WARNING: This content is incredibly distressing to read. We share it in hopes that our readers will understand the importance of safe sleep and of always trusting your instinct, especially when it comes to your child.
A new mother has watched her three-month-old baby die in her cot through a baby monitor after following the advice of a sleep training service.
The new mum from Shantou, South China, had been standing outside the door of her three-month-old girl’s nursery on 16 April 2020. On the advice of the child training service, the worried mum did not go into the room as the baby cried for more than an hour while ‘learning to sleep face down’.
An hour after her baby stopped crying, she checked in on her to discover her daughter ‘not breathing’.
The pressure to sleep train ends in tragedy
The pressure on parents to teach our kids to sleep is enormous. “Is she sleeping through the night yet?” is one of the main questions we’re asked, as if, somehow sleep is linked to our babies being ‘good’ and us being ‘good’ parents.
In this case, a new mother was trying to do the right thing by getting assistance to help her child sleep.
According to major news outlets in China, the unnamed mother had been following advice given on a fee-paying child care training service ‘Wonton’. Subscribers pay $1,560 AUD for 10 days of ‘guidance sessions’ including an ‘independent sleep guidance program’ and access to live forums.
The service advocates teaching babies “independent sleeping” and “face-down” postures. In Australia and throughout most of the world, this is not a safe way to put babies to sleep with face-down sleeping linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
However, according to the Chinese parenting platform, face-down sleeping “makes babies feel safer” and “aids digestion”.
Mum watches her baby die on camera
As reported by 7News, the new mum attempted to sleep train her daughter during an afternoon session and repeatedly asked for advice from a sleep training expert. Although the mother is worried her daughter will suffocate, she is told not to intervene.
The mum shared CCTV footage of her crying baby as well as several distressing messages asking for assistance.
“Is anybody there? I’m a bit worried.”
“My baby just went to sleep but she suddenly turned around.”
“She usually refuses to sleep on her stomach. Listen to her cries. Should I go in and turn her around?”
“I’m currently standing by the door. I’m worried she’ll suffocate.”
Part of the process
After no one responded for nine minutes, the mother shared the video again and tagged one of the counsellors – known as ‘teachers’.
She wrote: “Please take a look [at the video]. My usual guidance teacher isn’t answering.”
A teacher and other mothers responded, reassuring her that her baby’s cries were normal and part of the process of training the child to sleep independently.
‘There is no more sound’
Then, the mother shared another update.
“There’s no more sound. I’m afraid she’s suffocated to death.”
Again, she is reassured that this is normal.
One hour later the mother returned to the forum.
“It’s been nearly an hour since [she stopped crying]. She really was suffocating. She’s dead. She’s not breathing. Her lips are purple. What do I do?”
“I found her while trying to wake her up for feeding. My mother-in-law has taken her to the hospital.”
“I can’t face this.”
An awful reminder
This is heartbreaking to read and even harder to think about. No one can understand just what was going through this mum’s head and how much pain she must be in now. Our hearts break for her.
Mums, please, take this tragedy as a reminder of how important it is to TRUST YOUR OWN INSTINCTS. We may not be ‘professionals’ when it comes to parenting, but we are experts in our own children.
Don’t let the pressure to sleep train, or breastfeed, or wean, or do anything else, overtake your instincts. We are the mums. We know best. But isn’t it heartbreaking that a baby had to die for us to be reminded of this?