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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 October 2018

Backlash over Silverstone’s ‘kind’ parenting book

Alicia Silverstone is excited about her new book, a guide for new mothers, but critics say some of the things the actress advocates, such as pre-mastication and babies sleeping in the same bed as the parents, are not healthy practices.
The Kind Mama by Alicia Silverstone.
The Kind Mama by Alicia Silverstone.

Alicia Silverstone, famous for her blockbuster Clueless, has shot to a whole new level of fame with her controversial ideas about mothering, all documented in her newly published book The Kind Mama (Rodale).

Silverstone, 37, whose son Bear Blu is almost 3, says she wrote the book because she had a wonderful pregnancy and wants other women to feel as good as she did.

“I wanted to make a guide for women so they could have that experience that they deserved to have,” she said.

But the book has been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons, with critics calling it everything from “clueless” (get it?) to “sanctimonious bonk-bonk garbage”.

Jezebel.com’s Lindy West, while noting her love for the actress, is matter of fact in her dismissal of Silverstone’s tips on becoming a “kind mama”: “Back-handedly blaming suicidal mothers for their own illnesses because they didn’t eat enough rainbow chard – in flippant terms like ‘though it’s less common among kind mamas, some women experience the blues after giving birth’ – is shockingly tone-deaf and not very ‘kind’ at all.”

Silverstone has made a few headlines in the past for advocating practices that are out of the mainstream: in 2012, she posted a video of herself practising pre-mastication – chewing food for her baby and spitting it in his mouth.

In her book, she recommends a lying-in period after birth, where a mother can bond with her baby. Silverstone says she took 10 days after birth to stay in bed with her son. One chapter of her book is devoted to “The Family Bed” – having babies sleep in the same bed with parents.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, advises against co-sleeping because of the risk of babies accidentally being suffocated by a sleeping adult. Milwaukee recently launched a public education campaign against the practice after 12 babies died in what officials deemed “unsafe sleeping conditions”.

Silverstone has also shared her own views on vaccination, stating that she has never given her son “a drop of medicine”: “There is increasing anecdotal evidence from doctors who have gotten distressed phone calls from parents claiming their child was ‘never the same’ after receiving a vaccine. And I personally have friends whose babies were drastically affected in this way.”

This unleashed a storm of angry reactions online, including a sharp piece by the political commentator Ben Shapiro: “Her advice, which apparently does not include any criticism of giving children names that will result in playground mockery, does include an entire section ripping vaccination ... But vaccinations absolutely work ... According to Unicef, hundreds of thousands of cases of diseases could be easily prevented by vaccination. Meanwhile, diseases that were once eliminated have made a comeback in the United States thanks to disinformation campaigns like Silverstone’s.”

Comments posted under Shapiro’s article mostly commended his views, including this little gem: “Vaccines keep people alive, despite misfortune, disease, infection or even most forms of stupidity.”

The actress says “she is aware of her critics on various issues”. “Everything that’s in the book is there to show you why you might want to consider it, always just to give you information and show you that if you don’t choose that, that’s totally fine.”

artslife@thenational.ae