A proper sleeping cycle as the first education for babies

Author: Mariko Morita, M.D.

Editor: Naoko Matumoto

What do I want to do as a doctor in the future? This spring, after asking this question ever since entering medical school, I finally got my answer.

When I was a high school student, I was convinced that saving someone’s life is good conduct. That was the main reason I chose to be a medical doctor. At that time, I didn’t realize how naïve I was. After entering medical school, I became interested in the relationships between medicine and society and was engaged in various unique activities. For example, I participated in a medical symposium and helped its receptionists as a student staff member. Other times, I participated in fighting the reform of the junior residency program, which was supposed to regulate the number of residents per prefecture.

In order to acquire the necessary skills as soon as possible, I went through residency training after my graduation at a famous high-volume center. In the meantime, I thought about what I could do to improve our society. During this time, a mal-reform for the medical specialist certification was under way. This change would hamper the pursuit of a medical career among female doctors and those working in underserved areas. Actually, I was working in such a context. Thus, on behalf of those doctors, I submitted my opinion to newspapers and medical journals. Furthermore, I made an impassioned direct plea to the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare. However, the system was hastily started at last.

One year ago, I had my first baby; that was my turning point. Despite my profession, there were many things I did not know about the process of pregnancy, delivery and child care. How should I take folic acid? How can I prevent rubella? How should I choose my diet during pregnancy? How should I choose my maternity hospital? I can never count all of my questions.

I realized that a lot of customs for such processes are not grounded in scientific evidence. The internet is full of personal experiences and false information that lack references. In such circumstances, it is really difficult for ordinary people to find the correct information. I have raised my own child using medical textbooks and academic papers.

It’s not easy to change current Japanese society in a good way. And I’m not optimistic about the future of Japan, as the birth rate is declining. But we may manage to make Japan’s future better by investing in education and health care for children. What can I do? As a doctor who has struggled to reach the correct information regarding child care, the dissemination of such information may be the area in which I can contribute. In Japan, obstetricians and pediatricians are too busy to offer such information to healthy parents and children. For motivation, I started posting articles about child care to social media. (https://www.huffingtonpost.jp/author/mariko-morita/).

The area that annoyed me was my baby’s nighttime crying. Surprisingly, research suggests that 45% of parents are concerned about this problem. In the United States, a lot of how-to books have been published about this topic. In contrast, this is not the case in Japan. Mothers enduring their baby’s nighttime crying has been considered natural. As a result, the knowledge and skills to cope with a baby’s crying have not been shared among the public. Perhaps as a reflection of this, Japanese children sleep less compared to children from other countries, and a recent study reported that they sleep least from among 17 countries.

Lack of sleep leads to problematic behavior and obesity. Thus, a reduction in nighttime crying will improve the health of children and that of their parents. To cope with these problems, I started an online service to provide consultation about children’s sleeping patterns last January (http://child.healthlabs.jp).

I left my previous hospital this April and am presently working in children’s health.

I didn’t become a pediatrician like I aspired to be when I was a medical student, but it appears that I have achieved my dream in a different way. I will do my best, and I believe I make the right decision in regard to my career.

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