How did Sweden do it? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 22 Old 09-27-2006, 01:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I know that they used to have breastfeeding rates not all that much better than ours. I also know that their very liberal family leave policies help a lot. But I remember reading that in the beginning, when they made breastfeeding and infant health a priority, they had this nationwide campaign. You know, the kind of thing that would "make people feel guilty" if tried here.

Does anybody have any details about how they did this?
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#2 of 22 Old 09-27-2006, 01:46 PM
 
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I believe in the 70s they (and Norway) banned formula advertising and they dont do the formula in hospitals either. They follow the WHO code and dont allow themselves to be bought by formula companies. Their doctors are much more pro nursing. One story says model Vendela went to one of those countries and didnt feel like pumping so she went to the pharmacy to get formula and the pharmacist convinced her to pump instead.

~Shannon~ Proud Mama of 3 girls, ages 7,4, and 2.
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#3 of 22 Old 09-27-2006, 02:25 PM
 
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their very liberal family leave policies help a lot
One other thing that they do to increase bfing rates is to actually grant a maternity leave.

My work counterparts in Sweden get 6 months at full pay, 2 months at 60%, and then another 4 months at 40%. All this with a guaranteed job at 1 year. Once they return they have an awesome pumping room and free pump, and this is for mothers returning to work with a one year old!

Makes it tough when the same company on the other side of the ocean gives you a measly 6 or 8 weeks and then a bathroom to pump in!

Kelly - Wife to a wonderful man and Mom to a c-sect boy (3/3/05), hospital vbac.gif girl (12/20/07), h20homebirth.gif girl (11/4/09), expecting #4 EDD 7/15/13. We homeschool.gif
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#4 of 22 Old 09-27-2006, 06:47 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Sharondio View Post
But I remember reading that in the beginning, when they made breastfeeding and infant health a priority, they had this nationwide campaign. You know, the kind of thing that would "make people feel guilty" if tried here.
I think having a a public health campaign and providing the support to implement it makes it possible to educate with out alienating. We in the US can talk about the risks of ABM until we're blue in the face but it's not going to change anything unless the infrastructure is there to make it happen.
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#5 of 22 Old 09-27-2006, 07:26 PM
 
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They just have more national self respect in general and put their efforts and money into important things. Being "rich" is looked down upon and corporate greed/wealth is not as well tolerated. Taxes are astronomical and they're redistributed to support things like family leave and breastfeeding campaigns. It's a completely different culture than ours. Houses are smaller, energy is conserved, food is cleaner and children are valued so much more.
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#6 of 22 Old 09-27-2006, 09:07 PM
 
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Originally Posted by oregongirlie View Post
They just have more national self respect in general and put their efforts and money into important things. Being "rich" is looked down upon and corporate greed/wealth is not as well tolerated. Taxes are astronomical and they're redistributed to support things like family leave and breastfeeding campaigns. It's a completely different culture than ours. Houses are smaller, energy is conserved, food is cleaner and children are valued so much more.
Yup, I agree. I have lived in Scandinavia and the culture seems to value children much more than ours. So it's not surprising that it is illegal to hit children, maternity leave is routinely one year, childcare is state-funded, breastfeeding is supported, infant mortality is lower than ours, etc. etc. Their bf success has everything to do with incorporating the value of children into their culture.
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#7 of 22 Old 09-27-2006, 11:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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They just have more national self respect in general and put their efforts and money into important things. Being "rich" is looked down upon and corporate greed/wealth is not as well tolerated. Taxes are astronomical and they're redistributed to support things like family leave and breastfeeding campaigns. It's a completely different culture than ours. Houses are smaller, energy is conserved, food is cleaner and children are valued so much more.
Wow. It's almost like they...value families. As opposed to family values?

OK, I'll stop now. At least on this board.
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#8 of 22 Old 09-28-2006, 12:21 AM
 
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Originally Posted by oregongirlie View Post
They just have more national self respect in general and put their efforts and money into important things. Being "rich" is looked down upon and corporate greed/wealth is not as well tolerated. Taxes are astronomical and they're redistributed to support things like family leave and breastfeeding campaigns. It's a completely different culture than ours. Houses are smaller, energy is conserved, food is cleaner and children are valued so much more.
in my experience (married to a man from norway for 8 years) i agree with everything you've said except for that last phrase, "children are valued so much more." My in-laws do not value their precious babies any more/less than my friends and family here in the US.

the family leave is great in norway,too. my bil and his wife figured they'd have more income if he was a sahd and she went back to work after their baby. and i know she bf to at least age two.

eta: and they are just really used to boobs over there !
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#9 of 22 Old 09-28-2006, 01:09 AM
 
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in my experience (married to a man from norway for 8 years) i agree with everything you've said except for that last phrase, "children are valued so much more." My in-laws do not value their precious babies any more/less than my friends and family here in the US.

the family leave is great in norway,too. my bil and his wife figured they'd have more income if he was a sahd and she went back to work after their baby. and i know she bf to at least age two.

eta: and they are just really used to boobs over there !
The comfort-with-boob part is certainly true. When I lived in Norway, women's breasts were not the supercharged, highly sexualized and objectified taboos that they are here.

As for valuing children more, I don't think Scandinavians love or value their kids more on an individual level. But their cultural respect for children as valuable human beings is certainly much greater than ours. To me, it's reflected in how they allocate their resources, infant mortality rates, their bf rates, the illegality of hitting children (and lower per capita rates of child abuse), and maternity/paternity leave and childcare policies. I think that if our gov't/society truly valued children the way that Sweden and Norway's do, then we would see more policies that mirror theirs.
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#10 of 22 Old 09-28-2006, 01:27 AM
 
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Scandinavians may have better matrernity leave but it is common practice in Denmark to park your baby alone outside while you go into a restraunt, so I wouldn't say they value their children more. They just have different values.

Timmy's Mommy WARNINGyslexic typing with help of preschooler, beware of typos
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#11 of 22 Old 09-28-2006, 01:39 AM
 
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I don't know much about Sweden, but I have learned a lot about Norway, through Rachel Myr, one of the list moms of Lactnet, the list for lactation professionals. She has posted sometimes about the situation there - I'll post what she told us about it:

All female public employees in Norway (and they have a humongous public sector) have long had the right to up to two hours per workday off with pay as long as they were breastfeeding.

There was no age limit for the child; this provision was from the time when
their maternity leave was only 12 weeks, in contrast to the nearly one year they have now, and they have managed to keep it in the contract ever since. That leave is also at full pay, BTW, and it is not subject to contract, it is set by law. BF breaks are also set by law, but the law only provides for up to one hour per day, and says nothing about pay.
She believes many private employees have this same provision, but she is not that
familiar with current contracts in the private sector.
For the record, virtually all women working in the health services are
covered by this contract as they are all public employees.
Even with all of this, she knows that many women feel it is difficult to make
use of their right to reduced hours at full pay, especially those who BF
after the 12 months which are the current recommendation. 'Thereafter as
mother and child wish' is the wording, instead of just using the WHO
wording, which of course is something like 'throughout the first two years
and thereafter as mother and child wish'.

On the down side, they in Norway are dealing with calls for equality between
parents, giving more of the one year of 'baby' leave to the father. Parents
can split it now, but most don't. Mothers stay home, fathers work outside
the home. Some of their politicians think it will be a good thing if mothers
and fathers spend equal time with the children from 6 weeks on. She thinks
they are forgetting about breastfeeding, which is something that can happen
when it is the cultural norm. It's just part of the background, they don't
even see it! All the more reason to be very ferocious about the
breastfeeding breaks. Sure, father can stay home, and bring baby to mother
at work for feeds, she says.

A woman who has been employed for pay can take off 80% of a year at full
pay, plus her annual paid holiday leave which is legislated to just over 4
weeks for ABSOLUTELY EVERYBODY employed in Norway. Mothers can also choose to take off a full year at 80% pay, or to share leave time with the father and both work reduced hours for up to three years. The first 6 weeks,
mothers are not allowed to return to paid work. After that they can choose
how to use their leave.

A woman who has been without paid employment during pregnancy is paid a
one-time cash benefit far short of 10 months' pay. So women tend to get
themselves a paid job before having a baby, because it is a much better deal
financially, she says.

One of the recent moves by the Norway government was to institute a cash bonus to all families with children under 3 who are not in licensed day care. This has been very controversial because it is making it nearly impossible to get teachers and nurses back to work in the first three years. It pays more to
stay home in many cases. Another area of controversy is that if they use a
babysitter on the gray market, they can continue to work at their paid
employment while collecting this benefit (US $300 per month per child under
3 years of age), she says.

HTH,
Janice
(BTW, we have one year paid maternity leaves here in Canada, but we still have a long way to go on our bfing rates. Our initiation rate is over 85%, but still our 6 month rate is only around 50%. Its more to do with culture, than maternity leaves.)
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#12 of 22 Old 09-28-2006, 01:55 AM
 
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I mostly am a lurker on this forum, but having lived in Sweden for 3 years and having dd1 born there, I wanted to clear up a few things.

First maternity leave is 360 days at 80% salary, and then an additional 60 days at a rate that is guaranteed to everyone (about $20/day). You can claim anywhere from 1 - 7 days per week, so you could take more than a year off, but have less money. You can also save the days and you have until your child is 7 years old to use them all. This is what the goverment insurance program offers, individual employers will top up these benefits. Most women do return to work at 1 year. the leave may be shared by both parents, but most times the mother takes the entire time. There are polititians lobbying for forced 50/50 split of parental leave, but I am against that, less for nursing reasons (though that is important), but more that the government shouldn't be making what should be family decisions.

2. Nursing is strongly encouraged at the hospital, but they do use formula in some cases (not pushed but it is there). DD was in the NICU for a few days, and she did get some formula, but I nursed and pumped, and she was fed with a cup not a bottle. Once my milk came in, and they were certain she was getting enough, they no longer gave her formula. If you do not try to breastfeed or don't breastfeed at all, it is generally looked down upon.

3. Though initiation rates are VERY high, not many nurse beyond 6-8 months. At 6 months, Swedish tradition to give what is called valling (basically a cereal fortified formula) takes over, and many moms wean after starting with valling. Also, once solids are started, they are quickly expected to replace nursing or formula to the point where they think 8-9 month old babies should only be nursing about twice a day. I got lectured by the public health nurse when dd didn't gain much weight that I was nursing too often. I was the only person that I knew in Sweden that nursed beyond 12 months.

There was an article in a Swedish newspaper recently about breastfeeding. They interviewed one mom who ff'd due to supply issues, and she was made to feel like a bad mother for not nursing, and then they interviewed a mom who was nursing her 2 year old, and she was made to feel like a bad mother by people around her who felt she nursed to long. I think that totally summed up the attitudes I experienced in Sweden. So while it may look great from the outside, it is far from perfect. I think the biggest changes need to come from the public health nurses in how they promote solids and supplementation over nursing after 6 months.
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#13 of 22 Old 09-28-2006, 02:00 AM
 
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Scandinavia has a strong feminist political mentality. They have had female prime ministers and I think, in one of the Scandinavian countries, the princess has a home birth.

Iceland has a Feminist political party with members in the Parliament.

Scandinavia as a whole has a very different outlook on life.
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#14 of 22 Old 09-28-2006, 02:02 AM
 
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Originally Posted by eepster View Post
... it is common practice in Denmark to park your baby alone outside while you go into a restraunt,
Yes, I do recall a Danish woman getting arrested for doing just that in NYC (child neglect and endangerment). Her reason was that she did that at home in Denmark, so why not here...?
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#15 of 22 Old 09-28-2006, 12:06 PM
 
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There is also a very different attitude about the human body. I think that many American women struggle to overcome the sexualization of their breasts and just can't get in the groove to embrace their whole biology when they could lactate.
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#16 of 22 Old 09-28-2006, 01:02 PM
 
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Originally Posted by miriam View Post
Scandinavia has a strong feminist political mentality. They have had female prime ministers and I think, in one of the Scandinavian countries, the princess has a home birth.

Iceland has a Feminist political party with members in the Parliament.

Scandinavia as a whole has a very different outlook on life.
These are really good points. Norway had a female prime minister when I lived there and it was no big deal. I do think that, when women finally start to share political power with men in the U.S., we will see some changes which benefit children and women. I think Scandinavia has evolved further than the U.S. when it comes to feminism/full human status for women (same thing in my mind).
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#17 of 22 Old 09-28-2006, 02:08 PM
 
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I am a small business owner and this discussion makes me curious - who pays for the extended maternity leave? The government (meaning, really the taxpayers)? The businesses themselves? Are there any exemptions for smaller businesses?

While I would have loved to have had an extended paid maternity leave, I also know that these sorts of benefits cost a lot of money to companies. I was hired as a temporary employee covering someone else's leave for three months. My brother, in the UK, was hired as a temporary employee for 6 months covering for someone else's leave.

Most places cannot really run well with employees gone for three months, let alone a year - they need to hire someone to replace the employee, and they often can't hire them fully or guarentee the new person a job at the end of the maternity leave. It does cause a HUGE disruption for the company. If you add on payment to the employee on leave a portion of their salary, plus the new temporary employee - wow, talk about huge costs. It is this sort of thing that leads to discrimination against pregnant women, IMO.

My second maternity leave was as an employee of my own company, so I know intimately the cost of me not working had for the company -luckily I had created a surplus in our bank account to give me two months of partial salary. But there is no way I could offer that sort of leave to any employee (which is one reason why we don't have any - another one is that we cannot afford to offer health insurance).

The bigger companies/corporations offer paid maternity leave in the US to professional women because they know the cost of replacing a skilled, experienced employee is greater than the cost of the leave. But, unfortunately, there is no economic incentive to offer paid maternity leave to an employee who can easily be replaced, which is why entry level or unskilled folks are rarely offered any kind of leave beyond vacation/sick days.

I am not saying that these folks don't deserve leave or that extended leave would not be a great thing. But we always have to think - who pays for it?

Siobhan
- personally, I think a few less missles at $1Mil a pop could be a good way to find the cash...

You know the attributes for a great adult? Initiative, creativity, intellectual curiosity? They make for a helluva kid...
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#18 of 22 Old 09-28-2006, 02:36 PM
 
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Re: How does maternity leaves get paid for.

I don't know about the Scan. countries, but here is the Cdn situation.

We have a whole fund here called "unemployment insurance" Maternity leaves are paid out of this, we've also added breavement leaves, too, I think.

Anyhow, every employee pays a portion of their pay into this fund (its mandatory). As well, every employer pays some % of wages, to the fund. The gov't runs this fund.

If an employee becomes unemployed, they will get a payment while they look for a job. They have to have worked enough weeks to qualify, they can't be an owner of the business, why you lost your job will affect how long the waiting period is before you get benefits (ie if you are fired for "cause", you must wait longer, or perhaps you don't qualify at all - I'm not an expert on this, and its never happened to me).

Full benefits (for unemployment, or for a maternity leave) are 55% of your wage. If you didn't work enough weeks beforehand, you may still get benefits, but it may be less than 55%. So maternity leave is just like unemployment insurance, except you don't have to prove you are looking for a job (an unemployed person needs to prove they are applying for jobs. BTW, unemployment benefits will eventually run out, if they take too long to find a new job).

Re. Maternity leaves - since they are only 55%, some moms can't afford to take the full maternity leave, since too much household income is lost. Some good employers may "top-up" to 90% or so, at least for a few months. Mine did for 3 months.

RE: job protection - this is seperate from the maternity benefits. All women who take a leave from the job due to maternity, have their own (or a similar job at the same level) protected for one year. So even if a mom doesn't qualify for maternity benefits, if she can afford to stay home, she can do so, and must be given her job back at one year or less.

BTW, only about 50% of female workers actually qualify for the maternity benefits. If they haven't been working, or haven't worked for enough weeks just prior to the leave, or are self-employer or do contract work, they won't qualify. This is frustrating for many.

BTW, this one year leave is entrenched in the system enough, that employers just accept it. The positions that are open due to mat. leave, give an opportunity for other people to try out jobs, and employers to try out new employees, that they may decide to keep on after the mat. leave is over. Some moms don't come back, so then the new employee just stays on.
Its also a chance for an employer to move people around within the organization.

We started with a 4 month leave in the 70's, then it was 6 months in the '90 (when I was working) and it became one year in 2001. This was without much lobbying from moms. I think the gov't actually uses the one year leave to try to keep moms in the work force (and be taxpayers) in the long run - cause once a mom quits to stay home with baby, she usually stays home longer than one year (I'm a good example of that - I've been home 7 years!)

HTH
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#19 of 22 Old 09-28-2006, 02:47 PM
 
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Just read your edits, siobhang

I think the one year leave actually works better than 4 or 6 months did. It is long enough that you HAVE to hire someone to fill in for the missing mom. When I went on leave, it was 6 months, and my employer didn't fill my position - since I sold textbooks to schools, and 2 of those months were in the summer when we didn't do much anyhow cause the school were closed. They looked at it as an opportunity to save money on salary, if they didn't hire a replacement.

That sucked, because I felt pressure to come back early, and it put pressure on my manger, who was covering for me. And then when I took extra leave that I was eligible for, I think they were *really* ticked off at me - if they had just hired someone right from the beginning, it wouldn't have mattered. Actually people like taking these jobs, because they open up career possibilities that wouldn't have been there otherwise. They know going in, that they may not have a job in the end. Maybe with our UI here, that gives us more flexibility in looking for jobs - these workers that took the position opened up by the mat. leave, would themselves be eligible for unemployment benefits when the job was done. And of course our health care isn't tied to our jobs, like you in the US.
so its not a huge risk to be unemployed.

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#20 of 22 Old 09-28-2006, 03:43 PM
 
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Most places cannot really run well with employees gone for three months, let alone a year - they need to hire someone to replace the employee, and they often can't hire them fully or guarentee the new person a job at the end of the maternity leave. It does cause a HUGE disruption for the company. If you add on payment to the employee on leave a portion of their salary, plus the new temporary employee - wow, talk about huge costs. It is this sort of thing that leads to discrimination against pregnant women, IMO.
I would argue that having someone in on a maternity leave contract creates FAR less disruption than having someone just *gone* for three months.

In Australia we have a year off, and lots of people use one year maternity contracts in their careers. But we tend to be more mobile between jobs than Americans, because jobs are just money - not health benefits (those are everyone's right, not just employed people) , and you don't have to stay at one place forever to get a decent length of holiday.

Our leave is unpaid, but you do get a cash payment of $4000 when a baby is born, and of course, medical care is essentially free, and childcare is subsidised.
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#21 of 22 Old 09-28-2006, 07:18 PM
 
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I have family in Norway. And while bfing in the beginning months is definitely the norm and expected and moms get great maternity leave....they are EXPECTED to return to full work duties in one year. It is generally looked down upon if after your one year leave if you don't return to work. My cousin decided to stay home after the year leave and she got LOTS of flack from everyone, especially strangers. She breastfed past a year and that was NOT common or the "cultural norm". She was expected after a year to wean that babe and come back to work and " contribute to society".

But, they should get kudos for their high bfing rates for the beginning months...it's a great beginning for their babes and I'm sure they have a lot of healthy babes there. We should try and have as a high as rates as them, our babies deserve it just as much!

Heather , momma to ' Parker- 10, Carlee- 7 and our baby Genevieve Faith - 8-27-10

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#22 of 22 Old 09-29-2006, 12:45 AM
 
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I have family in Norway. And while bfing in the beginning months is definitely the norm and expected and moms get great maternity leave....they are EXPECTED to return to full work duties in one year. It is generally looked down upon if after your one year leave if you don't return to work. My cousin decided to stay home after the year leave and she got LOTS of flack from everyone, especially strangers. She breastfed past a year and that was NOT common or the "cultural norm". She was expected after a year to wean that babe and come back to work and " contribute to society".

But, they should get kudos for their high bfing rates for the beginning months...it's a great beginning for their babes and I'm sure they have a lot of healthy babes there. We should try and have as a high as rates as them, our babies deserve it just as much!

This is the EXACT same expectation in Sweden. Contribute to society means work and pay taxes. SAHM's are rare and usually looked down on. It is also not common at all to breastfeed after 12 months, and if you go back to work before your full year, it seems to be more common to wean, not pump for the baby.

While I think North America could learn a lot from the Scandanavian countries, I think (and I can only speak from my experience with Sweden), that the feminist movement has gone too far in one direction, where women feel almost forced to work to support the "cause" and contribute to society even if she doesn't want to.
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