How to have babies in Norway

I will not explain here the technicalities of making babies in Norway. That stuff happens here just like everywhere else in the world. However, some other elements are taken into consideration when having babies in this country.

1- Barnehage (Kindergarten)
Chinese people all try to have babies during a certain year (of the pig, of the snake or whatever will make the baby rich and famous according to Chinese astrology). In Norway, and especially in areas such as Oslo where spots in kintergardens are scarce, couples have to think about dates when the baby will be born in order to have a secured spot in a kindergarten. If a child is born before 1st of December he or she is ensured to get a spot, otherwise his or her parents will have to find alternative ways to get their progeny taken care of while they have to og back to work. Or they might have to take unpaid leave. It can get complicated and expensive. Note that most Norwegians cannot afford to have nannies at home as one would have in other countries, so both usually work, and nobody else than the grandparents will sign up to take care of the baby all day long. So a solution is needed, and usually that solution is called “Let’s make a baby who will be born between May and August so that he goes to kindergarten when we are done with our parental leave”. Alternatively the government gives you around 7500 kroner per month when the kid does not have a secured spot in a kindergarten after he/she turns one year old. But the criteria to get that are tighter than ever (have to have had residence for 5 years) and what does one do with 7500 kroner a month in Norway anyway?

2- Foreldrepermisjon (Parental leave)
Also, depending on when the kid will be born, parents will have different parental leave dates. Would you prefer not working and take care of your kid outside during the summer when days are long and warm and full of sun or during the winter when everyone wants to sleep 15 hours per night and commit suicide? Exactly.
Mums get the first months usually as they deliver the baby, but then dads can chose, usually they take it when the mum goes back to work or later. So if your kid is born in the Winter it means the mum and the dad will have the whole spring + summer holidays together (one on holiday one on permisjon). If the kid is born in December or January you have basically lost everything: not only your permisjon will be in the Autumn + Winter but on top of that when you og back to work you will have no Kindergarten spot for your kid and might have to stay at home without a salary waiting for the golden spot. Again, this is about plannlegging, or planning like Norwegians say.

3- The Wool religion 

Also, whether your baby is born in the winter or not, winter is coming and you’ll need to get that kiddo dressed up. You will quickly notice that Norwegians have all these rules about dressing their babies during winter. Rule number 1: use wool, lots of wool. You will not only find all sorts of woollen underwear for babies in baby shops (usually in merino wool) but also second hand “wool package” (ullpakke) on finn.no. The aim is to regulate body temperature, and avoid them being cold. If your baby gets rashes with wool (yes it happens), good luck explaining the kindergarten staff. Wool is a religion in this country. Rule number 2: layering. The idea is to have the first layer close to the skin in thin wool, then a thicker woollen “dress” or woollen overall, and then a full “winterdress” which is a full overall windproof and waterproof. I just tell my mum that the clothes needed here are those for skiing holidays in France so that she gets the right gear.

4- Sleeping outside

From a very very young age, Norwegian parents are encouraged to put their babies to sleep outside, usually in a pram full of fur. The advantage of this system is that your baby will learn from a very young age how to avoid freezing to death under layers of wool and with minus temperature wind on his or her face. Norwegians believe this increases immunity and decreases risks of getting sick for small children. I don’t know whether that is verified, but what I do know is that my own baby loves to sleep outside when at the kindergarten. That is how he does his daily naps there, on the balcony packed in wool. When it goes below -10 degrees celcius they do take them inside though.

5- The Bread Diet

Baby diet in Norway is made of three main ingredients: bread, pålegg and porridge. At least if you believe what they feed them in kindergartens. Pålegg is usually a tube filled with something coloured in shades of red and pink: kaviar (a mayonnaise with fish eggs and lots of salt), mackerel and tomato paste (Makrell i tomat), a sweet paste of brown cheese with milk (Prim) and more. I have had many conversations with different kindergartens on the food and what Norwegians think is appropriate food for babies (kindergartens accept kids from 8 months old) but there is an invisible wall here that makes it hard for people to understand that kids can eat something else. Warm meals come by as often as unicorns. A very vast topic that I could write novels about.

6- Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is something Norwegian authorities largely encourage, and the official advice is to breastfeed 2 years, as advised by the World Health Organisation. In the Norwegian Labour Law, it says mothers who breastfeed get one hour per day paid to breastfeed until the child is one year old, and in some companies/state institutions that climbs to two hours per day until the kid is 2 years old! It is not uncommon to hear moms asking for a room in an office to pump some milk for their production not to decrease during the work day.

7- Viking Names
Will your baby have a Norwegian or a foreign name? The fashion now is to go back to old rune or Viking names from the mythology. Names such as Asger, Brynjulf and Eira.
Just make sure you choose right, as names have a cultural and social meaning beyond what you know from your culture. For example I have an Indonesian friend called Rus, which means “drugs” in Norwegian. Of course he was not born here, but as foreigners we sometimes miss some crucial information.

If you chose a name such as Harry, Ronny or Doris you might give your child a hell of a childhood and adult life as those are what Norwegians associate with “White trash” culture. The most given names in Norway currently, according to Life in Norway’s recent article, are Nora and Jakob. Nora comes from the tv show SKAM. If you want to go full Norse you can choose Odin, Tor, Frøya, or Adbjørg. Good luck leaving the country after that 🙂

8- Is your kid Norwegian?

In case you were wondering, even if your child is born in Norway, he or she will be of Norwegian citizenship only if at least one of the parents is Norwegian, or if the child has resided in Norway a certain number of years. So you might call your kids Asbjørn and Dagny, they might be blond and speak perfect Norwegian after being in kindergarten for a few years, but it does not mean they are Norwegian citizens. You can ask for double citizenship (there are some criteria) for you and/or your kid.

10 thoughts on “How to have babies in Norway

  1. Funny!
    The magic date for kindergarten is 1st September! Also if your child doesn’t have a fulltime (or only part time) spot in kindergarten the parents can apply for «kontantstøtte», often used to pay a «dagmamma» until your child can start kindergarten.

  2. Bonjour,

    J’adore vos blogs. J’ai grandi en Norvège (de 6 mois à 21 ans) et trouve que ce que vous écrivez est très juste et même j’apprends des choses.
    Je remarque que votre conjoint n’est pas norvégien, vous n’avez donc pas été séduite par un nordique, moi non plus mais à l’époque il n’y avait pas beaucoup d’étrangers; j’ai donc du m’expatrier en France, hélas. A mon grand regret, je n’ai pu transmettre la culture nordique à mes enfants.
    Bonne chance à vous et votre famille.
    JRD

  3. Nora er vell teknisk sett fra Ibsens “et dukkehjem”, men ble revitalisert av skam sin Noora 🙂 Hilsen Ibsen og Skam fan 🙂 Koser meg med bloggen din!

  4. This is just too hilarious! My grandparents emigrated from Norway to Canada in the early 1900’s… and what did my aunt – Gurine and uncle – Otto, name two of their children? Harry and Doris! The third wasn’t Ronny, but it was Donny.

  5. I would love an article ( or book!) about food for children as I am currently trying to navigate what matglede means here in Norway and what it means to me! I am finding it hard as a new parent with a different food culture to just be told be” Sånn gjør vi det her” .. especially when I question the quality of these traditional foods ( leverpostei, kaviar..)

  6. Haha, très juste! Chaque matin je maudis cette pauvre tradition du déjeuner consistant de tartines de pålegg que je me dois de préparer avant la journée de barnehage et qui m’empêche de profiter d’un petit déjeuner avec mes enfants.

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