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FAMILY

The nine things you need to do after having a baby in Germany

The birth of a child is one of the most important moments in any person's private life. But it also requires you to complete a substantial amount of paperwork - all at a time when you're operating on minimal sleep. Here's what you need to know.

The nine things you need to do after having a baby in Germany
A newborn baby in Schleswig-Holstein. Photo: dpa | Fabian Strauch

The days and weeks after the birth of a child are a whirlwind of emotion, sleep deprivation, cooing, family visits, and nappy changes. Many nappy changes.

At the same time there is a huge amount of organisation that you have to get done.

The most important piece of advice that anyone can give is to get as much of the paperwork printed, filled out and ready to send off before your baby arrives.

You aren’t allowed to send any of it in until your child has been born, but you’ll find that you have precious little time or energy to cope with the mountain of admin coming your way afterwards.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to bring up a child in Germany?

Registering the birth 

The first thing that you need to do after the birth is make it official by registering it with your local Standesamt (registry office). You don’t have much time to do this: you’ll need to do this within the first week.

Luckily, during the pandemic, most registry offices have allowed for you to send the documentation in by post, so you won’t need to travel in person to drop it off.

There are a whole bunch of supporting documents that you need to provide, such as your own birth certificate. It is a very good idea to get all these together in advance.

Importantly, you will need to give them certified translations of any documentation that is not in German such as birth and marriage certificates. This translation needs to be done by a certified translator and will cost you upwards of €50 per document.

Inform your employer and health insurer

This is another one that you should do immediately after the birth but it only applies to the mother of the child.

German laws on Mutterschutz mean that you are not allowed to work for the first eight weeks after the birth. Both your employer and your health insurer need to be made aware of the birth as they both pay a part of your salary during this time.

Find a paediatrician

In some circumstances you should have found a paediatrician before the birth. For example, if you are planning on coming home on the same day as you give birth, you will need to provide the hospital with proof that you have found a doctor to do the second check up – your baby’s so-called U2 (Untersuchung Zwei). The U1 will be done by a midwife immediately after the birth.

Depending on where you live, you might have to call up quite a few Kinderärzte before you find one who has space. Your midwife can also help you with recommendations.

Going to the U2 will probably be the first time you leave the house with your child – a nervous experience for first-time parents!

An infant is examined with a stethoscope during a screening in Bielefeld. Photo: dpa | Friso Gentsch

Once you have the U2 behind you and you are safely back home you can take a deep breath. The immediate flurry of paper work and appointments is now behind you. You now need to wait for the birth certificate before the next round of bureaucracy can be dealt with.

Apply for health insurance

One of the next key steps once the birth certificate arrives is putting your baby on your health insurance scheme. If you and your partner are both on statutory health insurance either one of you can set up a Familien-Krankenversicherung that has your child on it.

You will then receive a health insurance card for your baby which you will need to present at subsequent doctor’s visits.

Register the baby’s address

This is an important one to try and get done as soon as you can once the brith certificate has arrived. It’s done at the Bürgeramt who will then inform the tax office and other authorities that there is a new little German in the world.

Soon after, your baby’s tax number will arrive in the post, while the health office will also get in touch to provide support on other administrative details.

During this meeting with the Bürgeramt you can also get a passport for your baby (see below).

READ ALSO: An American’s view of having a baby in Germany

Apply for Kindergeld

Another key bit of paperwork you will want to deal with is the application for Kindergeld (child benefits), which you receive from the state as help for the costs of raising a child. For each of your first three children you receive €204 a month and for the fourth onwards you receive €235.

You apply for this aid with the Agentur für Arbeit. The form you need to fill out can be downloaded from their website HERE. You will also need your child’s tax number to complete the form.

A mother breastfeeds in Berlin. dpa | Paul Zinken

Apply for Elterngeld

The other form of state subsidy you are entitled to as a new parent is parental allowance. This is money you receive from the state during the time you take off work to care for your child.

Elterngeld is a complicated business – there are companies that exist solely to advise you on what type of Eterngeld to apply for and when.

However you want to organise your parental leave, make sure you apply for this allowance within three months of the birth, otherwise it won’t be paid retrospectively back to the first month.

You should also keep in mind that you need to give your employer at least three weeks’ notice before you start your parental leave.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about parental leave in Germany

Apply for passports

Whether you are applying for a German passport, one from your country of origin or both, you’ll need to wait for the birth certificate to arrive before you can do this.

In terms of a German passport, make an appointment with your local Bürgeramt. If you bring along all the necessary documents, as well as biometric photos (and your real life baby), they’ll make a Kinderreisepass for your baby on the spot.

In terms of obtaining a foreign passport, you should consult your local consulate about the steps you need to take.

Kita spots

Last but not least, you might want to start thinking about securing a Kita spot for your child. In some major cities, spots in child care are more precious than gold, leading parents to start looking for a Kita spot before the child has been born.

Ultimately though, you can only apply for a Kita spot nine months before you plan to make use of it. Depending on your family plan you might not have to start thinking about this until a few months down the line.

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GERMAN HABITS

7 cultural differences between raising kids in Germany and the US

The Local editor Rachel Stern, an American mom in Germany, details how she's seen children brought up in the Bundesrepublik - and the often stark contrast to parenting styles in the USA.

7 cultural differences between raising kids in Germany and the US

Early independence. According to stereotypes, the good ‘ol USA is the land of freedom-loving folks who value individuality whereas ze Germans must always abide by a strict set of rules. Yet when it comes to parenting, Germans tend to be the ones who are much more lax. It’s a common sight to see kids as young as five or six walking to school by themselves, or jovially jumping around at the playground while their parents are engrossed in their own conversations or even out of sight.

What might be described as “free-range parenting” in the US is simply the norm in Germany. Parents believe that early independence allows kids to build the confidence and common sense to thrive later in life when someone isn’t constantly glancing over their shoulders.

Safety first? While American playgrounds often consist of neatly packed padded equipment and foam floors, German Spielplätze frequently host a labyrinth of long metallic tubes, tall towers and wobbly wooden bridges. Don’t German parents also worry about their kids getting hurt? Of course, but their philosophy tends to be that if they fall, they will pick themselves up again and learn to do the task at hand better the next time around.

A six-year old at a playground's obstacle course in Hanover. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte
A six-year old at a playground’s obstacle course in Hanover. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

They also tend to trust preteen kids’ own basic judgment in walking to school on their own. In the US, where either bright yellow school buses or parents themselves carefully chauffeur their children to the classroom, this would usually be unthinkable in Germany. Some US states even have laws mandating a minimum age a child can be left alone, and there have been several instances of parents receiving a call from Child Protective Services for letting their preteens play in the neighbourhood park themselves, sans supervision.

Daycare vs Kita. In the US, the word daycare tends to be synonymous with a last-ditch alternative for parents who have to return to work (often shortly after giving birth). Yet in Germany, “Kitas” – childcare which stretches through the Kindergarten age – are coveted institutions in which many parents vie for a spot. Since 2013, all kids in Germany from age one are entitled to a “Kitaplatz” – and the search for one often notoriously begins during pregnancy.

By the age of three, 92 percent of all German children are in a Kita, according to the OECD. While many American parents pride themselves on keeping their kids out of daycare if they have the resources, Germans generally boast of the early socialisation and “Selbstständigkeit” (self-reliance) that Kitakinder pick up. It helps that they are free of charge in Berlin and Hamburg, and heavily subsidised in the rest of the country.

READ ALSO: What foreign parents in Germany need to know about ‘Sprach-Kitas’

Children at a kita in Hanover. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Fellowes GmbH | Fellowes GmbH
Children at a kita in Hanover. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Fellowes GmbH | Fellowes GmbH

Embracing germs. “It will build their immune system,” is a common adage for Germans to stay zen when their small child has shovelled sand in their mouth or eaten food that’s fallen under the table. American parenting publications, however, are abound with articles on how to steer children clear of germs, which one deemed “Public Enemy Number One.” German ones, on the other hand, often seek to reassure parents that exposure to Keime (the word for both germs and bacteria) is okay – and even beneficial in preventing the allergies that can arise from a too-sterile environment.

No bad weather. As with the even colder Nordic countries, there’s an expression in Germany that translates to: “There’s no such thing as the wrong weather, only the wrong clothes.” Just like how Germans are religious about opening their windows wide at least once a day in the heart of winter to let in fresh air, most are also firm believers in the benefits of bundling up babies and children and taking them outdoors daily.

This could explain why roughly two thirds of German children spend an average of 108 minutes outside per day. Compare that to the US, where children are estimated to devote four to seven minutes to unstructured outdoor play per day

Play that doesn’t fit in a plan. Most Americans know the stereotype of the soccer mom – a minivan driving, middle-class mother who shuttles her offspring to sports and a myriad of “extracurriculars”. It’s a true reflection of a culture in which children are often over-scheduled with various activities and classes by their well-meaning parents starting from an early age. 

Yet many German parents would rather that their kids “be bored”, or be left alone with their own interests in order to develop their creativity and problem solving skills. Starting at Kita, children are encouraged to partake in unstructured play, which teachers say brings much more value than being able to read by the age of five. 

READ ALSO: 7 surefire signs your kids are definitely German

Discipline, or lack thereof. A German school yard may look a little Lord of the Flies-esque, with kids playing (and often fighting) on their own. While teachers would of course intervene in a more serious situation, they often try to let kids work out their own conflicts, or engage in a dialogue with them about why they did (or did not) do something.

This attitude is common among German parents too, rather than embracing fear tactics as a consequence for misbehaving. Unlike in some parts of the US, spanking isn’t supported (and is in fact illegal) and “getting grounded” – a form of house arrest that US parents place on older kids who misbehave – is not common and frowned upon. That’s not surprising in a country where children learn to make their own decisions, independent of their parents, from an early age.

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