtips #emilyoster

Weekends are good for extra cups of ☕️ and listening to podcasts. I asked our team how they pod—most people said on walks or during chores. What about you?

Comment “Link” to subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster, joined by some excellent guests.

#parentdata #parentdatapodcast #parentingpodcast #parentingtips #emilyoster
...

Humility. That’s why. That’s the whole reason.

#emilyoster #secondbaby #parentingjokes #parentinghumor

Humility. That’s why. That’s the whole reason.

#emilyoster #secondbaby #parentingjokes #parentinghumor
...

Bug season is upon us. Besides annoyance, this can bring up safety concerns, particularly with ticks. They are carriers of diseases, most notably Lyme disease. So what’s the best course of action?

Prevention is key! I suggest:
⭐ Regular tick checks
⭐ Using bug sprays with DEET 
⭐ Wearing long sleeves and pants in the woods

Some parents worry about DEET, but repellants with up to 30% DEET are recommended by both the CDC and AAP. The data says you’re in the clear, so go for it. Enjoy your summer!

#parentdata #emilyoster #tickseason #bugbites #bugspray

Bug season is upon us. Besides annoyance, this can bring up safety concerns, particularly with ticks. They are carriers of diseases, most notably Lyme disease. So what’s the best course of action?

Prevention is key! I suggest:
⭐ Regular tick checks
⭐ Using bug sprays with DEET
⭐ Wearing long sleeves and pants in the woods

Some parents worry about DEET, but repellants with up to 30% DEET are recommended by both the CDC and AAP. The data says you’re in the clear, so go for it. Enjoy your summer!

#parentdata #emilyoster #tickseason #bugbites #bugspray
...

The list of what not to do while pregnant feels longer than a CVS receipt. At ParentData, we want to empower you to make the right decisions for you. 

What an amazing group of women, and an honor to speak at the #MomsFirstSummit debunking parenting myths. 

What are some pregnancy rules you chose to bend after being empowered by data?

#emilyoster #parentdata #pregnancyproblems #pregnancymyths

The list of what not to do while pregnant feels longer than a CVS receipt. At ParentData, we want to empower you to make the right decisions for you.

What an amazing group of women, and an honor to speak at the #MomsFirstSummit debunking parenting myths.

What are some pregnancy rules you chose to bend after being empowered by data?

#emilyoster #parentdata #pregnancyproblems #pregnancymyths
...

Looking for Memorial Day Weekend plans? Might be the perfect time to give potty training a shot. Potty training is notoriously difficult, and we unfortunately don’t have a lot of evidence-based guidance on what works best. So I asked the ParentData community to fill out a survey and share their knowledge — about 6,000 people responded.

👉Comment “Link” for a DM to an article that summarizes all of the best potty training advice we collected. 

Remember, you are not alone in the potty training struggle! It can be incredibly challenging, so please give yourself some grace.

#emilyoster #parentdata #pottytraining #pottytrainingtips #toddlertips

Looking for Memorial Day Weekend plans? Might be the perfect time to give potty training a shot. Potty training is notoriously difficult, and we unfortunately don’t have a lot of evidence-based guidance on what works best. So I asked the ParentData community to fill out a survey and share their knowledge — about 6,000 people responded.

👉Comment “Link” for a DM to an article that summarizes all of the best potty training advice we collected.

Remember, you are not alone in the potty training struggle! It can be incredibly challenging, so please give yourself some grace.

#emilyoster #parentdata #pottytraining #pottytrainingtips #toddlertips
...

We’re hiring an Associate Editor at ParentData! More details at my link in bio. Please share with the great writers and data-loving people in your network. 📊💻

We’re hiring an Associate Editor at ParentData! More details at my link in bio. Please share with the great writers and data-loving people in your network. 📊💻 ...

Do you brand things a certain way to get your kid to accept it? Like calling carrots “rabbit popsicles”? Or telling them to put on their “super speed socks” in the morning? Share your rebrands in the comments below! You never know who you might be helping out 👇

#emilyoster #funnytweets #relatabletweets #parentingjokes #kidssaythedarndestthings

Do you brand things a certain way to get your kid to accept it? Like calling carrots “rabbit popsicles”? Or telling them to put on their “super speed socks” in the morning? Share your rebrands in the comments below! You never know who you might be helping out 👇

#emilyoster #funnytweets #relatabletweets #parentingjokes #kidssaythedarndestthings
...

Have you ever panic-googled a parenting question when everyone else is asleep? If so, you’re not alone. 

Today is the first episode of a new biweekly series on my podcast: Late-Night Panic Google. On these mini-episodes, you’ll hear from some familiar names about the questions keeping them up at night, and how data can help. First up: @claireholt!

Listen and subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster in your favorite podcast app 🎧

#parentdata #emilyoster #claireholt #parentingstruggles #parentingtips #latenightpanicgoogle

Have you ever panic-googled a parenting question when everyone else is asleep? If so, you’re not alone.

Today is the first episode of a new biweekly series on my podcast: Late-Night Panic Google. On these mini-episodes, you’ll hear from some familiar names about the questions keeping them up at night, and how data can help. First up: @claireholt!

Listen and subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster in your favorite podcast app 🎧

#parentdata #emilyoster #claireholt #parentingstruggles #parentingtips #latenightpanicgoogle
...

Sun safety is a must for all ages, especially babies! Here are my tips for keeping your littlest ones protected in the sunshine:
☀️ Most importantly, limit their time out in hot weather. (They get hotter than you do!)
☀️ Keep them in the shade as much as possible when you’re out.
☀️ Long-sleeve but lightweight clothing is your friend, especially on the beach, where even in the shade you can get sunlight reflecting off different surfaces.
☀️ If you want to add a little sunscreen on their hands and feet? Go for it! But be mindful as baby skin tends to more prone to irritation.

Comment “Link” for a DM to an article on the data around sun and heat exposure for babies.

#sunsafety #babysunscreen #babyhealth #parentdata #emilyoster

Sun safety is a must for all ages, especially babies! Here are my tips for keeping your littlest ones protected in the sunshine:
☀️ Most importantly, limit their time out in hot weather. (They get hotter than you do!)
☀️ Keep them in the shade as much as possible when you’re out.
☀️ Long-sleeve but lightweight clothing is your friend, especially on the beach, where even in the shade you can get sunlight reflecting off different surfaces.
☀️ If you want to add a little sunscreen on their hands and feet? Go for it! But be mindful as baby skin tends to more prone to irritation.

Comment “Link” for a DM to an article on the data around sun and heat exposure for babies.

#sunsafety #babysunscreen #babyhealth #parentdata #emilyoster
...