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

> 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

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....