When in Sweden

Now that I have a child who is nearly four, next month, four year old!, I care about these kinds of things far less, but I’m not at all clear where I fit on the landscape of motherhood styles in Sweden. I have heard they are more relaxed about parenting here, but I’m not really sure what is meant by that. I will observe and report back. I know a bit about how they handle very young age, though: my sister-in-law and literally every other mom I’ve met here have a baby under age one (Sweden is having a baby boom) and they certainly do some things differently.

Even after American standards I guess I was a little odd for using cloth diapers, but they seem to be even less common here. For apartment-dwellers, which uses a common laundry room and sign up in advance to seize it just half a day a week, I can totally see why they would be too much trouble. But people in houses, in the typical Swedish way, loves to hang their laundry out to dry outside (thus targeted add steps to the laundry process) seem as if they might be up for it. With all the recycling and environmental impact weight here surprised me, cloth diapers are not more common. A Swedish woman, (using disposables) said they were in fashion for a while, but it’s gone for now.

While I’m on the subject, let me tell you about a neat difference here with disposable diapers: they have a built-in tape Strip-type thing to encourage your diaper to stay nicely rolled up after use, I guess sanitary reasons and to reduce the space in the trash (when it is in high demand here). I know this, when we left our cloth diapers in the United States with my mother, but the little girl still sleeping in one. (Any advice on encouraging her not to urinate in your sleep? It seems a little tricky. Advice that doesn’t involve my waking at night to take her to the potty.) Oh, and another thing: a lot of people keep their changing table in the bathroom.

The largest systematic different and rather surprising things about parents babies here in Sweden (in Europe in General, not just in Sweden, this is unique) is the wild popularity of a compound called välling. This is basically the baby cereal (I suppose vitamin-enriched), there are super-thin and fed babies (and kids way older) in bottles (and sometimes of the spoon) instead of the formula. Typically, I’ve gotten to know people suck (or four) for about six months and then switch to välling and baby food; for women who are not breastfeeding babies under those ages, they have a cow’s milk-based formula available (it comes in very annoying packaging and I think rarely used), which we bought for the little girl, when we came, when she was 10 months old and I had weaned from exclusive pump (anecdotally, it bothered her stomach). Mothers here have told me they believe that babies in the course of six (or four) months should be getting most of their nutrients from baby food (as they add butter or olive oil) and välling, even though both of my sisters-in-law have breastfed longer than six months (one to three years, and one still doing a little nursing her 11-month-old).

I’m not going to lie: I know I have an anthropological training and all that stuff, but I think this is bizarre. Especially coming from a place with a push for breast milk or formula is the primary food for infants under age one. And maybe I’m being obtuse, but prefer the idea of a cow’s milk-based artificial baby drink to a grain-based. Maybe they have manipulated it so much, there is not much difference (except thickness). But if I ever have a baby to feed, and I am not exclusively breastfeeding it (and probably not with my history) I can not see myself using välling as a substitute for milk. For me, grains are cereal and milk is milk, and plus it seems odd to give cereal in a bottle. Not that I would ever tell a Swedish mother, of course.

Anyway, on to the modes of locomotion. Strollers here is very different. For one thing, many Swedes believe, it is not at all appropriate for a child to be facing away from you. (I have read some articles about how it damages their brain development is not being able to see their mother’s face and instead treat past the sights on the streets all alone.) Also, due to snow and rain, strollers (prams, really) have gigantic tires and all kinds of rain and cold protection accessories. The stroller I brought from the United States (not that we need it, I just got freaked out when my sister-in-law paid 900 dollars for his used Swedish stroller) is hard surpassed in these departments, but I’m still not sure I want to get one because these things are so huge. I have never been much for the stroller, anyway; unless we went to exercise, when the little girl was tiny I usually wore her in some way. They have lots of strollers, similar to American ones, but as jogging strollers, double strollers, etc., just with better tires and sleeping bag-type stuff for the winter.

Sweden also encourage you (by law or not, I am not entirely sure) to have your child rear-facing in the car until the age of four. What’s funny to me is that we actually have had little girl rear facing all this time, which was a little odd that we in the United States where people often beat their first birthdays their babies, but here we have turned her around earlier than we should (in my car because it was the safest way to ensure my American-bought car seat and in the man’s car, we actually got her a fancy German booster seat because the back seat was too small for anything else). They also often put the car seat in the front passenger seat, as I have heard, is exceptionally safe, but which weirds me out.

So it’s things I’ve noticed so far. I know personally a great enough to generalize from some of my other observations – people sample size and practices vary, of course. And none of these things I mention is really such a big deal. Just weird, is all. Wanted to share. The main conclusion I have drawn from my time with babies in Sweden is that I likes babies again! I would kind of a! So awesome and cute and they can not run away from you, when you have to cuddle them!