The week's best parenting advice: February 9, 2021

Heavy metals in baby food, tips for tackling bedtime, and more

Baby food.
(Image credit: Illustrated | iStock)

1. Am I poisoning my child?

The results of a congressional investigation into commercial baby food sent parents into a worried frenzy last week by suggesting many baby foods contain dangerous levels of heavy metals like arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. Such metals can have "neurotoxic effects" on young children, the report said. "Even low levels of exposure can cause serious and often irreversible damage to brain development." That's very scary, but parents shouldn't panic, writes economist Emily Oster at ParentData. Baby food is not "unique" here — heavy metals are everywhere, and "you really cannot avoid some exposure to these substances," she says. "Ultimately, the numbers here suggest that the exposure a child has through these foods is unlikely to be very large relative to the exposures which have been demonstrated to have effects." She suggests cutting down on rice-based puffs and cakes, which she concludes is the most worrisome of the foods mentioned in the report. But "honestly, please do not think about this too much."

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Jessica Hullinger

Jessica Hullinger is a writer and former deputy editor of The Week Digital. Originally from the American Midwest, she completed a degree in journalism at Indiana University Bloomington before relocating to New York City, where she pursued a career in media. After joining The Week as an intern in 2010, she served as the title’s audience development manager, senior editor and deputy editor, as well as a regular guest on “The Week Unwrapped” podcast. Her writing has featured in other publications including Popular Science, Fast Company, Fortune, and Self magazine, and she loves covering science and climate-related issues.