As many of you know, I was born and raised in Germany and moved to New York City when I was 25. Now that a lot of my friends, both here and back home in Germany, are having babies, I love exploring the little cultural differences between raising little ones here versus there. Who knew swaddling was such an American thing? This German right here sure didn't! So here are 5 tips & tricks German moms have up their sleeves that I want to share with you guys.
A DOULA OR BABYNURSE
In Germany, every mom is entitled to a postpartum midwife, who will come to your house - at first every day, and then once a week - and will be available on the phone 24/7. And by entitled, I mean this is a service your health insurance provides. For free. How awesome is that?! When my friends told me about this, I knew I would also want someone to be able to ask the gazillion questions I was inevitably going to have after bringing Magnus home. So, given that there's no such thing as a midwife paid by your health insurance over here, we researched our options and decided to get a babynurse for the first few days. Best.decision.ever.
Not only was she incredibly sweet with our little boy, but she also brought with her decades of experience in caring for newborn babies. You know all those moments where you are this close to freaking out and calling your pediatrician at 3 am because your baby had a funny-sounding hiccup? Yeah... she calmed us down, assured us everything was normal, gave me breastfeeding advice and took diaper changes, outfit changes and swaddling out of our hands. But she also told us when she thought something was worth calling the pediatrician for. Exactly the same things your midwife does for you in Germany! While it would obviously be amazing to get these services for free, she was worth her weight in gold! (NYC parents - send me a message if you'd like our babynurse's info!)
One thing that surprisingly doesn't exist in the US, but that you'll find in practically every German household with a baby, is a playpen (called "Laufstall" in German, which translates roughly into "walking cage"). It's basically a second crib that stands in the living room or kitchen (wherever the family spends the most time), usually made of wood, and usually square-shaped or - like the one that we have that Magnus is playing in in these photos - hexagonal.
Why is this so perfect? Well, for starters, it's a place to put all of baby's toys that would otherwise be spread all over your living room. On top of that, it's a safe place for baby to nap, play and learn with the family around, and, maybe more importantly, a safe place to leave baby when you are doing literally anything else and can't chase after him for the moment. As a friend told me, these playpens are popular in the Netherlands as well, where they just call them a "box" for the baby :)
We got ours from Amazon Germany! There's a box you can check in the left column that will show you only search results that can be shipped internationally - an awesome tip from a fellow German NYC Mama.
Another little known fact: German sales tax is a lot higher than anywhere in the US (most things are taxed at 19%, compared to 8.875% in New York). That means that, if you order something from Amazon Germany to be shipped to, say, New York, you'll pay New York sales tax instead of German sales tax! It's a pretty sweet deal, since that difference covers at least part of the shipping cost.
A SQUARE PILLOW AS A BASSINET BLANKET (FOR WINTER BABIES)
This one is so smart! In Germany, pillows - the kind you have in your bed to sleep on - are normally square (80x80 centimeters), and twice the size of regular American pillows. While I much prefer American-sized pillows for sleeping, those square ones make amazing baby blankets for stroller bassinets in the winter. Bonus if you can get your hands on one of those beautiful heirloom pillow cases that we were lucky enough to get from my mom!
So this may sound a little gross but it's actually awesome! It's a little cushion filled with cherry pits (you can also fill it with other grains and seeds that don't pop when microwaved) that you can use as a little heated pad for when baby has a colic or just plain old gas pains. And there's a bonus: those things are perfect for adults, too! I put mine around my neck and shoulders all the time when I am sore from either staring at a screen (at work) or from nursing. I've even used it to cure a clogged duct once and it worked wonders. The cushions are pretty easy to make, if you're into that kind of thing... all you need is a sock, or a washcloth (one of those mitten-type washcloths) and some ribbon or something to tie it with, and of course your cherry pits! Here are some directions - unfortunately in German, but there are pictures, so you'll see what I'm talking about. Tada!
If you guys have any baby tips & tricks from home - wherever that may be - please share! I'd love to hear from you guys :)