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MOTHERHOOD IN THE FATHERLAND

HEALTH

Mother’s milk: A secret weapon for everything

The Local's series Motherhood in the Fatherland follows new mum Sabine Devins as she navigates the cultural quirks of having a baby in Germany. In the latest instalment, she discovers a secret weapon for her parenting arsenal: mother's milk.

Mother's milk: A secret weapon for everything
Photo: DPA

One recent morning, Luisa woke up, bright and early. Grin on her mouth but snot plastered every where else. Babies get sick. Babies get colds. Babies get runny noses and I happen to have just the thing to clear that up: Breast milk.

When I was pregnant, I was given all sorts of tea-related advice on cures for my common pregnancy ailments. Fennel tea for digestion. Chamomile tea for leg cramps. A specially blended pregnancy tea for general well being. For babies, the Germans rely on good old fashioned Muttermilch.

Yes, to cure all that ails that tiny tummy (and other mini body parts), mum’s boobs have the answer.

To say that nursing is encouraged here in the Fatherland would be an understatement. Even the makers of formula acknowledge on their packaging that, “Breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby.”

There is even the government-funded German National Breastfeeding Institute (Nationale Stillkommission) whose responsibility is to ensure that all mothers have the facts and resources they need to successfully breastfeed.

Could you imagine if US First Lady Michelle Obama tried to implement something like that in America? She had enough troubles merely promoting the idea of breastfeeding. So many US blogs I read often talk about breastfeeding, but always with the caveat that “breastfeeding is the best choice for me and my family.”

But in Germany I have learned that breast milk cures more than just baby hunger. Six months in, I wouldn’t be surprised if I were told my chest contained the proverbial fountain of youth.

As Luisa went through her first growth spurt, she went through her first gas pains. Not to worry, my midwife said, and told me to offer her the breast. As the milk goes through her system, it would literally push the gas out the other end. Breastfeeding also relieves me of worrying about Luisa’s, ahem, “output”. As long as she was solely breastfed, anything was normal and I wasn’t to worry about it.

At four weeks, Luisa came down with a case of baby acne. I wasn’t about to swab her face with Clearasil, but I was concerned about this pile of bumps appearing on her smooth cheeks. What does my midwife recommend? Simply use Muttermilch as a cream and dab it on the worst spots as often as I liked. I’m not actually sure if it was the breast milk, but the acne cleared up within a week.

Breast milk also has healing properties. “Toe-curling pain,” was what one friend warned me to expect during the first 10 days of baby latching on to very sensitive spots to nurse. And as my nipples cracked, my toes curled.

But as we left the hospital, a doctor had reminded me that breast milk was an excellent nipple cream and “it’s safe for baby too,” she said with a smile.

Canadian Sara Read even discovered that breast milk could help with a stubborn umbilical chord. “My midwife told me to apply breast milk to Annika’s umbilical chord stub to help it come off,” she said, adding that she was sceptical at first.

“I only did it half-heartedly and when it wasn’t gone after a couple weeks, my midwife grabbed my boob, squeezed out some milk onto a q-tip, applied it to the umbilical stub and — pop! — within a matter of seconds she had worked it off with the milk-soaked swab.”

English mum Rachel Fox was told breast milk would help clear up her eldest child’s gooey eye.

“He had a sticky eye infection and [the midwife] had us squirting breast milk directly into his poorly eye,” she told me. “I was quite shocked initially, but it did the trick. A few days later the infection was gone. Not a chemist in sight!”

Not just eyes, but ear infections can also be cured with a good squirt of the white stuff. In fact, breast milk is a great substitute for antibiotic ointment. Cuts and scrapes heal much faster with a little bit of Muttermilch applied to them. And when a baby’s sensitive bum goes red, there is no need to reach for creams with all sorts of chemicals; just rub on some breast milk, allow to air dry and carry on.

Adults with scrapes, cuts, burns, dry skin, acne and cold sores can also benefit from the application of breast milk. Allegedly warts, insect bites, chicken pox and eczema too.

But back to Luisa’s runny nose. I’ve used my Muttermilch many times to clear up her little nose. While it’s effective, there is one problem: The application. I’ll leave you to think about the mechanics.

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HEALTH

What you should know about Germany’s plans to roll out e-prescriptions

Germany is taking a big step towards a more digital-friendly health system, with plans to roll out e-prescriptions nationwide. Here's what you should know.

A person holds the e-Rezept app in a pharmacy in Oldenburg, Lower Saxony.
A person holds the e-Rezept app in a pharmacy in Oldenburg, Lower Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Mohssen Assanimoghaddam

What’s happening?

From January 1st 2022, people in Germany will receive their prescriptions digitally (known in Germany as an ‘e-Rezept’) from healthcare providers.

Patients should be able to get their prescription from their doctor via a QR code sent to an app, which can then be transmitted to a pharmacy. The pharmacy can then let the patient know whether their medicine is in stock (or if they want to order it), and when it is ready for collection. 

This model is to be mandatory for people with statutory health insurance from the start of 2022, replacing the good old paper prescription.

However, the QR code can also be given to the patient by the doctor on a piece of paper if a patient does not have access to or doesn’t want to use a smartphone. 

READ ALSO: The changes around doctors notes in Germany you should know 

How exactly will it work?

In theory this is the plan – you’ll visit the doctor or have a video consultation. After the examination, the doctor will issue you with an electronic prescription for the medication that has been prescribed to you. 

A prescription code is automatically created for each ‘e-Rezept’, which you will need so you can get the medicine at the pharmacy. As we mentioned above, patients in Germany can either open this QR code in the free e-prescription app developed by Gematik and the Health Ministry, or receive it as a printout from the doctor. 

Next, you can take the prescription QR code (either in the app or as a printout) to your pharmacy of choice to get the medication needed.

One of the major differences and timesavers under the new system is that you can also select the pharmacy you want to get the prescription from digitally, order the medication (if needed) and you’ll be alerted when the prescription is ready. You can also arrange to have it delivered if needed. 

A doctor’s signature is not required, as e-prescriptions are digitally signed. 

The aim is that it will save on paperwork, time at the medical office and trips to the pharmacy. 

Some patients have already been receiving digital prescriptions. The ‘e-Rezept’ was tested out successfully in selected practices and pharmacies with a focus on the Berlin-Brandenburg region of Germany. The test phase started on July 1st this year.

Pharmacies and doctors’ offices nationwide have also been given the opportunity to test the new system from the start of December. 

“This will enable practice providers and pharmacy management systems to better prepare for the mandatory launch on January 2022 1st,” said aponet.de, the official health portal site for German pharmacies

The new e-prescription app.
The new e-prescription app. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Mohssen Assanimoghaddam

READ ALSO: 10 rules to know if you get sick in Germany

There is some leeway though – if there are technical difficulties, paper prescriptions can still be issued in individual cases until the end of June next year.

The National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians estimates that it could take until mid-2022 until all users are equipped with e-prescription applications nationwide.

The obligation does not apply to privately insured people from January next year. Private insurance companies can decide voluntarily to make the preparations for their customers to use the e-prescription.

What’s this about an app?

To be able to receive and redeem prescriptions electronically, people with statutory health insurance need the Gematik ‘das e-Rezept’ app. 

One issue is that the app appears to only be available at the moment in German app stores. We’ll try and find out if there are plans to change this and widen out the access, but it seems likely for that to happen. 

Germany’s Covid-Warn app, for example, was initially only open to German app stores but was gradually widened out to many others. 

As mentioned above though, those who don’t have access to an app will be able to use the paper with the code on it to access their prescriptions. 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

Has it all gone smoothly?

As you might expect, there have been a few hiccups. 

Originally, the introduction nationwide was planned for October but was postponed due to many providers not having all the tech requirements set up. 

Now though, more than 90 percent of the practice management systems have been certified by the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians – a prerequisite to issue the e-prescriptions.

The e-prescription is part of Germany’s far-reaching plans to digitise and streamline the health care system.

The head of Gematik GmbH, Markus Leyck Dieken, recently spoke of a “new era” that is “finally starting for doctors and patients” in Germany. 

Useful vocabulary:

Prescription – (das) Rezept

Doctor’s office/practice – (die) Arztpraxis

To order – bestellen 

Pharmacy – (die) Apotheke

Video consultation – (die) Videosprechstunde

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