High-profile moms can cause a stir when talking about how they're raising their children. Such was the case recently when actresses January Jones, Alicia Silverstone and Mayim Bialik shared some unconventional parenting methods, including extended breastfeeding, bed sharing, pre-mastication and placenta capsulation.
Dr. Ari Brown, an Austin, Texas-based fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and author of Expecting 411, Baby 411 and Toddler 411, sheds light on whether you should follow the footsteps of these celebrity moms.
"Attachment parenting" has re-entered public discourse with the release of Bialik's memoir, Beyond the Sling, and a Time magazine cover with a mother prominently breastfeeding her 3-year-old son. Is extended breastfeeding a mutually healthy decision?
Nursing can continue as long as both parties desire to continue. AAP recommends nursing for the first year of life for most health benefits, but duration beyond that is up to the pair. Some people feel uncomfortable in our culture seeing an older child nurse, but [in] other cultures [mothers] nurse one baby until the next one is born.
Bialik also writes about bed sharing with her children and her husband. What are the health benefits or concerns for children and parents associated with this?
AAP has a strong sleep safety statement discouraging sleeping with an infant under 1 year of age in the same bed because it increases risk of unexpected death and sudden infant death syndrome. Room sharing is encouraged, but not bed sharing. This is not an affront to parenting styles [of those] who prefer to be together. It is a safety issue.
Toddlers can safely sleep with family members if this is what the family desires. But I tell parents that happy parents make happy children and the "family" bed isn't a family bed if the mom and child are sleeping together and dad is on the couch. It has to be a decision made by all.
Silverstone posted a video of herself pre-chewing her son's food, then passing it to his mouth. Are there any benefits to this?
Premastication is discouraged because it increases risk of cavity-causing bacteria to be passed from parent to child. Also [there is] risk of other germs being passed and causing infection.
For an energy boost after her son's birth, Jones told People magazine that she's been ingesting daily capsules made from her dehydrated placenta. How common is the practice of placenta capsulation? What are the health benefits or concerns?
It's definitely a cultural choice. [There are] no health benefits that encourage this behavior. Personally, I hate eating organs that filter (like liver!) much less my own, but it's up to a parent if they like.
Can you give some advice or tips about how parents can navigate the plethora of parenting information so they can find what style is best for them?
Well, there are some decisions that impact the health and well-being of their child. And, for that, I recommend going to the most reliable source I know of -- the American Academy of Pediatrics. At aap.org or healthychildren.org they can find an array of health, development and parenting info that they can trust.
How does a parent know if they're making the right choices?
Parents need to make a decision together how they will raise their kids and be consistent about it. Sometimes they realize that the plans or strategies don't work for their family or for one particular child, so it's also important to reassess and be flexible.
Note: These practices may be fashionable in some groups, but it is a good idea to touch base with your doctor first about the risks and benefits for you and your child.