Infant care environment must be baby- and adult-friendly

It is a laudable move to draw housewives and grandmothers to the infant care sector (Scheme to draw housewives, grandmas to infant care sector; March 9).

Infants thrive on consistent and healthy relationships with caregivers that go beyond physical and routine care like feeding, diaper-changing and bathing.

It requires caregivers to have love and respect for infants, as well as a deep understanding of infants' growth and development.

Being a housewife or grandmother does not necessarily translate into the ability to give informed care, or the knowledge of practices that deliver quality infant care.

Infants need responsive and observant caregivers who facilitate respectful reciprocal interactions through rhymes, songs and conversation.

They require developmentally appropriate stimulation that provokes their five senses to discover and process information in their immediate environment.

They need caregivers who enjoy playing, reading, interacting and singing, tailored to each individual infant's growth pattern.

Sometimes, all infants require is a loving caregiver who exudes socio-emotional security that encourages them to take risks in exploring their environment.

Besides ensuring infants are given quality care, we also need to ensure that the environment is adult-friendly.

Caring for infants requires caregivers to lean and bend forward to pick them up from the crib, floor and seats.

In my multiple visits to infant care centres, I have seen most adults cradling infants while seated on the floor, without proper back support.

Over time, caregivers may suffer from backache that could compromise quality care.

I hope the authorities will look into creating an ergonomic environment that caters to the needs of the caregivers too.

After all, happy infant caregivers, happy thriving infants.

Rebecca Chan (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2017, with the headline 'Infant care environment must be baby- and adult-friendly'. Print Edition | Subscribe