Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Baby advice to get you started

During our two day post partum hospital stay, the nurses and midwives made sure we were ready to face the world as parents.

Some of the advice we received:
> if you're breastfeeding- which it is almost assumed that you will -
- you can eat whatever you like - just do it in moderation and take care to see if anything gives the baby a reaction.
- demand feed your baby. Baby knows when she is hungry and will let you know.
- don't let the baby sleep through a feeding. Even at night you should wake the baby up if she's slept more than 4 hours.
- if you have an oversupply of milk, you can donate to the hospital's 'Milk Bank' that's used for babies whose mothers' can't feed them.

> Bathe the baby only after the umbilical cord stump falls off.

> Baby should go outside only after the two week visit by the midwife to your home. Then for 15 minutes for the first time and 30 mins the second time, etc.

> Baby can easily be carried around if you hook your thumb under its armpit and put her in the crook of your arm.

> This is also the ideal position to hold her when you rinse her between diapers. By rinse, I mean taking baby to the bathroom sink to clean her bum after a dirty diaper. Here we just splash water on her rather than using diaper wipes.

> Baby should wear about the same amount of clothing as you. Except, when you take her out. Don't overbundle,but dress according to what you would wear outside if you were just sitting in the elements. It was recommended that we use an outsuit until the outside temp is at least 20 C.

> be careful not to let baby overheat in the pram, especially during summer. It can get quite warm - put a themometer in there one day just to see for yourself.

If you've got more baby starter advice - pls post a comment!

And your total hospital bill will be --- 130 EURS

Only?! When will we be billed for the rest? I was pretty surprised when the hospital bill for Peanut's delivery arrived - and it was only 130 EURS!

We were in the hospital for several days before and after the delivery. I made liberal use of the pain killers available - including having an epidural and two additional injections. There was loads of monitoring equipment used during the delivery -- not to mention many other medications. Peanut's dad also stayed overnight in the hospital with us in a private room. We saw a pediatrician for Peanut and I had a post partum check-up with a midwife. We ate lots of hospital food.

Yet, it really all cost only 130 EURS - it was the food that got us in the end.

The bill really only was for the meals we ate - about 22 EURs a day for each of us. In addition to breakfast, lunch and dinner, we had afternoon coffee and a snacktime in the evenings. The fare was bland and seemed surprisingly low on veggies. But, I guess for breastfeeding moms you want to keep it simple, but filling. The afternoon coffee break seemed ususal since I thought we shouldn't have too much caffine, but in a country of ardent coffee lovers, it would be hard to imagine a day without a coffee break!

We had selected on of the public hospitals - the Kätilöopisito - and did not use any private health insurance. I can only imagine what all this would have cost in the US for someone without insurance! Here it was a case of a good return on the oodles of taxes we pay. I suspect we'll continue to see more benefits of the system as we venture with Peanut. So far, all of our pre-natal visits were entirely free and our post-natal vists will also be - as long as we make use of the public clinics and doctors.

Peanut's First Bed -- a cardboard box

Finland offers a very unique service for mothers-to-be in the form of a 'baby package' from the national social services (known as KELA). There is an option for all expecting mothers to chose a monetary grant of 140 EUR from the State intended to help them buy the basic baby neccessities OR you can select the 'baby package'. Most first time mothers opt for the baby package and its arrival is an eagerly anticipated part of pregnancy.

Packed with goodies galore....
In order to qualify for the baby package or the monetary benefit, mothers must have had a prenatal exam at their local health center, their pregnancy must have reached 154 days and they must submit the required forms to KELA. Once sent in, the wait begins.

When the notice finally arrives that your baby package is ready to be picked up at the post office there is still a few final moments of speculation - did I get last year's package or am I part of the group to get the 2005 package?! It makes all the difference when other new mothers spot you on the street.

When I picked my package up -- it was a 2004 model -- I was surprised at how large the carton actually was. Measuring about 70 cm x 45 cm it contained a mountain of baby starter gear. The contents of the box are carefully reviewed and selected by a panel of childcare professionals each year to provide baby with the bare neccessities for the early days. Since Peanut was our first baby, I was looking for guidance on what kind of clothing she would really need and was confident the baby package would enlighten us.

What we found in the box was a number of little baby outfits from pjs to a warm outerwear suit designed for Nordic winters; sample packs of diapers; baby's first nail scissors & hairbrush; blankets, sheets & a comforter; and even a few toys such as a rattle and a book of nursery songs. But, what was more unexpected were a few gifts for mom and dad: some sanitary pads and a package of condoms :-) There were also a number of booklets on breastfeeding, making your own baby food and general childcare. All in all a real treasure trove worth much more than the monetary benefit.

There has been some debate in the local paper about how unstylish the clothing is. I have to agree, it ain't very pretty stuff. Its all designed to be unisex and practical. The 2004 package had evidently chosen lime green as one of its theme colors. Some would argue - lime green - that's one of the hot spring colors this year. Yet, in the clothing it comes off as more discount store knock-off than top designer wear. The other side of the debate argues that today's generations are becoming too style conscious and should appreciate this package for its sturdy, practical items ensuring that every Finnish baby has the basics. And, fashion has nothing to do with that.

Once you make the decision to have your baby wear any of the clothing from the box - you are outwardly indicating your 'class year'. As I walk down the street and catch a glimpse of another lightblue/lime green outdoor suit on a baby, I know they are part of the 2004 alma mater.

I haven't yet decided if Peanut will wear the KELA outfits in public or its something we keep on inside the house.

... and its a bed!
And, the box itself converts into baby's first bed! At first the idea seemed really outrageous -- what, put my baby to sleep in a cardboard box??!! But, yes, it makes sense. When our little bundle came home from the hospital she was so small compared to the baby crib we had bought her - she was completely floating in the middle of giant mattress with nothing around her. We decided to put the KELA box inside her crib. Since the box comes with its own custom sized mattress, it was easy to make the sheets and blankets fit inside. Peanut has been sleeping comfortable in her box and I believe has felt more secure in the smaller space.

She's now nearly 4 weeks old and we often hear her little fists tap against the sides of the box as she changes positions and shifts from one side of the box to the other. One of her favorite sleeping positions has been to squirm her way up so that her head is solidly pushed against the top of the box. Economically, we saved money on not buying a Moses' crib or other baby-sized cot which we'd be looking at putting it away.

in a few weeks, she'll outgrow her "first bed", but until then, I'll appreciate the easy mobility of it and she'll continue to enjoy the comfy cozy space. And, they we'll use it start storing all those newborn outfits she has also outgrown.

For the 2005 package contents, see KELA's website at