Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm - Mei-Ling Hopgood

Summary: A first-time mom from suburban Michigan -- now living in Buenos Aires -- Mei-Ling Hopgood was shocked that Argentine parents allow their children to stay up until all hours of the night. Could there really be social and developmental advantages to this custom? Driven by a journalist's curiosity and a new mother's desperation for answers, Hopgood embarked on a journey to learn how other cultures approach the challenges all parents face: bedtimes, potty training, feeding, playtimes, and more.

Observing parents around the globe and interviewing anthropologists, educators, and child-care experts, she discovered a world of new ideas. The Chinese excel at potty training, teaching their children as young as six months old. Kenyans wear their babies in colorful cloth slings -- not only is it part of their cultural heritage, but strollers seem outright silly on Nairobi's chaotic sidewalks. And the French are experts at turning their babies into healthy, adventurous eaters. Hopgood tested her discoveries on her spirited toddler, Sofia, with some enlightening results.

This intimate and surprising look at the ways other cultures raise children offers parents the option of experimenting with tried-and-true techniques and traditions and proves that there are many ways to be a good parent. (Summary from book, image from

My Review: As a first-time mom I remember feeling overwhelmed with all of the (sometimes contradicting) parenting advice that was thrown my way. I felt like one misstep would result in my baby unable to eat, walk, talk, bond with her parents, sleep at night, and leave me as a complete failure as a parent. I read books, scoured blogs and went to friends and family for advice. I think I've made my share of parenting mistakes, but I learned that there is more than one, official, scientifically-proven way to parent a child. Reading this book was another confirmation that cultural traditions and parental instincts can be just as effective in child-rearing.

Ms. Hopgood's experiences and research were fun to read and made me rethink tried-and-true parenting practices (in American culture), such as consistent bedtimes, potty training at two, and our need to instill independence in our children at a young age. Practices that we might look at as silly or impractical have deep cultural significance in other cultures. While I don't intend to give up my stroller anytime soon, I think this book is a great way to broaden our parenting horizons.

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Sum It Up: The American way of parenting surely isn't the only way. 

1 comment:

CarrieM said...

I just finished this, and while I felt like a lot of methods of child rearing around the world were as good as or superior to our suburban American style, the bedtime thing seemed to be failing the author miserably. If you still have a 2 year old waking you at night all the time without a medical problem, maybe the Argentinian way isn't working so great!


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