Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Peanut's mom suffers separation anxiety

Peanut is already a little over 8 mos old and for the first time last night slept in her own room. And slept, and slept. Peacefully through the entire night: 7:30 pm to 7:00 am.

Peanut's mom, however, slept a little less restfully being separated for the first time...

We've always put Peanut in her own bed from the very beginning. its just that her bed was initially at the foot end of ours or then just a few feet from our bed. For the first few months when peanut was eating every three hours or so, it was a real comfort for me to be able to quickly reach her, feed her in our bed and then put her back to sleep in her own. Plus, I could always hear her breathing or rustling about and those sounds were reassuring. peanut was OK.

During the past 2 mos, we've slept in over 4 different places - our apt in Helsinki, a couple of hotels, the corporate apartment in Dallas and now, finally, our own home in Texas. I felt it was a lot of stirring about and thought it would help ease the tension to keep this milestone for another day.

As I posted earlier,
we were having some sleep problems.
Peanut's dad got an earful of advice at the office yesterday about how babies will cry as long as they know their parents are nearby, especially if they can see them. So, on the way home, he picked up a
Fischer Price private connection dual receiver baby monitor
We set it up last night and rolled Peanut's bed in to her new room.

At bed time, we moved from the bath to her room for evening milk with mama and then the bedtime story and snuggle with papa. After that, she was out like a light.

I woke up a few times during the night as peanut did some light and short crying. It was nothing like the long and pained crying she had been doing in our room. Last night, she always settled back down and it was again silent. Neither one of us had to go to her once during the night. Again, unlike the hour or so I spent the previous night hanging over her crib trying to get her to calm down.

I really like the monitor system already. During her morning nap, I was sorting out the closet when I started to hear her get up and was able to get to her before the serious crying began.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Nearly half of U.S. moms never breastfeed, or give up within a month

MONDAY, Dec. 5 (HealthDay News) — Many of the most common barriers to long-term breastfeeding, such as sore nipples or feeding difficulties, are either preventable or correctable with proper education and support, a new study finds.

Unfortunately, only about half of all mothers who begin to breastfeed continue for longer than four weeks, according to the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Basically, our findings from this project show that we need to encourage women to breastfeed for as long as they can," said the study author Indu Ahluwalia, an epidemiologist in the division of adult and community health at the CDC.

"The quit rate could be lowered if women are supported and adequate counseling is provided," she said.

The study appears in the December issue of Pediatrics.

Part of the problem with breastfeeding is that it doesn't come naturally and isn't always easy, at least initially, said Dr. Adam Aponte, medical director at North General Hospital in New York City.

"It's not as innate as one might think it is. It's really very difficult, and it takes a lot of encouragement and support," he said.

However, it's certainly worth the effort. Breast milk confers a broad range of benefits to the baby, including antibodies that help reduce the number of ear and respiratory infections, according to the study. Breastfeeding also reduces gastrointestinal distress and may reduce a baby's risk of death, the study researchers said.

Additionally, breastfeeding provides the mother with benefits. It helps speed the recovery of a mother's body after birth, and recent studies have suggested that breastfeeding may lower a woman's risk of certain cancers, including breast cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

To see what's keeping women from breastfeeding longer, the CDC researchers reviewed data from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment and Monitoring System, which includes information on more than 30,000 American women.

Overall, 32 percent of the women didn't start breastfeeding, 4 percent breastfed for less than a week, 13 percent breastfed for one to four weeks, and 51 percent breastfed for more than four weeks, according to the study.

Those who were least likely to breastfeed for more than four weeks were young women, those with lower incomes, and women who smoked. Black women were less likely to initiate breastfeeding and less likely to continue breastfeeding for longer than four weeks than white women, the researchers said.

Planning on breastfeeding prior to delivery was a big factor in initiating breastfeeding, according to the study. Before the baby was born, 50 percent of the women said they planned to breastfeed, while 16 percent said they thought they might breastfeed. Almost 5 percent were unsure, and 30 percent said they didn't plan on breastfeeding.

Some of the most common reasons cited for stopping breastfeeding included sore or cracked nipples, not producing enough milk, the baby had difficulty feeding, or the perception that the baby wasn't satisfied by breast milk.

"Having difficulty with breastfeeding is a common experience," said Ahluwalia. "It's a learned behavior and it needs to be encouraged in the most supportive way."

If you're having trouble breastfeeding, Aponte said you shouldn't give up.

"Don't be afraid to ask for help. Breastfeeding can be a wonderful thing once it's established and successful," he said. If you need assistance, he said, you can call your child's pediatrician or see if a lactation consultant is available in your area. Other mothers who've breastfed are also a great resource.

If your nipples are sore or cracked, the baby probably isn't latching on properly, Aponte said. The baby shouldn't just be sucking on the nipple, so make sure the baby is really opening wide when latching on to the breast. Also, don't let the baby nurse on one breast for more than 15 minutes. After about 10 to 12 minutes, he said, the breast is empty. Babies will still suck because it's an innate reflex, but they're probably already full, he said.

Ahluwalia said this study points to the need for continued education efforts, both before and after childbirth. And, she said, it indicates the need for extensive support for breastfeeding mothers, especially in the early weeks when women have the most difficulties establishing breastfeeding.

-- Serena Gordon, HealthDayNews

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Watch out-- Scoundrel of a landlord!!!

This is not a Peanut or baby related post, but I simply want to publicize the questionable practices of our previous landlord in Finland. If anyone knows of a renters organization or agency in Finland where I can report him, pls let me know. I'd like to warn any other potential renters about him.

He rents out his apartment located at Itäranta 3B7 in Tapiola.

here's our version of the story - feel free to contact him for his:
> As we were initally viewing the apartment with an agent from Sunny Trading Oy, we noticed a few items that we said we would like to see improved before renting.
> The agent from Sunny Trading said he had discussed them with the landlord (aka, Mr. T) who was agreeable to painting the apartment and treating the cabinetry in the kitchen.
> When we go over to sign the lease, Mr. T is there and then backtracks on all the improvements. He finally agrees to only paint the kitchen.
> It also happens that the previous tenants are there - a Taiwanese family. We spoke with the man who said 'don't rent here - he doesn't take care of maintainence'. Well, we didn't listen. There was also a dispute going on about some water damage that Mr. T claimed they caused to the wooden floors. The previous tenants said they did not, but were having to pay. There was also an issue about the hallway carpet which Mr. T insisted was given to him by a previous renter, but they claimed they bought. I was translating this between them so I know.

So, we were a bit trepidatious. As we moved in, we had Mr. T come over so we could put in writing any existing damages. Instead of giving him a cash deposit, we made a Takuvakuutus with Pohjola insurance. It is essentially there to protect the landlord in case we failed to pay our rent or there were damages when we moved out. Pohjola would be the mediator and pay out damages.

In the meantime....
> We had to purchase our own doorbell (he claims its up to the tenant) = 20 EUR
> The outlet in the bathroom blew - he came over scraped off the singed parts. It didn't have a flip cover which is actually required of all 'wet-room' outlets so Peanut's dad replaced it for our own safety = 20 EUR + LABOR.
> We placed mosquitoe netting in the bedroom window = minimal EUR + labor.
> We added a multisocket outlet to the kitchen = 20 EUR + labor.
> We gave him two other multisocket strip cords as we couldn't take them with us when we moved = 40 EUR.

As it happens, our move to Dallas came up two months after we moved in! We knew the lease had an 'early move out' penalty clause, so I called him right away in July. We didn't yet know the date because it depended on Peanut's Dad's visa application.

We didn't get a confirmed move date until 2 weeks before it was scheduled at the end of Sept. So, I called Mr.T who immediately said we'd owe him the next month's rent + the early move out penalty (approx a month in rent). A hefty to sum which we paid in full.

On our last day there, we did a final walk through with Mr.T. Checked the condition of all rooms carefully. Agreed that everything was satisfactory and that he would mail in the form to Pohjola ending the Takuvakuutus. We shook hands on it.

Well, I emailed Pohjola the other day to make sure all was in order.

It wasn't. They said he had not yet returned the form (its now DECEMBER) and verbally made claims for water damage and cleaning.

UN-freakin-Beliveable!!! Its still an ongoing discussion, but I'm outraged. This man is as stingy as they come. He has not made any improvements to his apartment and apparently will not - fine - that's his right. But, to try and squeeze extra pennies out of every renter with these flimsy claims is disgusting.

To wipe or to wash? that is the question....

When Peanut was born they taught us at the hospital how to wash her little behind when we needed to change a dirty diaper. We carried on the same way when we came home.

Sniff, sniff - yes, its confirmed, a diaper change is needed. Diaper comes off. Towel (or really a cloth diaper from the KELA box is what we used) is tossed over the shoulder of the changer and the bare-bottomed bundle is carried off to the bathroom sink. Rinse, rinse, rinse with plain water. Back to changing table. Dry her off. Use little cotton wipes to dry out between the rolls of baby fat on the legs. Apply a little lotion as needed. Fresh diaper on.

It was a bit tougher if we were out somewhere and needed to change her. Once she was about 6 weeks old, I decided to try out some baby wipes on her. Easy, quick, efficient. But, also a bit to strong for her skin as she developed a rash when I used the diaper wipes all day.

So, I modified the program. A 'fresh wipe' would do if it was only a wet diaper, but everything else got the wash.

Here in the US, diaper wipes are the leading choice early on. At first I was a bit torn about the large solid plastic casings you could buy the wipes in. It seemed wasteful (as did many other forms of packaging when compared to Finland). However, very practical. They keep the wipes moist longer. I bought a smaller one for on the go and a LARGE one for home. Besides, they aren't that wasteful if you buy the refill packs which are just like the Euro versions.

We're currently using Pampers Sensitive which boasts a tagline of 'gentler than water'. Frankly, they are. Peanut hasn't had any rashes and a decreased number of washes saves the skin on her legs and feet from getting dry. Plus, with her now weighing 7.7 kgs, it saves mama's back from carrying & holding over the sink.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Shop, Drop and Roll or is it Drop, Roll & Shop?

One of the biggest differences between Finland and the US is the car culture here in the US. Peanut and I go everywhere by car -- a real change from the days when we would roll to the store or post office in Tapiola.

I actually think this car juggling act is tougher than the stroller!

Here's why:
> I'm moving Peanut in/out of car seat to stroller to car seat every time I need to go in somewhere. She can't sleep through the changes in scenery and often really doesn't want to get into one after she's been in the other.

I've noticed many American mamas have car seats that look like they are designed to sit in the child seat part of the shopping cart. They have some sort of hooks to hold them safely in place and letting baby snooze peacefully. Unfortunately our MaxiCosi Cabrio doesn't.

Or, they have a stroller base into which the car seat fits - nifty!

> We have her umbrella Maclaren stroller with us so in the store, one hand goes to navigating the stroller, the other to carry the shopping basket. Let me tell you -- it gets full and heavy fast!

> Since Peanut can sit on her own, today for the first time I tried putting her in the shopping car child seat to do away with the challenge of stroller in one hand/shopping basket in the other.

It worked quite well though Peanut would rather be facing the direction we are going :-) Mostly she just turned herself this way and that to see all the people. Occasionally she adopted a lounging pose.

I had to make sure I parked next to the cart return in the parking lot so I could manage getting her into the car seat and keeping her in my sight after I did.

Another useful local invention is the shopping cart seat cover. Not exactly sure how it works, but its a cloth seat that fits into the child seat part of the shopping cart. In part I guess for comfort and in part to protect bebe from the germs of all the other babies using the child seat.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Moving onto Solids at 6 mos

Current wisdom is to start babies on solids at age 6 mos. When Peanut turned 6 mos, we started her out on baby rice. We chose Gerber's and were thinning it out with water. No go. She hated it. Then I read several articles about the changing wisdom of starting out on baby rice - it has virtually no nutritional value and little taste. But, it is least likely to cause allergic reactions.

We quickly moved onto baby oatmeal. Yummy. She really gobbled this stuff down. Its still diluted with bottled water - on rare occasions with mama milk. And, the trick, its heated. A 5 - 6 second zap in the microwave makes it thhe perfect temp. I know some say that babies don't care if the food is cold or warm, but Peanut clearly does. Its easy to see why - the milk she is used to drinking is a nice warm temp.

I have to confess to using food in jars for the first months. We were still on the go and not yet settled in our own home. I opted for Gerber's Tender Harvest organics (available at most grocergy stores) and Eathe's Best (available at Tom Thumb). The cost of baby food in jars is outrageous when you compare it to what you can make on your own for the price, but the convenience is undeniable. I also felt confident that I was giving Peanut safe ingredients.

I'm now making Peanut's food, but more on that later...

The doctor here in Texas recommended the following list for introducing new solids (the ascending order of causing a reaction):
> squash
> carrots
> sweet potatoes
> bananas
> oatmeal
> beets
> spinach
> applesauce
> barley cereal
> pears
> peaches
> chicken
> peas
> green beans

They suggest giving as much solids as desired, but making sure baby consumes the same amount of breast milk or formula.

The Neuvola in Espoo suggest this daily menu for 6 mos olds:
Meal 1 - Breastmilk
Meal 2 - Breastmilk + meat/fish/egg and potatoe/veggie
Meal 3 - Breastmilk
Meal 4 - Breastmilk + 'puuro' (porridge) + berries/fruits
Meal 5 - Breastmilk

For 7 mos olds:
Meal 1 - Puuro + berries/fruits + Breastmilk
Meal 2 - Meat/fish/egg and potatoe/veggie + Breastmilk
Meal 3 - Berries/fruit + Breastmilk
Meal 4 - Potato/Veggie + Breastmilk
Meal 5 - 'Puuro' (porridge) + berries/fruits + Breastmilk

I also got some handouts (dated from 1995) about how to make my own baby food for phase I (veggie purees) and II (puuro and the meat/fish + veggie purees).

Sleeping like a baby - HA!

Peanut is now about 7 1/2 months old and we recently had to make another concerted effort at getting her to bed in the evenings and to sleep through the night. Back at 10 weeks or so, she slept through the night for the first time and did so for several months.

When we moved to Dallas, there were several nights of adjusting to the new timezone. The advice i read was the babies who are breastfed should be fed when they wake during this time. So I did. Peanut was waking maybe 1 or 2 times a night.

But, then it continued. Every night she would wake up at a random time - sometimes 2 am, sometimes 4.30 am - crying, crying, crying. We couldn't bear to listen to her cry so we'd bring her to our bed for a feeding. Which ALWAYS put her back to sleep.

At her recent well-baby visit, the pediatrician simply said you've got to stop the night time feedings. period. she's not hungry, its just habit. And, its going to get worse at around 9 mos when babies develop more adult sleeping cycles and wake more frequently during the night. i felt the hairs on my back stand up in protest. i didn't like the advice. But, recognized that we should try it.....

Baby sleep training is about as controversial as it gets in the baby world:
Sears vs Ferber vs Cry It Out vs Baby Wise vs everything in between.

The aim is to get baby to be able to fall back asleep by herself. It should start with baby going to sleep by herself. We adjusted our evening routine so that milk came before story time. After story time, we turn out the lights, snuggle for a bit in bed and then I put Peanut in her crib while she's still somewhat awake. This was surprisingly easy. There was only about 5 evenings of more intense crying, standing, and crying. We'd go in, lay her down, rub her back/belly and walk out. Once, when it went on for more than 40 mins, I admittedly 'milked her down'.

The nighttime wakings were more of a struggle. When she woke up, we'd give her 5 mins or so to see if she calmed down. Usually she doesn't. Then, we'd go to her crib , lay her down and try the belly/back rub. It wasn't working - at least the first few nights. I'd often have to pick her up and rock her to sleep. It'd take like 40 mins before she settled back to sleep. Exhausting.

Now, about two weeks later, we've had 5 nights of no wakings. Last night, she woke at 4 am, papa went to rub and soothe. She slept for 1/2 hr. Mama's turn. She slept another 45 mins. Mama again. She slept until 6.30 when its morning milk time.

Not an easy path, but it can be done, and I feel in a gentle way.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Finnish Babies Healthiest in Scandinavia, but....

From YLE 24

A new study shows that babies in Finland have better health, compared to other Nordic countries. But the evidence also suggests that Finnish children and young people are at higher risk of illnesses and accidents.

Finland has higher rates of suicide amongst young people, and they smoke more than other Nordic countries. The annual report of the Nordic Health and Social Statistics Committees indicated that over 40 percent of Finnish 15 to 16 year olds had smoked tobacco during the previous month.

In addition, children and young people are the victims of more fatal traffic accidents. The rate of increase in diabetes amongst children and young people is also highest in Finland. In addition, illness caused by asthma and allergies are higher.

Statistics showed that Danish young people consume the most alchohol, with 40 percent having enjoyed a drink no less than twenty times a year and over a quarter admitting that they had been drunk at least once during the previous three months.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

With all this sunshine, who needs Vitamin D drops?!

Its a glorious thing to wake up knowing that you don't have to draw open the curtains with a sense of dread in late November. This time of year in Finland is pretty dreary if not down right drab and depressing. Summer is long gone, the sunshine of autumn has faded and a peak out the window in the morning usually looks out into darkness and a sky tucked away behind a thick woolen blanket of impenetrable clouds.

Not in Texas!

We wake up around 6.30 am and it is indeed dark outside - for another 15-20 minutes before the sky begins to slowly glow. By the time, we head out the door, its clearly going to be another sunshine filled day. (and,not to rub it in to my readers located in finland, but its also about +15 - +20 C)

All this prelude, leads to this. I previously wrote about Vitamin D supplements in Finland. When we arrived in Texas, I visited a few local pharmacies trying to find a refill for our drops. I couldn't find any on the shelves and when I asked the pharmacists, they looked at me like I was asking for brandy filled candies for the baby. "Ummm, no, we don't have anything like that. You'd have to get a prescription from your pediatrician...."

Peanut recently had her first well-baby visit at the pediatrician's office. We chose a doctor recommenced by another finnish mom. Evidently, she has had many finnish patients over the years and knew immediately what I was asking about. And, following a quick nod, launched into the reasons why we don't need them here:
> This is not Finland, there is plenty of sunshine here.
> I've never heard of anyone in Texas suffering from rickets (which can be caused by a lack of Vitamin D).

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Finnish connections in Dallas

Its no surprise that the Dallas area has an abundance of Finnish families. The Irving/Las Colinas area is home to the US headquarters of Nokia which also lured several of its suppliers to set up shop here. There was a large influx of Finnish expatriates about 10 years ago, but the steady stream of new ones is more than a trickle.

While the families have settled in many communities, the city of Coppell has been particularly attractive for the Finns. There are a number of reasons:
> Its right down MacArthur Blvd making the commute to the Nokia offices 15 - 20 minutes on average
> The Coppell school district is recognized as one of the top in the North Texas area meaning you don't have to send your children to the expensive private schools
> Coppell is a very nice area
> And it comes highly recommended by the many other Finnish families living there - you may even find yourself neighbors!

Maintaining ties to Finland remains important even for the families who have decided to make the US their permanent home by becoming green card holders or even citizens. Language is a key element of the identity and to help pass it along to children, the North Texas Finnish Language School is here to help. They meet in one of the Nokia office buildings and the font on the homepage is suspiciously similar to the Nokia font!

They even have a class for 0 - 12 mos olds which Peanut & I may attend once we have some free weekends.

For the ladies, there is the Suomalaisten Naisten Yhdistys or Finnish Women's Club. I've joined the mailing list, but haven't yet made it to any of the meetings.

A subgroup which Peanut & I have been active in already is the Mammakerho which is informerly run by a volunteer mom who organizes activities such as playdates in the Puupuisto of Coppell, a Halloween afternoon, etc. Its been a great resources for doctor's references and many other questions.

Bumbo - a bum deal?

This is a look back in time posting as our closet begins to fill with the toys, baby seats, clothes, etc that Peanut has outgrown (already!!!).

For her four-month birthday, we bought Peanut a Bumbo seat from Lastentarvike in Petikko. If you haven't yet heard of Bumbo - its a South African designed baby seat like no other. Your bebe's bum sinks into the soft plastic molded chair and she can lounge as if sitting in a comfy recliner. I have to say Peanut was just adorable in it :-)

I'd read really rave reviews for it in several baby web communities. A google search showed that it had won numerous design and ergonomic awards. Peanut was getting tired of just being in the baby-sitteri so we had plenty of reasons.

And, it was pretty good ... while it lasted. At four months, Peanut - like most babies - could not yet sit on her own even when propped up by pillows, yet she wanted a new perspective on the world. She fit perfectly into the aquamarine Bumbo seat and enjoyed looking around. I would often sit her in front of the hallway mirror and she could chat with the cute little baby looking back at her.

It was also a great little, light weight seat to take along to friends' houses when we went for dinner. Peanut was already flipping back to front, but getting frustrated on her belly so having an alternative to keep her amused was important.

One BIG note of caution here!!! Something about the Bumbo position for the legs will always lead to diaper leaks....I mean big, blowout leaks. More than once, I went to pick her up only to find a puddle of yellow baby poop in the bottom of the seat (with matching stains on Peanut's pants and usually my shirt from where I held her).

The joy of the Bumbo lasted for about 6 - 8 weeks. Peanut wanted more mobility. Better views. She would try to straighten her torso out in the seat, arching her back making it clear she was done with being molded.

But, she then very quickly moved on to good balance when seated on her own. Pillows softened the inevitable topples. I think the Bumbo helped her build her abdominal strength. It was an inadvertant outcome - we hadn't set out to put her in it to build her tiny muscles more quickly.

Long and short of it - we paid 45 euros for the Bumbo. Got some cute cute pictures of Peanut in it. But, probably could have done without it or at least gotten a used one. I can't imagine how a used one could differ from brand new. There are no parts to abuse, break, or lose. Its all plastic - easy to clean. The only damage would be a massive tear which you could see right away.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Our new home on the Prairie

Last month, we packed up our belongings and made the move to Texas! Peanut's Dad was offered a job transfer and we were excited for the opportunity to sample life in the US.

So Peanut's blog will take a bit of a different turn. I'm not yet sure what the angle will be, but expect to learn more about a Peanut in transition, how we adjust here and continued views about babies and related stories.

For now, we are enjoying the warm sunshine, endless prairie skies and chirping crickets.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Super-super-super sized strollers take over Scandics

This is a bit late, but I loved this article I came across on a rockin blog by an ultra-hip NYC dad called DaddyTypes. Read it when you can to stay tuned to what's really what in the status-driven world of cosmo-babies -- or just for a laugh :-)

Anyway, this story appeared in the New York Times and was since syndicated in several papers. Its about the Dutch stroller Bugaboo (also available in Helsinki) and how its terrorizing the streets of NYC. Now, for anyone who has seen a Bugaboo, they are actually quite compact, nifty little speedsters when you compare them to the Emaljunga, Tuetonia or even our beloved Mutsy.

Can you imagine what the "childless by choice" would say if those strollers caught on in the cities!!??


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Stroller rush hour & traffic jams

The other day I noticed that stroller rush hour into the Tapiola shopping center usually begins around 10 am. Peanut and I were heading out from Tapiola on our way home when I noticed the sidewalks filling up with strollers and mamas headed for the center. Some were singles, many were a few friends + strollers, some were a mama with stoller + 2 walkers hanging onto the sides of the stroller :-)

About this time it also starts getting busy in the grocery stores and you find yourself navigating around the baby strollers and the grandmas (not very often grandpas) with their push carts or pull-behind grocery carts.

it seems to be a time when women of all ages rule the city with their age-appropriate chariots. its makes me wonder what happens to the male population during these hours? I can imagine the many papas in the office -- with the family car parked in the parking lot of the office building. Why does it seem that its the men who always get the cars and the mamas and babies are left to fend for themselves on public transport? The metro, trams and buses are dominated by women during rush hour - I'd say even in a 90/10 ratio. It seems to me that mom+baby+stroller+daily groceries+whatever else needs to be bought and schlepped home should be the ones in the cars.

But, where does this leave all the grandpas during the days? Is it just generational that the women take care of all the domestic duties from shopping on? Even so, where do the grandpas hang out - just at home? Or, is this the result of the longer lifespan of women and many of the grandmas are just shopping for themselves? I wonder if there is a service to help introduce widows to each other so perhaps some of them could become room mates or friends?

in any case, its a powerful feeling to have the run of the city for over half the day :-)

Birth Preparation - in English

When I was looking last fall, I found the following:

> my neuvola (Kallio) had information about an English language class held 2x year. it was hosted by a kätilö from the herttoniemi neuvola.

> we ended up going to a class held by the Työväenopisto in Tapiola. It was run by a kätilö from the kätilöopisto (who also happened to be present when our baby was actually born ) and cost about 20 EUR. But, I didn't find the classes terribly useful. It wasn't a 'birth preparation' in the lamaze sense. It was three 2 hr classes about 1) what happens during pregnancy 2)what happens in labor, signs of labor, when to go the hospital, video about a birth 3) how to wash, feed, clothe baby. It was interesting just to review these things together with dad, but no real information that I couldn't find in a book or on a website.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

baby sitters, support, answers and more - the MLL

The Mannerheimin Lastensuojeluliitto is a non-profit organization which provides oodles of resources and help for families with children. Admittedly most of the website is in Finnish.

I haven't yet used them myself, but have heard they are also a reliable and affordable option for babysitters and child minders who are certified by the MLL. The cost is a very reasonable 4.20 EUR/hour.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

can we really brush these tiny teeth?

Peanut now has her two front, lower teeth bursting out of her gum :-)

they came surprisingly early - the first bump was detected at about 4.5 mos. She had been a bit cranky and I'd asked our doctor at the 4 mos visit when teeth were expected. She answered with a curt "not until 6 mos"...

last week, at our second immunization round at the Nuevola, our nurse admired peanut's little sharp jagged teeth edges and suggested we get a baby toothbrush. Not so much for brushing as just for the ritual of brushing.

at Sokos I found a beginner toothbrush from Jordan. Its baby-sized and has a large round handle (with a hole in the middle for some undetermined purpose!).

Last night we tried it out with Peanut. She just gave us one of those, hmmm, what are my parents doing now looks. Then she reached out for it and i figured let's give her a try. As with most things nowadays, it went straight into the mouth -- key word -- into, not really near the teeth. We quickly grabbed it to prevent her from gagging herself!

Monday, September 19, 2005

1, 2, 3, 4, up, down -- Baby Aerobics

For the past month, peanut and I have been going to a baby aerobics/play class once a week. A colleague of mine also on maternity leave with her baby daughter ( a week older than Peanut) had told another colleague of mind in the same position (ie, at home with her baby daughter) about it, and so via word of mouth, we decided to go check it out.

My main reasons for going were to keep exposing Peanut to group settings with other babies and to have a chance to do some exercise myself :-) I think its important for provide these sorts of experiences for Peanut - i want her to feel comfortable in groups and get to see other babies. Otherwise we're just hanging out at home or she's cruising around in her stroller passively observing what happens around us.

The group we joined is called Kirppanat and we go to the 0-6 months group in Tapiola. Our regular group varies from about 12 - 20 moms + babies (i haven't seen any dads in our group or the one right before us).

A regular session starts with everyone marching in a circle with babies in hand to a Moomi tune. Its a little warm up for the range of activities ahead. I always have to smile as we go around the 2nd or 3rd time and the number of slobber drops on the floor increases :-)

Almost everything involves mom + baby except for a few exercises for mom where babies get a chance to explore on their own on their playmats. Many babies just lay there, looking around - usually at the mom or baby next to them. I find peanat hardly ever looks at me :-) The "work out" is designed for everyone to do all the moves in whichever way they and baby feel comfortable. Taking a break for breastfeeding, diaper change or other baby comfort activities is a natural part if baby needs it.

None of the activities are meant to develop super babies - no sitting training, no crawling training, no balance training, etc. Its just a chance for mom & baby to play to some music with a group of others.

For me, its nice to do some leg-lifts or sit-up types of moves. I've found myself trying some of them at home, too. And, now I know how to involve Peanut so its much more likely the exercises get done!

Each session ends with a quieter tune during which moms are encouraged to breastfeed (if they want and baby wants to) or just rock gently with babies. When the song ends, everyone leaves according to their own schedule; after diapers are changed, babies burped and bundled :-)

The only thing missing is a chance to interact more with the other moms. Like everyone, most have someplace else to go after class and there really isn't time during the class.

A few practical notes about the sessions in Tapiola:
> the tennis place tries to keep the strollers outside, but i still see several inside each session
> babies should wear something comfortable
> bring your own small blanket and some toys to amuse baby during blanket time (+ pacifiers)
> i've found myself rather warm during classes in sweats, but everyone seems to wear long pants + socks

About Kirppanat:
> you can pay as you go or
> buy a pass card which is slightly more economical
> classes are in Finnish

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

First Baby Train trip

Just to make sure we've covered all forms of transport, Peanut and I hopped on a train from Helsinki to Lahti last Friday! We went to visit a long time family friend who had taken care of me when I was a baby.

I purposefully booked in advance to get seats on Intercity (IC) trains since they have special baby carriage and children's wagons. On both trains, this happened to be wagon #4. We boarded at Pasila station and were able to roll right into the train as the door opened even with the platform. Once in, there was a baggage storage section that contained marked spaces for strollers. Though by the looks of it, only one stroller could possibly fit - and not one like ours. So I folded it up and stuffed it into an adjoining space. I had Peanut in her car seat since we'd need that later.

I had reserved two seats next to each other with a 'Family Ticket' (perhe lippu) and we rode comfortably to Lahti.

The bathroom is also designed for handicapped/wheelchair passengers so it has a door that rotates open at the touch of a button and is very spacious. I did find the baby changing table hefty to lower and raise. The bathroom also contained a bottle heater with some not-so-simple-to-decipher pictorial instructions.

On our return from Lahti, we had a few more challenges. It was the afternoon commuter train and booked quite full. The stroller storage space was full, a stroller was already folded down in the walkway, one of the wheelchair spaces was occupied by a stroller and a wheelchair passenger was boarding. I was at a loss as to where on earth I should put my stroller or Peanut for that matter as I tried to get out of the way. Mind you, no one offered to help. Luckily, I didn't have any extra bags or it would have been very stressful.

We were only able to reserve seats upstairs which also contains the children's play area. Not recommended unless you have children the age of those playing - rambunctiously and enjoying every minute of it.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Bid your way to cheap baby gear

The local e-Bay is called Huuto.net and features a Children's section chock full of furniture, clothes and various other baby gear.

I was cruising through the listings last night and saw plenty of bargains - especially in the baby clothes section. Many times a package is offered that can include 50 pieces of clothing. Much of it looked to be in good condition and the prices were very reasonable.

A few quirky items found their way to the site as well:
> 20 diapers -- ??
> 10 Libero diaper proofs of purchase - ??!! - OK, you can collect them and send them in for a free spoon, but ??
> coupons to Citymarket for discounts on diapers
> issues of Vauva magazine

We have used Huuto.net to sell items in the past and have been very pleased with it. Often the buyer pays the shipping costs. We send the packages COD via Posti and the buyer pays the amount to Posti who transfers to our bank account before releasing the package.

Take baby to the movies

Moms or dads looking for a chance to enjoy a movie can now do it without leaving baby at home with a sitter. Join in on a Baby Movie session and bring the little with you to special viewings.

At the Baby Movies crying, talking, diapering, feeding, breastfeeding, moving about, etc, etc are OK and expected.

What's Playing

Check out the movies in the coming weeks.

In Helsinki and Turku, the Sandrew Metronome movie theaters offer 'babybio'.

In Helsinki:
every other Tuesdays at 10.30 am at Kinopalatsi 2

In Turku:
every other Tuesday at 13.00 at Kinopalatsi 1

In Helsinki also the Naperkino welcomes small moviergoers once a month to their showing during the Fall. The movies are held on Fridays from 10 - 12.

A few hints for baby movie goers:
> the front rows are intended for babies already crawling
> try getting up if baby is not happy sitting - walking up and down the stairs can be soothing
> you can enjoy the movie in almost any position you & baby want - sitting, standing, walking

Story in Helsingin Sanomat

Basics in a Nutshell

Here is a link to an excellent booklet covering the basic facts about having a baby in Finland!

My favorite page was the one with a picture of how much clothing to put on baby in what temperature - always a challenge for me!

The guide "Having Children in Finland" is available in the following languages:
English, Finnish, Albanian, Arabic, Kurdish, Farsi, Swedish, Serb Croat.

State provides home assistance to families with children

An article in today's Helsingin Sanomat newspaper highlighted yet another source of assistance for families with children: kotipalvelu or home-based services. It wasn't clear to me what all it covered, but it seems to be various kinds of assistance and services to help families cope with newborns, sick children, sick parents, situations where family counseling is needed or when parents are just plain exhausted.

The article was based on a survey of how well local districts are in providing this legislated support. The legislation is evidently vague enough that districts don't have to provide any specific amount or types of support, but simply have something that qualifies as home-based services which are funded each year.

The current situation varies dramatically among big cities and was described as dire in some areas, such as Oulu. It was best in Tampere and Lahti. In Tampere, the city has made a concerted effort to focus on preventative measures to keep families from falling into crisis situations by supporting families when a new baby arrives, during divorce, and dealing with stress caused by long-term illness or disability in the children or parents. Helsinki was better than average. In Turku and Espoo, the services focus on 'lastensuojeluperheille' (child welfare families)

Help in Oulu
A very nice example of how valuable this assistance can be was of a family in Oulu. The third child had just been born, the birth had been traumatic, the family moved house and dad had to travel on business for several weeks and the new baby hardly slept. As a result, mom was totally burned out, but didn't realize it until she was asked at the neuvola how she was doing. In answer, she burst into tears.

A family worker was requested. She came once a week for 3 - 4 hours to play with the children. It was just what the mom needed - a few hours to sleep, take a bath, go to the store or to talk a walk. This relief gave her new found strength to cope with the situation. The family worker came for four months.

Friday, August 19, 2005

First Baby Flight!

Summer is travel time so soon after our first road trip, Peanut took her first flight.

We flew Finnair from Helsinki to Amsterdam. As with the car travel, it was all much smoother than I expected :-)

When we arrived at the airport, the check-in lines were as usual extremely long and slow moving. We didn't have a stroller or carseat with us so dad was carrying Peanut. We spotted an empty Business Class check-in counter and the ticket agent agreed to check us in there.

She put us in a row of three seats and blocked the middle seat so in essence Peanut was given her own seat even though we had reserved her as a 'sylilapsi' or travelling in parent's lap. We had the same arrangement on the flight back. This works as long as the flight isn't fully booked and someone doesn't need a seat last minute.

I had seen on the Helsinki Vantaa website that strollers were available at the airport, but they turned out to be made of metal with no cushions and permanently in a full sitting position so intended for older children. So, we continued to hold Peanut in our laps until boarding.

Finnair does not have a policy of letting hchildren/babies board first. When we asked if we could, the gate agend told us that we should just get ourselves to the front of the line... not the easiest thing when having to hold baby especially since everyone likes to line up 20 mins before boarding begins!

Once on board, a flight attendent brough over a baby seat belt which is like a mini-seat belt with a loop to connect to the parent's seat belt. I was told the baby should face forward for take-off and landing, but I was able to breastfeed her during both. We were also given a bear hand puppet and a Finnair bib.

For breastfeeding I grabbed a blanket to cover myself from the 1st class overhead bin as we boarded and requested a pillow. I was also wearing a special breastfeeding top from Expressiva.

The changing table in the lavatory was spacious enough for a 4 mos old.

I didn't call to make any requests in advance.

AtSchiphol airport in Amsterdam we found a baby care room near the restrooms. It was clean, spacious and had a comfortable chair for feeding.

We packed a babycare bag that included:

> diapers
> baby wipes
> a small cushioned changing pad
> bibs (for drool and spit up)
> a few favorite toys and a book
> saline nose drops for baby
> pacifiers even though Peanut prefers her thumb
> an extra change of baby clothes
> a back-up shirt for mom

Baby Passports
Even for travel within the EU, baby needs to either be in her parents passport or to have her own.

We opted to get Peanut her own since for travel to the US, a baby must have her own passport.

The photos were taken at a local photo shop just like adult passport photos. I had to hold Peanut up and try to keep her still while the photographer attempted to attract her attention!

In Finland, the options for passports are for one or ten years (the ten year being slightly cheaper). We took ten years with the thought that we'll get her a new one in about 5 yrs or so. It seems silly to travel with a 2 mos old baby picture when peanut is 9 yrs old!

Car Rental
We rented a car from Sixt at the airport because they were one car rental company that didn't require you notify them 24 hrs in advance if you need a baby/child car seat. On our reservation form we had indicated that we would need a baby seat.

We were extremely disappointed in their service and do not recommend them at all. The baby seat was nowhere to be found. They had to dig one out of storage - it took nearly an hour and it was disgustingly dirty and horribly outdated!! But, at the point we had no choice. After extensive complaining, they offered to not charge us the daily 7EUR fee for the seat.

I'll definately bring our own car seat in the future. Car seats can be brought on board the plane or go in cargo and not count towards the luggage allowance.

Travel Strollers
We bought a Maclaren travel stroller from Prenatal in the Netherlands. The brand was highly recommended by friends who travel alot. The price carries a premium, but we hope to see many years of quality use from it.

It was very nice to have the stroller on the return trip in the airport. It folded and unfolded easily and quickly for putting through the metal detector. Very lightweight and easy to manuveur. It was taken from us at the gate in Amsterdam where they promised we would get it back at the gate in Helsinki. Not so. We didn't see it again until baggage claim.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

First Baby Road Trip!

We've just returned from our first vacation with Peanut. We visited our family summer cottage out in Pohjois Karjala. This meant a 7 hour car ride, 20 mins in a motor boat, living on an island without electricity or running water (or indoor toilet!), a few nights in hotels and restaurant meals.

And, it all went just fine :-)

Hitting the road with baby
The drive went surprisingly well. We would drive for about 2 - 2.5 hrs and then make a pitstop for about an hour to feed Peanut (she's still only breastfeeding), change diapers, let her stretch out and play.

The first gas station we stopped at I searched and searched for the baby bathroom -- i now know its often shared with the handicap WC. Just pack everything you need with you and don't forget a diaper changing cloth or cushion to lay the baby on.

I also sat in the back seat with her the whole trip so I could pass toys to her and better monitor her moods -- and respond quickly.

Hotel stays
We stayed overnight in the Sokos Hotel Kimmel in Joensuu. Reserving a baby bed was just a matter of mentioning it. The hotel provided a cot complete with child-sized bedding and a potty in the bathroom. We found the bed to be a bit flimsy and on further stays there used our own travel bed, but continued to request bedding from them.

For the breakfast and dinner, we just wheeled Peanut to the restaurant in her stroller and pulled up a spot. No one minded.

We also stayed a few nights at the Anttolanhovi outside of Mikkeli. Their restaurant provided a selection of canned baby food at each meal. And the HoviNeidit spa was also very accomodating about having Peanut with us. We enjoyed a facial, pedicure, Indian head massage and back massage while Peanut took turns sitting with either mom, dad or in her stroller.

Cat babysitter
Somewhat unrelated to baby, but still good to know information for cat parents who need the occassion care for longer times.

We had a cat sitter visit our house to feed Miuku & Mauku while we were gone. He also cleaned the litter box and spent lots of time just entertaining the kitties. We came home to a detailed daily report and two happy cats.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Peanut and our cats

Before Peanut came, we were first the proud parents of two "fur kids" - our kitties, Miuku & Mauku. Naturally, as the only "children" in the house, they were quite spoiled with the amount of attention they got from us and I was concerned about how they would react to Peanut.

When I raised the issue to my midwife and later doctor at the Neuvola, the response was mellow. Basically, they said to take a wait and see attitude and that most pet/baby relationships work out in the end. I had also been concerned about Peanut being allergic to the cats, but the doctor assured me that babies are not born with allergies and they have to be exposed to the irritant before allergies develop. Indeed, she told me the current wisdom was that babies raised with pets tend to have less allergies than those not exposed to animals.

To keep the cats out of the baby crib before Peanut arrived, we placed pieces of tin foil, the texture of which is supposed to be unpleasant. Well, it worked and it didn't work once they figured out it wasn't that annoying. Because we did not have space for a separate nursery there was no way to close the furniture off. We then took the extra precaution of hanging a summery mosquito net (bought from IKEA) over the crib. The effect was cute - more effeminent than malarial.

But, in the end, it was Peanut herself that has kept the cats off her furniture. Miuku & Mauku have been very cautious around Peanut from the beginning. Only coming close enough to take a sniff and turn their tails to head in the opposite direction. There has never been any aggression or sounds/actions that would concern me. Their relationship still remains cool after three months. Every once in a while a kitty will take a sniff and end up with a little uncontrolled waving hand bopping them in the head :-)

We've tried to make sure that the kitties still know they are important. In the first week that Peanut arrived, we gave Miuku & Mauku several special tuna dinners and brought out some new toys. We still try to have a bit of kitty cat time in the evenings once Peanut has gone to bed.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Try to keep to just 10 shots of vodka a week during pregnancy - ??

According to Alko, the Finnish state-run alcohol monopoly, a "reasonable" amount of alcohol can continued to be consumed by women during pregnancy. According to their brochure on Pregnancy and Alcohol, the top-end of a reasonable amount is ten drinks a week. Ideally, this alcohol consumption should be spread through out the week and not take place all at once on the weekend as this may slow the development of the fetus!!!

Yikes!!! What kind of advice is that -- from a company (or rather State) that stands to make money by selling alcohol to pregnant women??

Further, in the brochure:
> 9 out of 10 women in Finland cut back on the amount of alcohol they drink during pregnancy to 1 - 2 drinks a week; many quit entirely.
> About 10% of pregnant women consume more than the recommended amount.
> About 5% of pregnant women consume more than 10 drinks/week.

In the US, the guidelines for alcohol and pregnancy are very black & white and at the other end of the spectrum: no amount of alcohol is recommended for pregnant women. It is also believed that alcohol is the leading cause of birth defects. In the US, 5% of children born with birth defects are born with defects caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

In Sweden, they estimate that 11% of school aged children with learning disabilities are suffering from the effects of alcohol consumed by their mothers during pregnancy.

In Finland, each year 200 - 300 children are born with severe defects due to mothers drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

And Norway recently decided to go for a zero tolerance recommendation for alcohol use during pregnancy.

With alcohol being an entirely optional item of consumption and the dangers to the fetus so thoroughly researched, I don't understand why Alko does not make the recommendation that no alcohol is ideally be consumed during pregnancy? Especially, in a country like Finland where alcohol abuse is high and the drinking culture does not frown upon drunkenness. Why not make it easy for pregnant women to simply say no and to give the fetuses more healthy environment?

More brilliant advice - alcohol and breastfeeding

Alko closes the pregnancy and Alcohol brochure with this information and advice about drinking alcohol and breastfeeding:
alcohol does pass into the mother's milk and the blood alcohol level of the mother's blood and breastmilk can be considered to be the same. So, if a mother is highly intoxicated (eg, 2.0 pro-mil), the amount of alcohol in the milk is 0,2 ml/1 deciliter - an amount so small that the baby would not get drunk (THANK GOODNESS!). However, even such a small amount may cause a child to be restless as they can sense the mother's drunken condition from her stumbling around, etc....and that's why you shouldn't nurse while drunk.

However, the midwives at Kätilöopisto were of a different opinion - don't drink alcohol when you are breastfeeding.

Hmmm, I wonder who knows better?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Baby Bjorn vs Baby wraps

Now that Peanut is able to hold her own head steady, she's been much more interested in letting mama carry her around in a Baby Björn or her HugaBub baby wrap. We have both because the Björn is on loan from a friend and the baby wrap - well, read on...

Evidently, the baby Björn has gotten some criticism recently because the position of the baby in it puts undue weight on still developing joints. Some believe it is downright unhealthy for infants, whereas the baby wraps allow for a more ergonomic position for babies.

A few discussion boards in finnish about the topic:
Yahoo Group - kantoliinat

I tried Peanut in both from the age of a few weeks - she hated both. It didn't take but seconds for her to break out in tears and crying when I placed her in them. But, I was determined so I kept trying every once in a while. Now at 3 months and with more head control, she enjoys the outward facing position in the Baby Björn. I haven't had the same success with the wrap yet because its been really hot and I think that's made her uncomfortable in the tighter wrap.

Where to Buy in Finland - Baby Wraps

- El Comal
- Baby Bundler
- Hug a Bub
-MiM Sarong
- Nova
- Maya Wrap Sling and Pouch
- Lifter
Shop at Kankurinkatu 5, Helsinki
Katin puoti
- Girasol
-Ultimate Baby Wrap
-Heart 2 Heart
- Pikku-ruu
- Baby Back Tie
Ekokauppa Ruohojuuri
Mannerheimintie 13 A, Helsinki

Thursday, July 14, 2005

What Delivery and Recovery are like at Kätilöopisto

Our Peanut was born at Kätilöopisto in Helsinki and a recent visit to friends who just had a lovely baby daughter reminded me of our stay there.

A few memories that came to mind

Delivery Preparation
> When we arrived, we went to a waiting wing since labor had not yet started. It was busy enough that we had to share a room with another couple also waiting for labor to progress. We chose to go take a walk to help us relax. The midwives asked only that we let them know when we leave and return. Sharing the room was rather uncomfortable and luckily for that night we were able to make use of another room they reserve for observation.
> During the time there, midwives check in periodically and used a machine to measure the timing and intensity of contractions and the babies heartbeat. Usually the measurements took about 20 mins during which you had to stay close to the machine (sitting or standing was fine).
> The doctors make their rounds in the morning and suggest actions (in our case it was a prescription for a move to the delivery wing and insertion of an oxytocin drip to help start the contractions and a fetal heartbeat monitor attached to Peanut's head)
> I was offered an enema.

> Our delivery room contained a delivery table and rocking chair as well as a bathroom with a shower. There was also a dispenser for nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and equipment again for monitoring the contractions and baby's heartbeat.
> The midwives also brought in a birthing ball at my request.
> When we met the midwives, we presented our birth plan and reviewed it with them. We had to do this with several shifts of midwives.
> You are welcome to labor in any position, posture, etc that you want. Even the delivery can take place either on the bed in whichever position is most comfortable or a on a birthing stool on the floor. The midwives were very helpful in trying out several options.
> If you want an epidural, be sure to make your wished known well in advance of when you think you will need it. It takes time to bring in the ansthesiologist and to prep you for its insertion. The epidural is not instantaneous, but takes effect over a few minutes (ie more contractions!). The epidural usually lasts for 1.5 - 2 hours after which the midwives like for it to wear off completely and letting you labor for a while before topping it off. After the third refill, we were beginning to wonder if it was time to consider a C-section since I was getting tired (and had a fever for which they gave panadol), but the midwives said they prefer to try and give it a bit longer. The big surprise was that they do not want to give you an epidural as you enter the final stretch (no pun intended)!!! The reason is that the actual pushing phase is more effective if you can feel the contractions and can push with them. And, honestly, the pain at that point was not 'pain' as much as a sensation of muscles working to move the baby.
> The laughing gas is available for your use as a pain reliever whenever you want.
> After the baby is born and her nose/mouth are cleared, she is placed immediately in your lap for you to hold her skin-to-skin as they (or dad) cut the umbilical cord and carry out a few other tasks (I'm not sure what all happened down there in addition to a sample of Peanut's blood being taken since I'm Rh negative).
> Dad and the midwife then moved to the other side of the room to bathe, measure and bundle her. Her hospital band was also put on and she receives her Vitamin K injection.
> Another midwife helped me to the hospital bed where the placenta was delivered with some assistance. You can have a look at it if you like. The midwives assess its condition and take it away.
> Then with the numbing assistance of an antiseptic spray, the midwife stitched me up.
> An assitant midwife came in to help me to the shower and to put on a clean set of hospital clothes.
> In the meantime, dad is encouraged to hold the new bundle of baby and in the background paper work is being filled out.
> The assistant midwife returned with a cart of food - sandwiches, yoghurt, cookies and juice. I was surprisingly not very hungry...
> Suddenly after all the hustle and bustle, we found ourselves alone with Peanut. They gave us about 30 - 45 mins of quiet time before asking if we were ready to move to the recovery ward.
> Our midwife escorted us and our rolling baby basket to the fourth floor.

Recovery Time
> it was also busy there so we did not immediately get a family room where dad could have stayed overnight and instead had to share a room with another mom and fresh arrival (with a set of lungs!). We did immediately put our names on the list for a family room when one became available.
> I remember laying in bed with Peanut in her clear plastic basket next to me watching her through the night. All babies room-in because they want mothers and fathers to get used to life with baby right off the bat rather than having a shock when they go home alone. On one hand a good idea, but it would have been nice to have one last night of rest! If the baby is particularily fussy and crying alot, you can request to have it moved to a 'nursery' for a few hours.
> A nurse came in to quickly review the basics, gave me the blue handbook to babies and brought me a canister of water.
> The call buttom was right next to the bed and help with anything was at the other end (from diaper changing to breastfeeding, etc).
> Meal time was held in the common area. An announcement over the intercom reminded you to come for breakfast, lunch, afternoon coffee (!!), dinner and an evening snack. At first I wasn't sure what to do with Peanut during the meals - most mothers roll their baby cribs with them. Peanut slept so I just went out and brought the tray to our room. After every meal you had to drop your namecard back in the box to make sure you got a serving of the next delicious course. If you have a family room, the dad also gets his own namecard.
> the hospital gowns and robes all new moms are wearing as they wander the halls. They come in three colors - hot pink, baby blue and hospital green - and have a nifty row of buttons all the way to the bottom, making it easy for breastfeeding. They also provide socks and slippers, but its recommended you bring your own slippers --> more comfortable :-)
> and the special underwear! How can I accurately describe them? Imagine these currently popular 'boyshorts' underwear made out of a stretchy white mesh fabric with thick green seams on the sides. Available for all new moms. They were comfortable and airy that's for sure. At Kätilöopisto they are not disposable, but once used are washed and available for pick up in the bins in the hallway.
> In the common area where baby kits from Libero diapers that you could pick up for free.
> Dismissal comes after you've been cleared by the doctor :-)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Private Baby Health Insurance

Most of the posts here highlight how efficient and high-quality the Finnish state-run health care system is, but there is also a brisk market for private health care and private health care insurance for babies.

Why private care?

With the neuvolat and state hospitals there is always the possibility of having to wait to get an appointment or to see a doctor. In the case of your own baby, most parents simply want the best care as fast as possible. Or, in case of a serious illness or disease, you want access to specialists and treatments which may be costly and therefore more difficult to get through the state system or on your own

One baby health care insurance provider, Pohjola, offers insurance that can be applied for before the baby is born or then you must wait until the baby is 2 months old and provide a health backgrounder (which could limit the coverage you can then get).

To apply for it in advance of the birth and have coverage which is in effect from that day forward, you must do so before the beginning of the seventh month (ie, three months before the due date). For this insurance, the mother's health and age will impact the available coverage. This insurance is not available to mothers who are 40 or older. It is somewhat more expensive than if you apply for the coverage once the baby turns 2 months, but then he/she is without insurance for the first two months.

Other insurance providers:

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Investing for Baby

As part of the direct mail that keeps popping through the mailslot since Peanut arrived, I received some information from Sampo about opening savings and investment accounts for baby.

I had to smile at the headline ... Save up for such things as your child's drivers license... just because it seems like such a small item and when I think of investing for baby, I'm thinking like a sum that would pay for her to go to Harvard ;-)

Sampo has four investing options and bundles them with convenient reminders and gift cards for special occasions such Birthday, Name Day and Christmas. You can even have an auto-debit on the specific days to move money into the savings account.

Briefly the four options are:
> Kultapossu - Golden Piggy Bank account - basic account which can be opened by parents, godparents or other relatives, all which can make any domination deposits into the account whenever. The child can use the account with their parents permission.

> Kultapossu Säästötili - Golden Piggy Bank Savings account - has a higher interest rate than the basic account. Like the previous account, several people can make deposits whenever they wish. Another difference is that the child cannot access the account until age 18.

> Kultapossu Rahastot - Golden Piggy Bank Funds - Again several different people can make deposits, but the smallest amount allowed is 30 EURS. There are three maturation date options: more than 5 yrs, 3 - 5 yrs and more than 2 yrs. More details on their website www.sampo.fi/rahastot.

> Kultapossu Sijoitusvakuus - Golden Piggy Bank Investment Insurance account - the smallest opening balance is 2000 EUR and requires a 50 EUR deposit monthly. The gift giver manages the account for the duration for the agreement. This is suggested as a tax efficient way to transfer wealth.

General Tax Guidelines for Monetary Gifts for Baby

TAX FREE a total of 3,399 EURs over three years
> from a single gift-giver to a single recipient
> breaks down to 94EUR/month, 188 EUR/bi monthly or 566EUR/ twice a year

TAX FREE into an Investment Insurance account an additional 8,500 EUR over three years:
> a total of 11,899 EUR (the above + 8,500) can be given tax free
> the gift giver must be a relative

If you want to give more, there will be gift tax to pay - by the girecipientint. The amount will be determined by the relationship between giver and recipient over the entire gift amount.

More tax info from our friends at http://www.blogger.com/www.vero.fi

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Lock up your strollers!

Over the weekend in the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper there was a story entitled "Police recommend locking up your strollers".

There are ongoing thefts of strollers from public places in the capital region that prompted the warning. In Malmi, the police log about 1 - 2 lost stroller cases a week. However, cities such as Tampere, Oulu and Kuopio have extremely low incidences of theives taking baby carriages.

I was surprised to read the case of a woman in Espoo whose stroller was stolen from inside the fenced yard of the daycare center (the thieves also dug through the other strollers). Her insurance eventually covered it. Other hotspots are stairwells in apartment buildings.

The police did not have an theories on what theives might be doing with stolen strollers, but commented that the used stroller market on the internet is brisk. Hmmmm. This is probably the best way to dump a hot stroller and prices can be in the range of several hundred euros so there is some money to be made.

Both the police and insurance companies suggest securing strollers much like bicycles - with a lock attached to the main body of the stroller and connected to an immoveable object, such as a pole or building.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Baby Drugs or Stocking the First Aid Cabinet

Before Peanut was born, I went to the Apteekki to ask what should I have ready at hand for when the baby arrives. The pharmacist un-helpfully replied "hmmmm, well, 10 years ago when I had my baby we didn't need anything special at home."

I thought better safe than sorry so here are a few items we went ahead and stockpiled:
> baby thermometer - we have one that takes a reading from the ear. I've heard they aren't as sensitive as the good old fashioned rectal ones, but we thought 'quick, easy way to see if she has a fever'
> Neo-Amisept - a general disinfectant. So far, I've used it mainly to clean the changing table by diluting it with some water in a spray-mister (the same one we took the hospital for delivery to spray water in my face :-) I can imagine using this in the future as Peanut starts to stick everything in her mouth to clean off the toys every once in a while.
> Cuplaton - an aptly named medication to help reduce gas bubbles in the stomach.
> Bepanthen an all around skin cream. I've used it mostly on mild diaper rash. Also, a product called Sudocream which a colleague brought from the UK has been very effective for mild rashes.
> Baby fever reliever in supository form - just purchased in preparation for Peanut's upcoming first vaccinations
> cotton pads - used daily! I use them to dry the wrinkles in her skin after a diaper rinse, to wipe her face in the morning, to clean her hands, etc.
> AntiBac - gel hand sanitizer for moments we didn't have a chance to wash our hands before handling Peanut or for guests who wanted to hold her in the early weeks. We put a bottle in the bathroom, in the changing bag and at the changing table.
> Almond oil - yes, just the kind for cooking. We use this as Peanut's baby oil for massage, after bath, for dry patches, or on a cotton pad to wipe her diaper area clean. OK, this didn't come from the Apteekki, but its part of our baby care set.
> A bulbed nose declogger (Pikkuniistäjä) for helping to clear oumucusus for when babies can't yet sneeze properly.

As directed by the Neuvola, we ended up also buying some Klorhexol, a skin disinfectant, to clean out Peanut's belly-button because she had a bit of a 'napa-sieni'.

And for breastfeeding mom:
> Lanisoh cream - an absolute must! When used diligently after every feeding, keeps nipples soothed and properly moistened. Some say you can achieve the same effect by just squeezing a few drops of milk.
> Panadol as an all around pain-reliever approved for breast feeders
> And, for all moms, hopefully you won't need to discover the delights of Xyloproct, a hemorrhoid cream.

There wasn't much else they would recommend for you if you're still breast feeding. When I inquired about allergy medications I could take - the response was that if my doctor approved something that was fine, but they would not recommend anything to me.

Friday, July 01, 2005

What brings you here? And why do you stay?

These two questions are posed to almost every foreigner living in Finland whenever they meet someone new - Finn or others like themselves.

I'd now like to pose these to YOU - dear visitor :-)

I see from my hit counter that my little blog is increasingly popular and that many read several postings. I'd love to know your how you found my blog? was it helpful - why or why not? do you visit regularly?

I've enjoyed writing just for the fun of writing and to exercise my brain & fingers, but its nice to think that others find it interesting.

So, pls leave a comment behind....

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Vitamin D for a healthy baby and mom

Vitamin D supplements are recommended in Finland and the US for babies who are exclusively breastfed. It is the one vitamin not produced in high enough quantities by mom. Vitamin D is important for healthy bone development as it facilitates the absorption of calcium and a lack of it can lead to growth disorders and illness.

In Finland, however, the use begins at an earlier age. Our health center recommended that Peanut begin at age two weeks. We started with one drop a day and built up to the full 5 drops over 5 days. For infants under one year, the dose is 10 micrograms/day year round until the age of one - three when the dose is 5 - 6 micrograms/day. After that, from age 3 - 15, it is recommended that children continue the 5 - 6 micrograms/day during the dark time of year (Nov - March).

There were two major brands of Vitamin D drops - Devitol and Jekovit. The nurse suggested that Devitol tasted better. Though I tasted it - not much flavor as its sesame seed oil based - but to see Peanut screw up her face when she takes the drops tells me these is obviously some taste. The other difference was that Devitol has to be stored in the refridgerator, but you only have to give 5 drops a day. Jekovit can be kept at room temperature, however, you have to administer like 12 drops. That was the deciding factor for me! 5 drops is challenging enough. I only hope that it can be absorbed through the skin, particularly on the chin since that's where it often seems most of the drops end up.

MiniSun for mama
Since the sun is a major source of Vitamin D for humans, in Finland, pregnant and nursing mothers should take a Vitamin D supplement during the dark months - beginning of November to the end of March. Other sources for Vitamin D are milk products with Vitamin D additives, eggs and fish oil.

I chose a happily named product - MiniSun. It came in regular tablets and pear-flavored with added calcium (my choice). I had a suspicion that it seemed like a good idea for anyone living in Finland and convinced Peanut's dad to join me in taking a daily supplement. Whether it was psychosomatic or not, I think we both felt more cheerful as well :-)

Monday, June 27, 2005

Registering Baby -- makes her a consumer, too!

All Finnish babies receive a social security number at birth. We didn't even have to do anything - we found out Peanut's social even before we left the hospital.

The maternity hospitals are required to report all births to the National Population Registry (Väestörekisteri) within 24 hours of their birth. The Registry then generates the number and registers the baby with the appropriate Magistrate (Maistraati) and if the mother is a member of the Luthern or Orthodox church, then also with their local church. The first part is the same for all babies - it consists of the birth day, month and year. This is followed by a letter and then a three digit number and letter which are unique for every individual. This number is extremely important in Finland as its your national identification which is used to identify you for virtually everything throughout your life in Finland.

Within a week, a form is sent to your home with the details. This is also the form you use to register the child's name, mother tongue and to register her with the church once christened. The mother tongue selection plays a role later when baby starts school as every child is entitled to a certain amount of education in her mother tongue.

Companies also take advantage of discovering new little consumers in the National Population Registery where they can evidently buy mailing lists of newborns' mothers. In the past few weeks we've recieved several offers in the mail for subscriptions to baby book clubs, the Libero diaper club (which we joined -- bring on the diaper discounts!!!) and Super K-Market baby club (which we also joined -- again, awaiting discount coupons). I suspect there will be more offers dropping through our mailslot in the coming weeks.

I personally don't mind the chance to join these baby clubs. As a first time mom, I read almost everything and anything about newborns often picking up hints and tidbits of information. Especially being away from home, I find alot of information in printed materials in Finland. And, as mentioned above, discounts and free samples always welcome. Sometimes I have found the consumer marketing environment in Finland under developed as compared to the US and am pleased to see this sector works. When marketing is appropriately targeted and useful, its doing its intended work - informing and often leading to trial and purchase.

Some other free baby clubs - several offering free webpages for you to post your own baby pics, etc:
www.piltti.fi (baby food company)
www.ainu.fi (can order baby care pamphlets)
www.pampers.fi (diapers)
www.pirkka.fi for the Napero Club -a benefit for Plussa card holders

Monday, June 20, 2005

Boy or Girl? We can't tell you...

Like many parents, we wanted to know if our Peanut was a boy or a girl before her birth.

Since I didn't have the amniocentesis test, the method open to us was to have an ultrasound.

In Helsinki (perhaps all of Finland), a woman has two ultrasound exams during her pregnancy to monitor the development of the fetus. The first one is around week 12 and the second around week 22. The ultrasounds are usually done at the maternity hospital where the baby will be born. In our case this was the Kätilöopisto.

The first ultrasound is to check the development and identify any potential issues, such as swelling or fluid at the base of the neck (a possible sign of Down's Syndrome). It also is used to determine the estimated due date by taking a measure of the femur to estimate the baby's age. We also saw the beginnings of the stomach and brain formation. In this exam, the used both an internal and external ultrasound device.

The second is more extensive and covers the development of the internal organs and the brain. In particular they check the position of the placenta; measure the head and femer; development of brain and its chambers; heart and its chambers; kidneys and urinary tract; stomach; backbone; umbilical cord and the amount of embroyotic fluid. Its at this age that the gender of the baby could also been seen.

However, public hospitals are told specifically that they cannot tell parents the gender of the baby - even if the technician is able to see it. One reason is that these are publically funded hospitals and they don't want to waste money or time on a item that is not critical to the health of the baby. Time is certainly an issue - I was 'triple-booked' for my ultrasound slot, meaning my turn would come once the person who had the actual time slot and the person double-booked for it had their exams! Another reason is that ultrasounds are not a 100% accurate way to determine gender. They don't want the responsibility of giving parents the wrong information.

Each one cost me 22 EUR and we were given several "photo" print outs to take home. These we quickly scanned and emailed off to the anxiously awaiting grandparents and family for their first glimpses of Peanut.

How to Find Out

Well, we still wanted to know. So we had to go to a private clinic for another ultrasound.

We chose to go to Femeda, a clinic in Helsinki on the recommendation of a friend and also because they have 3D ultrasounds! I think Peanut's Dad was especially fascinated by the technology :-)

It was admittedly very cool to see a 3D image of Peanut. This was printed out and could be recorded onto a VCR tape or DVD. Both of which we forgot at home, but we re able to purchase at the clinic. During the exam we also saw more detailed images of the organs and could see that her facial features were forming normally (ie, no cleft lip). Every one of these visits is reassuring to expectant parents. Though the 3D peek was almost seemed to be a bit more than we should be seeing - somehow almost invading her privacy.

This visit was more expensive - around 150 EUR with a portion refundable by KELA.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Where to buy

Here's a list of stores selling maternity and baby clothing, equipment, etc.

Our favorites:
Lastentarvike - a chain with stores across Finland. Their mega-store, I believe the largest in Finland, is in Petikko outside of Helsinki
Lindex - a low price store with limited maternity wear and underwear as well as good selection of baby clothes similar to a Target in the US
H&M - has the affordable MaMa line for expectant mothers and also makes mini-sized fashion outfits for baby
Kappahl - expansive baby wear department
IKEA - offers baby furniture, linens, toys and more
Stockmann - of course!
KKKK Supermarkets - diapers, baby clothes, bath tubs, baby wipes, toys, stollers, etc
Etola - toys, toys, toys as well as all sorts of equipment made of plastic (bathtubs, potties, plates, etc)

Some boutiques I've visited (with prices to match!)
Belua in Helsinki (also sells the HugaBub baby wrap)
bebes in Helsinki baby and maternity clothing, books, lotions etc, gifts
Nelliina in Tapiola gifts, photo frames, nursery decor
BamBami in Kämp Galleria a Dutch chain - strollers, car seats, clothing, furniture, gifts

Seimi designer baby furniture
Embia in Lahti clothing, cloth diapers
Pikku Eero sleepsacks, baby wraps, clothing
Pikku Kenguru with several locations furniture, nursery decor, clothing, gifts
Missy Mom
Lasten Verkkopuoti
Pikku Prinssi
Pikku Selma
Pehmo Peput nursing wear, baby wraps, cloth diapers
Jutta natural clothing, baby swim gear, cloth diapers
Lastenturva mega store in Varisto (Vantaa) - baby carriages, etc
Vaavisänky rental baby beds
Vauvatalo Johanna baby stollers, beds, car seats and more
Pienet Ihmiset
Kulta Pieni sleep sacks, baby wraps, cloth diapers, clothing, toys
Liinameri baby wraps, cloth diapers, nursing pillows
Vauva Buumi baby wraps, backpack carriers, cloth diapers
Me & Mama cloth diapers, baby wraps, natural fabrics, maternity wear, toys, baby care products
Vauvatar online shop with baby carriages, stollers, jogger strollers, car seats, feeding chairs, beds, etc
Suomen Lastenvaunutukku wholesaler of baby carriages/stollers featuring some brands out of the ordinary - Koelstra (Dutch), Quinny (Dutch), Princess (German), ABC Design (German), Haberkorn (Austrian), NeoNato (Italian)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Highly satisfied with the Finnish Maternity Clinics (Neuvolat)

In the June 15th Helsingin Sanomat newspaper there was an article reporting that according to a survey done by Vauva ("Baby") magazine, Finnish parents are satisfied with the local maternity clinics (neuvola).

In particular, parents are satisfied with the location of the clinics, the frequency of visits and the ability to get appointments. Areas receiving the most criticism were the lack of breastfeeding guidance (moms are too easily moved to bottle feeding) and the difficulty in discussing tough topics such as substance abuse and depression after delivery. It was also noted that in 60% of cases, mothers are the ones taking children to the health clinic. Fathers' participation in the visits diminishes after the birth of the child.

The knowledge and skill of the health workers was the most important factor in determining satisfaction.

My pre-natal care experience

I was also for the most part satisfied with the pre-natal care and neuvola visits I had at the Kallio clinic. Fortunately, my pregnancy with very easy so I never had any major concerns or needed any special medical assistance or advice.

> in general, I met (and my husband) met with our midwife once a month in the beginning of the pregnancy and then every other week around the 7th/8th month and then weekly during the last month. The visits usually lasted about 1/2 hr.
> at every visit my blood pressure, weight, sugar levels and size of the uterus were monitored. About every third visit, my hemoglobin levels were also tested. Since I am Rh negative, I had three separate blood tests to make sure that I wasn't producing antibodies which could be harmful to the baby. After the fourth month, the baby's heartbeat was monitored with a Doppler device.
> while the midwife usually answered any questions I had, she did not often offer any unsolicited advice. I felt her knowledge and experience were sufficient.
> I met with the doctor twice. She performed the internal exams. Kallio's clinic was unique in that it had its own ultrasound machine so I also had ultrasounds taken when we saw the doctor. She used the ultrasounds to check the baby's heart, growth and development of the organs. Towards the end of the pregnancy, this information also gave us a better estimate of the birth weight.
> Like the midwife, the doctor answered questions we had, but did not offer any additional advice or information.
> All the information was recorded on my Neuvola Card -- this was the method it would transferred to the maternity hospital!
> There was no cost for any of the midwife or doctor's visits or for any lab work.

The areas I would like to see improved are:
> more information, especially for first-time mothers since I felt I did not always know all the questions I should be asking
> better phone access to the midwife. Currently, they have an hour a day when they answer the phone.
> better birth preparation classes - there weren't any in English. We found one at a local evening school, but I found very weak.
> electronic links between the health clinics and the maternity hospital so we don't have to depend on deciphering handwritten notes on a card.

Move to a new Neuvola

Following the birth of Peanut, we moved to the suburb of Espoo and are now part of the Otaniemi health center. This clinic is very small compared to the one in Kallio. There are only 2 midwives and the doctor visits twice a week.

We've been to the clinic on two occasions. Once for Peanut's 1 month visit and for my post-partum check-up.

The childcare professional who examined Peanut obviously adores babies and children, which is also important, but I wasn't as confident about the depth of her knowledge and experience. She had trouble answering our questions about what could be causing occasional droplets of blood in Peanut's diaper or even about finding a gentle baby wash. Peanut now also has her own Health card with handwritten observations about her reflexes, disposition and nutrition as well as her weight and height.

The doctor I met with was also charmed by Peanut, but seemed a bit flighty to me. When I asked about taking allergy medications while breastfeeding she had to turn to her medical reference book. I also had to remind her about discussing birth control options with me and then in the end, after again checking her reference book, she wrote out a prescription for birth control pills - but in Peanut's name! In the end, she recommended I make an appt with my new ob/gyn for a check-up in a month.

This makes me a bit concerned. What if we have a more serious medical issue? Will I feel confident that the local clinic can handle it?

See upcoming post on the case for private health insurance for baby!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Thumb vs Pacifier!

Like most issues in raising a baby, this one has strong advocates for both sides of the debate.

Our little Peanut has recently discovered her own thumb and is surprisingly adept at getting it into her mouth. While a relief to her parents that she can now soothe herself wherever and whenever without our assistance, I admit images of her as a 6 year old sucking her thumb are disturbing. But, what to do? Should we let her suck her thumb ? Do we just pop it out? Do we replace it with a pacifier?

Most childcare resources agree that babies simply have a strong need to suck beyond what they have to do for feeding. Its soothing for them. How that need is satisfied is the question. It could be at mom's breast (though the idea of having her hang on to me for hours seems not only painful, but rather inconvenient), with a pacifier or with her own hand/fingers/thumb.

When I asked at the Neuvola what they thought was best I was told that pacifier rather than thumb. I feel as if I see more pacifiers in use here than in the US. Admittedly, we've used a pacifier since the early weeks to help her fall asleep or if we're in the car. The challenge at night has been when the pacifier falls out - mom or dad have to drag themselves out of bed to re-insert. But, there are also those that think that using a pacifier is 'lazy parenting' meaning parents should seek to soothe their babies in some other way.

But, now, Peanut clearly prefers her own thumb to the pacifier. I've also found several advocates of the thumb who claim its a habit that disappears well before school age. So, for the time being we're happy to let her suck her thumb since it only happens when she's tired and readying herself for sleep or when she's very hungry and that's a problem mom can easily solve!

under Ask the Experts has some advice as well.

Also at www.askdrsears.com

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

How to raise on baby on 15,20 EUR/day

In the 5/2005 issue of Vauva magazine ("Baby") there is a profile story about how far the daily minimum maternity allowance will get you. Mothers in Finland are entitled to a maternity allowance from the Social Insurance Institution (KELA) based on their income level. For mothers who worked outside the home, were studying, unemployed or the annual income was less than 4,905 EUR the minimum daily allowance is 15.20 EUR (about 18 US dollars).

According to the article, there are some 20,000 families who receive this minimum benefit which was increased from 11,45 EUR/day to 15,20 EUR/day at the beginning of this year.

In 2004, the minimum daily allowance was paid out to 18,151 mothers and 797 fathers.

In addition to the minumum daily allowance, families receive a monthly benefit for each child from its birth to age 17. Its 100 EUR/month for the first child, 110.50 EUR/month for the second, 131 EUR/month for the third, 151.50 EUR/month for the fourth and 172 EUR/month for each subsequent. Single parents get an additional EUR 36.60/month on top of that amount.

For families with low annual incomes, there is the possibility to get further financial assistance in the form of a housing subsidy (for rent or mortgage).

But is this fair...

One example in this article about how to manage your fiances to survive on the minimum allowance was about a 29 year old single mom living in Helsinki. She has been living abroad for the past 7 years, most recently in Ireland. She returned to Finland when she found out that she was pregnant because of the strong social safety net here.

From the social services office, she was able to borrow a stroller and baby bed.

As for monetary benefits, per month she gets:
Maternity/Parental benefit - 403.38 EUR
Child welfare assistance - 118.15 EUR
Child allowance + single parent benefit - 136.60 EUR
Housing subsidy - 452.93 EUR
General living subsidy (toimeentulotuki) - 75 EUR

TOTAL = 1,186.06 EUR/month

Now, I compare that with what's left of the average monthly paycheck (about 2,500 EUR) after taxes and they're not that far off from each other.

But, that's what the social safety net in Finland is about - supporting those who can not support themselves. However, I have two concerns about this particular case.
> Can't a 29 year old in Helsinki with work experience abroad find work to support herself? (I assume she worked since the article talks about her spending 30 - 50 EURs on meals in Ireland without real worries).
> Do we really need to subsidize her entire lifestyle?

She lists the following as her monthly expenses:
Rent - 613.27 EUR (for 56 sq meters WITH sauna and balcony!!)
Phone - 35 EUR
Internet - 25 EUR
Food - 200 EUR
magazines - 25 EUR
diapers - 70 EUR
yoga - 24 EUR
pharmacy - 15 EUR
personal hygiene - 100 EUR
trip to Turku to visit parents - 100 EUR
gifts - 60 EUR

TOTAL - 1,267.27 EUR/month

Sure, we're all entitled to our small luxuries, but come on! My husband and I who both worked full-time lived in a smaller apartment in Helsinki because rent is expensive here! And we didn't dream of having our own sauna or balcony for that amount. 613 EUR/month for rent for someone without an income is a lot. Why not housing in a less expensive area? Why not live at home?

And she talks about how she could save on groceries by substituting 'flavorless Edam cheese for the goat's cheese she now buys, but she just doesn't like it'. Perhaps she could also forgo the shampoo and conditioner she has to buy from the hairdresser. She also prefers to buy new clothes for her baby rather than buy them from the fleamarket. Fine - I agree with her. I'd also rather do all those things, but if I didn't have any money, I'd have to make some compromises.

This is where I begin to wonder if the social support has gone a bit too far. Its my taxes supporting her. I know it would be impossible to monitor how everyone spends the benefit money they receive, but this seems a bit out of hand to me.