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Sat, Jan 23, 2010
Mind Your Body, The Straits Times
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Rely on instinct to bring up baby
by Gloria Chandy

I have some vivid memories of my early childhood, one of which was that of my father patting me to sleep when I was a toddler.

Today, such a practice would have been frowned on. But then, he must have thought it the best way to deal with a fretful child.

Fast-forward a few decades and, when I was a new parent myself, I brought my infant daughter home from the hospital and put her directly into her own cot, in the room my husband and I had prepared for her - as advocated.

I had read all the literature I could get my hands on in France, where I lived then.

I had also devoured a copy of the childcare 'bible' of that era written by Dr Benjamin Spock.

I had resolved to follow the advice from all these specialists on how to bring up baby - like letting him 'cry it out' and I did find some of the tips useful.

However, most of the time, I ended up relying on pure gut instinct and, more importantly, on available resources.

If I was patted or rocked to sleep as a toddler, it was largely because there were resources available to help a young mum cope with a crying child in the large Asian household where I spent my first years.

The 'resources' comprised my parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins - all living under one roof in a large colonial bungalow.

This changed only a few years later when my parents set up their own home. And in post-colonial Singapore, domestic help was still cheap anyway.

The circumstances were totally different for me in the do-it-yourself culture of Europe where I also did not have a battalion of helpers and advisers intervening every time my baby cried.

Actually, I was thankful for that. But my point is that letting my baby cry and not running to pick her up at the slightest squeak was not just an option; it was also a necessity.

Most childcare books also advocate having baby sleep in his own room and in his own bed so he will not become over-dependant on your presence.

In theory, that's a great idea.

In practice though, it would be impossible for a low-income or multi-child family.

Two books have just been compiled specially for Asian parents with tips on bringing up babies and toddlers (see Surviving baby).

Their publication is timely and relevant and we are always grateful for expert advice. However, very often, the best way to go is to rely on your instinct - and listen to your heart.

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This article was first published in Mind Your Body, The Straits Times.

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