A Matter of Philosophy

Having spent most of my pregnancy in the United Kingdom, and then the first four months after delivery in Singapore, I can see there are different views on how infants should be raised and treated, depending on whether you hold a western or Asian viewpoint. This is after personal experience, reading certain parenting books and talking to other mothers. In the west, there seems to be a big focus on ‘getting baby to sleep through the night’, and in some ways you are judged on how well you are bringing up the baby by how well the baby sleeps during the night and even during the day. In fact, the first question you are often asked in a conversation about your baby is, “Does he/she sleep well at night?” Books by authors like Gina Ford emphasize strict schedules and how to help lengthen the stretch of time baby sleeps at night. In contrast, the Asian philosophy on parenting seems much more relaxed. The view is that babies should be allowed to sleep as long as they want, and go to sleep whenever they want. If a baby is tired, he or she will naturally want to sleep, and it does not matter how often baby wakes up at night. My in-laws were shocked that I wanted to keep the baby on such a regimented schedule of daytime naps and institute a bedtime routine. I think which approach you take depends on your own personality and preference. If you have a ‘type A’ personality and get very stressed out if baby does not fall into the expected schedule (which will often happen!) then it may be best to relax more and not expect your baby to follow the plan you want to set out. But from personal experience, some scheduling does help your own sanity and helps you to learn to read baby’s cue’s better, especially those beginning days (instead of waiting around and not knowing what baby wants each time he or she fusses!). In reality, a meld of both approaches is probably still the best way to go: have a flexible schedule but take each day as it comes and adjust that schedule to suit baby’s needs. For example, you may have a plan for two naps a day, but if your baby got up really early that morning, let your baby have a third nap to refresh and recharge!

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