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Young Chinese moms turn to social-media for parenting advice

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-04-23 09:52

BEIJING -- Meng Dongxue follows 17 public accounts on Wechat, the most widely used messaging and networking service in China, and they are all about raising babies.

"Hundreds of strangers are helping me raising my little girl," said Meng, 26, mother of five-month old Xuegao.

WeChat public account is a free subscription service that allows individuals or organizations to broadcast text and video messages to all their subscribers, among other features.

Meng is among tens of millions of new moms in China. Last year saw the most births this century, 18.46 million, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

Unsatisfied with merely providing adequate food and clothing for Xuegao, the top concern when Meng's parents raised her, Meng is focused on scientific parenting and education.

To ensure her baby has the best parenting available, Meng pays special attention on the source of advice, and chooses to follow public accounts created by pediatricians and psychologists.

"I don't want to be an old-style mom, and some of my parents' experiences are already outdated," said Meng.

A recent disagreement arose between Meng and her parents about a pillow. Both her parents and parents-in-law think that Xuegao should sleep with a pillow, but Meng insists she should not have a pillow until she learns how to sit.

"A prominent paediatrician posted an article, saying that babies feel uncomfortable on pillows when their spine is not well-developed," said Meng. "It's scientific and convincing."

The new parenting style of young moms like Meng has given rise to WeChat groups related to everything from breastfeeding and baby food to health, catering mostly to young parents used to getting their information online.

Nianiashuo, an account Meng follows, has attracted nearly 20,000 followers since it was created in 2015. Run by Zhou Jieren, mother of a two-year-old boy, Nianiashuo posts three articles a week about Zhou's personal experiences.

Working as an entrepreneur at a biomedical company herself with a husband who is a paediatrician, the couple tries to provide scientific parenting tips for new parents.

"We are overwhelmed by parenting information on the Internet, but the quality of advice can be misleading sometimes," said Zhou.

In a story about her pregnancy, Zhou wrote that not knowing she was pregnant, she kept her habits of running, eating seafood and drinking coffee in the first two weeks, and still chose to keep the baby.

"After consulting with my obstetrician, I knew that if a mother is 'indisciplined' in the first month of pregnancy, she either ends with a miscarriage or has a healthy baby," said Zhou. "It turns out that my boy is a real live wire!"

Wechat launched public accounts in 2012, and had about 889 million monthly active users by the end of 2016, according to Tencent, the company which runs Wechat.

As for 29-year-old Feng Hua, mother of a six-month old girl, following ten public accounts and four apps are not enough.

"I joined three Wechat groups, with a total of 300 moms sharing experiences," said Feng.

Through social media, word of mouth hits an entirely new level. Almost all the mothers in Feng's groups bought the same brand of Baby sling and diaper. Feng also bought English and cartoon books according to recommendations from mothers in "formative education group".

"I receive hundreds of messages everyday from moms who share the same concerns about raising kids, and most importantly I can always seek help," said Feng. "Their answers are like a panacea for all my problems."
According to Cai Jing, a gynecologist from Xinqiao hospital in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, most of her patients were born in post-80s.

Though not a new mom herself, Cai reads a lot of articles about pregnancy and shares her professional advice with expectant moms.

"The baby-raising environment is changing, with mothers inclining to entrust their babies to thousands of faceless online members," said Cai. "It surely helps, but seeking for professional advice is also essential."

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