Monday, January 09, 2012

Why a chick lit novel is not a place to look for parenting advice

I've just finished speed-reading the young Australian author Jessica Rudd's chick-lit novel sequel Ruby Blues, just to see how the other half thinks, and I know it is only supposed to be a work of fiction, but still, I think fiction shouldn't contain details that sound like facts but which are actually a long way from the way things are in the real world. On page 260 there's a male fictional baby born prematurely weighing 1.8 kilograms or just under four pounds. On page 270 it is revealed that this made-up premmie boy bub being cared for in a neonatal intensive care unit was born at 32 weeks of gestation, with a claim that such babies "can double their body weight in a week". On page 319 the fictitious infant is found to have doubled his birth weight in only five days! Talk about hot-house babies! They must be adding human growth hormone to the formula these days.

I very much hope that there isn't some forlorn mother of a newborn premature baby somewhere in Australia reading this completely ridiculous book and feeling very inadequate about her efforts at establishing breastfeeding because her baby boy has only REGAINED his birth weight in a week, as you'd sensibly expect a well-cared-for newborn premmie to do. I believe it is a general rule that babies, including premature babies, lose some of their birth weight straight after birth because they are water-logged or something after having bathed non-stop in uterine fluid for up to 40 weeks. In the first week after birth a newborn generally sheds this pseudo-weight while only starting to replace this weight loss with real body growth. After looking at a variety of growth curves for newborns, including some for preterm births, I feel confident in stating that it is completely and absolutely impossible for a newborn premmie to double it's birthweight in less than a week, whatever you feed it. I've got to wonder whether Ms Rudd had been taking advice on statistical matters from the Australian reporter Allison Langdon of 60 Minutes fame, you know, she's the pretty fair lass who apparently doesn't know that standard deviation isn't the same thing as multiplication. Life imitates blonde joke.

Growth of preterm newborns during the first 12 weeks of life.
Lêni M. Anchieta; César C. Xavier; Enrico A. Colosimo
J. Pediatr. (Rio J.) vol.80 no.4 Porto Alegre July/Aug. 2004

60 Minutes reporter stuffs up and the name of hyperthymestic syndrome changed again but still no recognition from US of link with synaesthesia.
Lili Marlene
Incorrect Pleasures
September 5th 2011

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