The Scandinavian parenting style is practical, egalitarian and free from outdated myths. In Parenthood the Swedish Way – a new science-based guide to pregnancy, birth, and infancy book by two leading Swedish medical specialists, Dr Cecilia Chrapkowska and Dr Agnes Wold – presents cutting-edge research that will guide you through the maze of challenges parents face raising healthy, happy families in the twenty-first century.
Here they share 10 ways to parent like the Scandinavians:
1. Share parental duties equally
Resentment occurs when one party in a relationship feels that they are not getting their fair share of something. Sharing parenting duties equally, down to the most minute level, will help guard against resentment and allow your child to have an equally strong relationship with both of their parents.
2. Ditch unnecessary products
Having a baby is a loss-maker financially. Don’t be taken in by special offers, and don’t buy anything unless you’re absolutely sure you’ll need it. In particular, be sceptical about any type of product that is said to monitor or improve your baby’s health and safety – many monitors create more anxiety than peace of mind.
3. Breast or bottle – you decide
In countries with good water sanitation, baby formula and break milk are essentially equal in terms of their health benefits. The choice of whether to give breast or bottle, or combine the two, is up to the parents and, to some extent, the baby. Don’t feel pressured by unsolicited advice.
4. It’s ok to drink alcohol when breastfeeding
It is completely unnecessary for women to pump and discard their milk if they have drunk alcohol. Breast milk will always contain the same concentration of alcohol as the blood. If you weigh 60 kg and quickly drink two glasses of wine, you’ll have around 0.05 per cent alcohol in your blood (50 milligrams per 100 millilitres). Your breast milk will then also contain 0.05 per cent alcohol. Such a minimal alcohol level is not going to harm your baby.
5. Forget about sterilising bottles
It is not necessary to sterilise baby bottles; regular washing is enough. Any bacteria will die off when the bottles are left to air dry between uses. If you really want to, you can boil the bottle now and then, or sterilise it in water in the microwave. This is not necessary, but it doesn’t hurt either.
6. Avoid allergy tests
The definition of an allergy is having allergic symptoms to something that is not actually harmful. You may see offers for ‘allergy tests’ at clinics and online. The term ‘allergy tests’ is misleading because these tests can’t reveal whether or not a child is allergic. Instead, they show whether a child has IgE antibodies against various allergens, which is called being ‘sensitised’. It is pointless finding out whether a child has been sensitised to something if they don’t exhibit any symptoms.
7. Safe sleeping
We now know that the biggest risk factor for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) is laying a baby down to sleep on its tummy, so one piece of sleep advice is vital: lay your baby on its back when sleeping.
8. Don’t try to be perfect
It’s not possible to be a perfect parent, for the simple fact that there are no perfect people. It’s also worth asking whether perfection is, in fact, a desirable goal: a child who grew up with two perfect parents would probably be in for a bit of a shock as soon as they encountered life outside the family bubble.
9. Have realistic expectations for your children
Infancy and childhood is a period of enormous development. It is important not to burden children with demands that are too great and that they are unable to meet. Child-health nurses and preschool teachers usually know what you can expect of your child at different ages, and you can talk to them if you have any questions about your child’s progress.
10. Always vaccinate your children
The effectiveness and safety of public vaccines is constantly monitored, and no vaccine is added to the schedule unless there is a thoroughly satisfactory safety margin. Vaccinations are medical interventions that save many lives every day. By following your national immunisation program, you can provide your child with excellent protection against seriously dangerous diseases. Do it.
>> BUY THE BOOK: Parenthood the Swedish Way by Dr Cecilia Chrapkowska and Dr Agnes Wold (Scribe UK, £16.99)