When you were born, there were no rules about how a baby was supposed to be positioned in the crib. Sometimes you slept on your belly. Sometimes you slept on your back. There was usually a blanket covering you. There could have been a pillow or even a small stuffed toy to keep you company.
Years pass. You grow up. Eventually, your own child is born. At the hospital, they show you an instructional video. It is all about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Nobody knows why some babies die of it. But you as a parent must always place your baby on its back and not its belly. This is not just for the first few days. You must do this all the time, because SIDS can strike any baby up to one year of age and possibly beyond. It is better to be safe than sorry. The video is scary. It is like the videos they used to show at driver’s ed that almost scared you out of wanting to drive at all. You must not cover your child with a blanket. You must never give your child a pillow. Stuffed animals are forbidden. Your child should lie flat on her back for the first year of life with nothing at all in her empty crib, on pain of sudden death.
You go home. The rules are horrid. Everything inside you cries that it is wrong to treat a baby this way. But at first you try to live by the rules, because you love your baby, and you don’t want her to die.
Little by little, though, you disobey some of the rules, hoping that no one will notice and that the evil gods will not visit a terrible punishment on you for being kind to your child. You place her on her belly some of the time, to make it easier to pass gas and to play with toys. You still avoid pillows and blankets, until you realize that living in Taiwan, with no central heat, in the dead of winter, even though your child is dressed in layers and layers of clothes making her look unusually bloated, she still needs a blanket at night. So you buy a little quilt, and you hope that by covering her up and letting her be warm and safe at night, you are not dooming her to sudden death.
Eventually, one day you place your baby on her back and lo and behold! She finds a way to roll over to her belly all by herself! She is nowhere near a year old. But she looks so happy. She is so pleased with herself. Are you going to tell her not to do that, because it might mean sudden death? Of course not.
The cat is out of the bag. Your child is now in control of her own body, and even if you lay her to sleep on her back, you may find her on her belly in the morning. Are you going to stay up all night watching her sleep and turning her over on her back every time she turns? No. That would be torture for both of you. So you just decide that the people in the hospital with their scary videos can go to a special place in the netherworld reserved for baby torturers. You are not paying them any attention anymore.
Meanwhile, you hear that back in the US of A, there is a whole crop of flatheaded babies your own child’s age. These are the babies whose parents did exactly what they were told!
Copyright 2013 Aya Katz – – Words and Images