“Postcard” is a new weekly column featuring guest bloggers from around the world. This week we’ve got a postcard from Maria Holm in Denmark! She’s a nurse and health visitor with passion for babies. This give her the perfect pitch to let us know why Denmark is the 6th best place to be a mother. Let’s read her postcard:
A lot is done from the state to secure a good start for a child. Every new pregnant woman and her partner/husband get information from the official health authorities.
In the 1920s the Danish authorities were aware of being behind other countries we normally compared with, on the annual death rate of new-born babies. A leaflet was made to instruct the mothers how to act, but it didn’t seem to have any effect. The high mortality had to do with bad housing, hygiene and too little knowledge on the right nutrition for babies. Special nurses were trained to go out in certain areas three different places of the country to teach the mothers on these health issues. The nurses had to have a certain personality to be chosen.
Modest, but not insecure, certain but not too authoritative. These traits of personality are still needed when you enter the private sphere of all different kind of homes.
After some years a health law was made to spread this practise all over the country. A book on the subject baby health care is available both as a book and online. It’s a supplement for the check ups at the doctor and midwife. You are taught on the right food, vitamins and minerals, to avoid smoking cigarets, drinking alcohol or taking drugs or medicine more than is vitally necessary. If you have any problems with addiction you will get special help and support during the pregnancy.
The Health Visitor also visit in the pregnancy to prepare the new family on how to cope with a new-born. That’s usually done about the 30 week of pregnancy where the woman is very open to talk about the future child.
Late in the pregnancy everything turns around the birth. You get three examinations at your own doctor and you are free to choose where to give birth. You are offered 8 check up and talks with a midwife from week 13-15 in the pregnancy. Some choose these consultations in a group so that some networking is starting with other future mothers.
Nowadays most women go home after the birth already some hours after the birth. Even first timers do that. When the husband/partner is involved in everything from the start of the pregnancy it’s convenient to go home to your own bed an surroundings. But if you don’t have that secure back up it will become a tough start at home. New mothers with problems in breast-feeding will be allowed to stay longer to start the nursing properly.
The midwife will make a follow-up consultation on the birth as quickly as possible. That is to get feedback on the birth and to help the new mother express what she experienced.
Most are allowed to stop working four weeks before the birth and many can stop eight weeks before. It depends on the agreement at that workplace. The leave is paid. After the birth the mother has 14 weeks of leave and the father has two weeks in the same period. After the 14 weeks they have 32 weeks where they can choose who is going to have the leave the father or the mother. You get paid, but the tariff is different from workplace to workplace.
I think it has had a very positive effect on the new families that the mother can stay at home so long and breast-feed without stress. The infant has time to learn to eat more solid food before he or she is going out to daycare. Most small children in Denmark do that from 8-10 months. It’s still not so usual to see fathers take a long leave to take care of a baby. But the fathers are so much more engaged in everything about the care of the baby and that is very visible to be seen in the streets or at places like swimming centres where babies are taken to swim lessons.
All check ups at the doctor, midwife and the home visits by the health visitor are free. We pay high taxes and most are very glad that money is not involved in these health consultations. Nobody should choose not to show up or having a dialogue at home with the Health Visitor because of payment. Our health visitor offer is changing from nearly only visits at home in the family to group teachings for both parents on systematic themed teaching. All this is to build up a confident knowledge for the parents to understand the need of the baby and to help the parents build up a feeling of still deeper connection to the child. All this is also meant to prevent child abuse and violence.
As Health Visitors we are obliged to work together with the families and their doctors, social authorities to help children who are in danger of not thriving. We talk with the families about preventing accidents, how to make healthy food, how to help the children to sleep enough and to be stimulated emotionally, physically and to support the motor development. We do a screening for depression at 8 weeks and maybe again later.
Baby at 7 months trying to creep
It demands a very high moral to balance in these two worlds. You get insight in the intimacy of family life and must handle all the information with discretion. The home doctor have regular check ups and vaccinations on the child until the age of five and later at school the Health Visitor take over the health screening. All of this is free as well as examinations at the dentist until the child is eighteen years old.
The municipality is obliged to offer daycare from the child is six months old if that is needed by the family. It’s quite expensive, but you get reduced prices if you have low-income or you are without work.
Even though the conditions are so much better now than earlier we still don’t get many babies. I think two children are the normal average and the mothers are close to thirty years of age before they get their first child. For many that means infertility. Everybody wants an education before starting a family and then comes the hunt for a good job. The fact is that it’s easier to become a mother taking an education than after because good support is given during the time of the education. We get support co called S.U. and if you are having a child you get the double amount. It’s not a lot but better than nothing.
You have a right to be off at a certain amount of days every year for taking your child to different appointments at the doctor/ hospitals etc. and the first day of a child’s sickness one of the parents can be off aswell and that’s with full salary.
Our conditions are attractive for workers from the East European countries and these young immigrants are willing to take the jobs that the Danes don’t want. Then we have a growing Muslim population who tend to get many more children than the original people here and many are not working of one reason or the other.
This “postcard” became a bit longer than a normal post card, I had so much to tell you Nadya.