Recently, the news that a three-month-old baby died while sleeping face down caused widespread concern on the Internet.
On the afternoon of April 16, a new mother sought help from a for-profit sleep guidance group because her child cried when sleeping face down. Someone in the group replied, "it's okay if the baby does not cry too hard." Following this advice, this mother stayed at the door of the bedroom when her baby was crying while lying on its stomach. She felt anxious but did not check to see that the baby was fine. After about two hours, when the mother went to feed her baby, she found that it was dead.
Reports are that the mother ordered a for-profit online course and joined the group taking the course in March. The organization that provided the course proposed a theory of infant sleep which suggested that a baby experiences a period of “rolling-over regression” when it is several months old. In this period, a baby rolls over on its stomach when it is asleep. When the baby learns to sleep face down, it has passed the regression period.
It is a big challenge for a new mother to calm a baby when it is wakened and cries. Organizations providing “sleep training” noticed these mothers’ needs and claimed that they could solve their problems.
Many couples turn into parents before they are ready. They may easily become victims of unprofessional services.
Christian Times, a Shanghai-based Chinese Christian newspaper, invited a Christian mother who came back from overseas to share her opinions with us. She has been working in the field of education for years and often organized study groups for parents.
Christian Times: What came into your mind when saw this news?
Ms. Zhang: I felt really sad and sorry for the victims. I condemn it and consider it is hateful that they, in the guise of parenting, cheated mothers with what they thought was right.
Why do so many mothers believe them? That is my question.
There are so many ideas on parenting now. Some of them are in conflict with each other. So, what ideas should we follow and what should we not follow? I don’t think there is an absolutely right answer, because every child is different. We should treat our children with love. Whatever we do should be based on the physical and psychological well-being of children. Without health and life, parenting loses its purpose.
Christian Times: What do you think of infant sleep training?
Ms. Zhang: I have three kids. When my eldest was a little baby, I tried to let it sleep alone. But I failed after two months. I think infants can sleep for the whole night, but their sleep cycles can be different. We don’t have to train them on purpose. What a mother can do is to stay with her baby. It is more tiring, but you have to be committed if you want to raise a child. Try not to think that you can have an easier time by training your baby to sleep.
It’s good if there are methods and suggestions on how to make a mother and her child feel more comfortable. But you should never try to train your baby just to make parenting easy. Don’t do things that are bad for children’s health.
Christian Times: There are various parenting methods on the market. The more the new parents learn, the more they feel confused. But they want to know more for the good of their children. So how do parents make wise choices and what is the best way to learn?
Ms. Zhang: I think they should learn about parenting. Before we do a job, we need training. However, there is no training course before one becomes a parent. So there is much that needs to be learned. But what and how to learn? We need to know that.
Every child is an independent individual. Parents should not put everything that is related to their children on their own shoulders. That could make parents very nervous. Issues like the sleep habits of a child should sleep and how to become excellent. Many parents devote too much time, energy and money to nurturing children. Their motivation is good. However, in many circumstances, their devotion cannot overcome the nervousness and stress they feel and they usually end up with bad results.
Instead of cramming knowledge into children’s minds, parents should give them security and care. Feed them when they are hungry. Stay with them when they play. These little things are important. Security and company are very important for kids under three years old. Then try to let them learn to sleep and wake up on time, eat healthy food, and express themselves verbally. These are also important, but try to take your time.
Parents should guide their children and teach them how to express themselves. When children feel secure and protected by their parents, they are able to naturally form good daily habits.
Christian Times: There are too many parenting theories on the market. So, what are the basic parenting principles that should be followed?
Ms. Zhang: Parents are naturally bonded with their children by love. The answer of how to love your children comes from God, the origin of life. Love asks for no benefits but is patient. Love is for the happiness of those who are loved. We should learn to accept our children unconditionally, though it may be very challenging to do so, rather than measure them according to their performance, abilities, achievements, and looks.
To love in the right way is the basic principle, but methods also matter. For instance, a baby can sleep in many ways, rather than just in the face-down position. Try not to find a shortcut while they are growing up. Love demands devotion.
A new mother usually gets nervous when she faces a newborn baby. She and her husband may go through a lot of information on parenting and join some groups in order to improve their parenting skills. That is good, but they need to also be discerning. If the method you choose makes you and your kids suffer, you need to reconsider if it is really the right one for you.
Life is very precious. Mothers have a special bond with their children. Their strong relationship should not be manipulated by unprofessional parenting organizations.
Christian Times: Would you please share your experiments with mothers?
Ms. Zhang: I think love is the starting point of parenting. We should accept our children unconditionally, express our love to them and let them understand that their parents will always love them no matter what they do, what mistakes they make, or when they fail.
When they know that they are accepted by their parents, they feel secure and know that they are a priceless treasure to their parents. They know that they are precious not because of their performance, but for who they are. Parents love them, just because they are their parents’ children.
Many times, we think that we accept them for who they are, but the acceptance is actually conditional and based on their performance.
Acceptance is the premise of developing a good relationship with children, and appreciation is the cornerstone. Acceptance makes them feel valued and secure and appreciation make them feel confident. We should let children know that they are important and that parents want to stay with them and are proud of them.
We should not focus on what they don’t do well and what they need to change, but find the merits that we appreciate.
The next thing is care. This seems very normal because we all care about our children. The point is that some parents are not good at expressing their care to their children. Actually, children never feel that they receive too much care. They need to feel they are loved by parents. We can hug them more often. For infants, we can touch them more often. When they grow older, we can hug them, pat their shoulders or stroke their backs. Verbally, we can express our care by telling them how much we love them. They never get tired of that.
Maybe some parents feel awkward doing this, but try to practice it, because love needs to be expressed. Children who are loved will be very healthy. They don’t need to find ways to satisfy themselves and prove that they are worthy of being loved in other ways.
Time is also something that matters. If parents are frequently away, how can children feel accepted and appreciated? How do we teach children to be responsible and feel the power of love? In modern society, parents are always busy and find it difficult to spend more time with their children. Even when they have time, they would rather spend it swiping the screens on their phones. However, children are more important than work, housekeeping or entertainment.
- Translated by Lin Changfeng