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Kitting out babies the German way

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Kitting out babies the German way
05:23 CET+01:00
Motherhood in the Fatherland follows mum Sabine Devins as she navigates the cultural quirks of having a baby in Germany. In the latest instalment, she outfits her baby the German way.

Pending the arrival of her son, British mother Lorna found herself embroiled in a battle with the child's German Oma-to-be over, of all things, a changing table.

“My German partner didn't really have a clue what we needed when we were pregnant, but his mum was very insistent that we get a Wickeltisch. You'd think my brothers and I would be mentally scarred for not having one, she was so hot for getting a blooming changing table!” she said.

I'll admit that I was clueless that a changing table was something Brits considered to be a “German thing,” but I know of a few others, like the must-have accessory for it: The baby heating lamp.

When it comes to bedtime, British newborns are snuggled into a Moses basket next to mum's side of the bed. I know of a few babies in Canada and the United States who spent their first few months sleeping in a travel crib in their parents room before being moved into their carefully put together nursery.

In Germany, babies go into a Beistellbettt, which literally translates into “bedside bed.” Its a crib with three sides that attaches to Mum's side of the bed, allowing everyone to sleep together but in their own space. For nighttime feeding, there is no where to walk to, nothing to lift the baby over. For advanced rollers, you can even get a fourth side to the crib that still gives the baby the comfort of being next to Mama.

Babies in Germany grow out of their little bedside bays in about six months, but don't expect them to be kicked out into their own room after that. They then graduate to a crib in the parents room. My midwife told me that it's best for babies to share a room with parents for the first year.

And don't expect babies to cuddle into duvets when they graduate to a bigger bed. Germans are very into their infant sleeping sacks, zipping children as old as three into sleeveless vests with legless gowns attached.

Munich-native Benedikta surprised herself when her son was born. “I just somehow ended up buying little ones for newborn Francis, summer ones for hot days, and down sleeping bags for older Francis,” she said. “The Hebammen (midwives) do drive you a bit nuts about the necessity of sleeping bags and nothing else in the crib.”

The sleeping bag is something that I can't believe aren't more popular back in Canada, though they're catching on and popping up in baby shops everywhere.

But there is one blanket we received that Luisa used all the time as a newborn. My aunt in Cologne sent us a huge box in the mail containing a quintessential German baby item: A thick quilted blanket, or Krabbeldecke, for Luisa to lie on before she could sit up. Being Canadian, I had purchased a bouncer chair as a place to simply put Luisa when I needed to.

But this is Germany, and if you recall my last column, I was, as they say, doing it wrong.

In PEKiP, the main principle to adhere to is that a baby shouldn't be propped into any position she can't put herself into. So German babies lie on the floor surrounded by toys on a Krabbeldecke. When I added a play arch, it wasn't unlike a playmat the kids at home are using.

The choice of pram is also influenced by PEKiP. Since they say a baby should be lying flat, a stroller that comes with a bassinet and then graduates to a proper seat when the baby can sit by himself is a must. New English mum Susannah discovered what happens when you dare stroll Berlin's baby-beset neighbourhood of Prenzlauer Berg in a pram that puts your newborn in a buggy that goes only “almost flat”. At a crosswalk, a German Mutti said, “Oh, your baby isn't flat. When mine were that small, we were told they had to lie flat. Do they not do that anymore?”

To avoid passive-aggressive curbside judgement, it's best to have a two-mode Kombikinderwagen stroller.

You may also have to outfit the stroller the way the Germans do and according to season.

As the October chill settled in on Berlin, I declared it foot muff season. This happens in Berlin when the temperature drops below 20. The Muttis break out their sheepskin-lined foot muffs to tuck their little ones into to protect them from drafts. For those hot summer months, a sheepskin lines the back of the seat, keeping air circulating under the babe and regulating his or her temperature.

But foot muffs aren't the only thing protecting chubby legs from getting chilly. Baby stockings are as staple to the Teutonic tot's wardrobe as pyjamas or onesies. Both boys and girls get an extra layer below the waist. They come in every colour and some brands even make it with thicker parts on the foot end with sticky grips for toddlers.

If you're keeping track, that means in the winter, you'll find babies wearing tights, their regular pants, snow pants and a foot muff while cruising around in the winter. It must be any infant version of that dreaded German draft thing.

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