Maternity and child health clinic’s frequently asked questions

This site contains questions most frequently asked at Helsinki’s maternity and child health clinics. The answers have been written and checked by nurses. Read through all the questions before opening the maternity and child health clinic’s chat or calling the centralised telephone service. However, in urgent matters, do not hesitate to contact your health station. If you do not need an answer straightaway, you can contact a nurse at your own maternity and child health clinic via e-services, for example.

Maternity and child health clinic's nurse answers questions from families expecting a child and parents of small children.

Questions during pregnancy

It depends on how far along you are and if you are having any other symptoms. If you are also having smelly, odd-coloured vaginal discharge or feeling pressure in your lower abdomen, you should have a physician check for vaginitis and/or a urinary tract infection. During early and mid-pregnancy, a physician at a health station should assess the situation and your need for a sick leave. During late pregnancy, contractions are fine as long as you do not have any other worrying symptoms. From pregnancy week 37 onwards, you should call the maternity hospital if you are having contractions every 5–10 minutes.

As pregnancy progresses, the foetal movements change. This may make you feel like the baby is no longer moving as much. Also, if you are physically very active, the baby’s movements are harder to detect. Lie down on your side and note down all the movements you can detect in one hour. Count every movement apart from the baby’s hiccups. If you can detect 10 movements, there is no need for concern. If you detect less than 10 movements in an hour, continue monitoring the situation for another hour or repeat the one-hour monitoring after a while. If there is still little movement (less than 10 per hour), the well-being of the foetus must be checked at a maternity hospital’s emergency services. If the foetus is really active, you do not have to spend a whole hour counting the movements.

Read more about foetal movements:
Naistalo – Liikkuuko sikiö (in Finnish)

Light spotting and physical sensations in the lower abdomen are common during early pregnancy. You can monitor the situation at home at first. If the bleeding becomes heavier or the pain severe, or if any symptoms of an infection appear (e.g. urination problems or unusual, heavier leucorrhoea), contact your health station.

Pelvic area pain experienced during pregnancy is called symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD). Typically, pain is felt in the lower back, pubic symphysis, lower abdomen, thighs or the groin area. The pain is caused when the pregnancy hormones loosen the pubic symphysis. After the baby is born, the pain will lessen and usually disappear within a few months. Resting often eases the symptoms. You can exercise as much as the pain will allow you. Often, the pain is worse when you begin moving but eases somewhat if you stay active. You can place a pillow between your knees when sleeping on your side in order to improve the position of your hips. You can take paracetamol if the pain is strong.

If the pain is so severe that it inhibits your everyday life and the paracetamol is not helping, or if your legs begin to feel numb, you should have a check-up with a physician at your health station.

Mood swings are a natural part of pregnancy and caused by hormones. Some women have stronger symptoms than others. Many find they feel better when they talk to their friends, family or a professional.

Mostly, yes. Sex and intercourse will not harm the foetus. You should only avoid intercourse if you are having strong premature contractions or bleeding. Your growing tummy may limit the number of suitable positions, because placing heavy pressure on the uterus must be avoided. Positions where the man penetrates the woman from behind are suitable. Having an orgasm will not induce labour.

Read more about sex during pregnancy:
Naistalo – Seksi (in Finnish)

It is impossible to give specific heart rates or detailed instructions. Mostly, pregnancy is not a reason to stop exercising; on the contrary, exercise will improve your well-being and promote your baby’s health. You can continue training as before, but do keep an eye on how you are feeling. Exercise should not cause less foetal movements, bleeding, painful contractions, dizziness, headaches, extreme breathlessness, chest pain, extreme fatigue or sore and swollen calves. Avoid sports involving hitting, jumping, jolts, quick changes of direction or a risk of falling. You should also avoid training on your stomach, and after the 16th pregnancy week also lying on your back. Check with the maternity and child health clinic about continuing your sports hobby.

Read more about exercise during pregnancy:
UKK Institute – Liikunta raskauden aikana (in Finnish)

All the known foods that might pose a risk have been listed in the instructions regarding food. The risk of contracting listeria or toxoplasmosis, for example, is relatively low. Monitor how you are feeling. If you develop breathing problems, swelling in the lymph nodes at the front or back of your neck, diarrhoea or fever, contact your health station.

In general you can, unless you have specifically been instructed to avoid lifting things. One trick is to sit down and ask the child to climb onto your lap, if possible. Otherwise, you can lift things based on how you feel.

Read more about foetal movements:
Naistalo – Liikkuuko sikiö (in Finnish)

Yes. Swimming is an excellent form of exercise, and having a sauna can be soothing. The risk of infection only increases once your waters break or have begun to trickle towards the very end of your pregnancy. Quick changes in body temperature should be avoided during pregnancy, because they may cause contractions. Do not bathe for too long or in excessively hot temperatures, and take breaks to cool down.

Normally, yes. However, towards the end of your pregnancy you should check with your maternity and child health clinic first. Flying during late pregnancy can induce labour, which is why airlines will require a medical certificate during late pregnancy. Airlines make their own rules, including when a certificate is required. Public healthcare will not issue these certificates. If you are going to be travelling by plane, you should take into account the risk of thrombosis: get yourself a pair of compression stockings, flex your joints, stretch, get up from your seat and move around regularly, and drink enough fluids. Avoid travel to regions that are in a state of emergency, countries with a low level of hygiene and areas with a risk of yellow fewer or malaria.

Read more about travelling when pregnant

Questions about the child’s first year

Babies under one month of age: a child should poop roughly once a day. The amount equalling a two-euro coin in size is sufficient. If the baby has not pooped in a long while, contact the maternity and child health clinic.

Breastfed babies over one month of age: breastfed babies can go for a long time without pooping, but are not necessarily suffering from constipation. If the baby seems healthy, just monitor the situation. You can help the baby feel better by bringing their knees up to their tummy or by massaging the tummy gently. A warm bath can also be soothing/helpful. If these instructions do not help, contact the maternity and child health clinic.

If the baby is eating solid foods in addition to breastmilk, nurse them frequently enough. Different types of whole grain porridge, various vegetables, pears, plums, raspberries and strawberries are beneficial foods for the stomach. On the other hand, bananas and blueberries can worsen constipation. If the symptoms persist, contact your maternity and child health clinic.

Cleaning the navel with a cotton bud dipped in water and then drying it may be sufficient. However, slight bleeding and odours are normal. Clean the bottom of the navel twice a day with a cotton bud moistened with an antiseptic. It is important to dry the bottom of the navel after cleaning. Once the odours have disappeared, you can return to the normal cleaning routine with water.

Read more basic baby care:
Naistalo – Vauvan perushoito (in Finnish)

The most important thing is for every family to find a suitable way of (getting the baby to fall asleep) and to sleep with the baby. The baby will become accustomed to what the parents are offering them, and this will not result in ‘bad’ habits in the future. The baby will benefit from knowing they are surrounded by familiar people. Closeness reduces the stress experienced by the baby and the parents, and also helps ease nursing. Always make sure that the baby is safe when sleeping in the same bed:

  • a parent must not smoke
  • no intoxicants
  • no pillow
  • no risk of falling off the bed
  • not for babies born prematurely
  • the sleeping surface must be firm

Babies begin eating solid foods at the age of 4–6 months, and the precise time depends on their development and motor skills. If your baby is under six months old, seems satisfied, and according to your maternity and child health clinic is growing well eating nothing but breastmilk, there is no need to feed the baby solid foods. It is still recommended that babies be breastfed until they are six months old, if they are growing well.

A child will be ready to eat solid food once they can sit up straight in their high chair while being supported, can control their head movements, and are trying to reach for food items with their hands. This usually happens at around the age of six months. Children should be started on solid foods with small taste samples, and for the first year breastmilk should remain their main staple.

Read more:
THL – Eating together - food recommendations for families with children

Once the child can sit upright, usually when they are 6–8 months old. The maternity and child health clinic will check if the baby is ready. If a high chair seems too big for the baby, you can use a pillow to support them. It is important to remember safety: never leave a child unmonitored and always use the safety straps.

Typically at six months, either the child will begin eating less often at night or the mother can start reducing the number of night-time feedings one session at a time.

There is no single answer for this. The weather, the baby’s age, health and clothes, the quality of the pram or baby carrier, and how well the baby is nursing affect the timing. If the baby is protected from the wind and the outdoor temperature is not extremely cold, a healthy baby born full term can be taken outside for a short time equal in length to a quick visit to the corner shop straight after having been discharged from the hospital. The Helsinki region has a marine climate, and taking a baby outdoors when the temperature is below -10 °C is generally not recommended. However, spending a brief moment outdoors is not harmful, even in colder temperatures, while visiting the maternity and child health clinic or a shop, for example.

These are called hormonal spots, and they are caused when the baby’s body begins to produce its own hormones. Typically, these spots appear at 6–8 weeks of age, mostly in the head and shoulder area. Sometimes they can resemble severe acne. The hormonal spots will disappear on their own and you do not need to do anything about them. Some children already have these spots when they are born, and others may experience them twice.

A small child does not need access to media in order to develop properly. Interaction with parents and siblings and watching them go about their daily chores is the best entertainment for a small baby. Staring at a screen extensively is harmful to a baby. The images and sounds coming from a television, smartphone or computer can scare, activate or confuse them. Babies find flashing lights, sounds and colours interesting, but they provide too much stimulus for the brain. A parent should also make sure that media do not take too much of the family’s attention away from the child. However, there is no harm if the baby accidentally glances at a screen.

Talk to your baby as much as possible. You can explain to your baby what you are currently doing with them or point out things you can see through a window. You can talk to your baby about almost any topic that is positive. Babies cannot understand speech, but they interpret its volume, rhythm and tone. Your baby will be interested in keeping an eye contact with you and watching your facial expressions. Everyone is different, so talk to your baby in your own natural way. The most important thing is to just talk. Nursery rhymes and poems promote a child’s speech development from an early age.

Nursery rhyme books are available at libraries: Helmet search

Every baby will develop at their own pace, and the motor skills do not require any special training. A small baby should be lifted from a flat surface to your arms by first rolling them over to their side, because this will strengthen their muscles. Being held improves the child’s muscle control, and you should vary the carrying positions. The best place for a child besides being held is on the floor on top of a quilt or something similar. A hard surface will help the baby learn body control. The baby can lie on the floor on their back, allowing them to become familiar with their body and practise using their hands and grabbing things. The baby should also practise staying on the floor on their stomach for as long as they feel comfortable in that position. This will help the baby learn to put weight on their arms, and this position will also strengthen their other muscles. Staying on the floor on their stomach is necessary for the baby to develop their motor skills. Avoid using equipment that limits the child’s natural movement patterns, such as doorway jumpers or walkers.

You do not necessarily need to do anything, because some babies naturally develop temporary dry skin on their heads. If the layer of dry skin is thick and continues to grow, you should treat it by applying lotion, washing and brushing the baby’s head with a soft brush. You can also apply skin oil on the baby’s head and put on a hat for a few hours. After this, you can brush away the dry skin and wash the baby’s head.

You should avoid exposing your baby to direct sunlight. UV radiation is harmful to children. Protect the baby’s skin with clothing or a pram hood. Please note, however, that the inside temperature in a pram can rise quite high in the summer. Let the child sleep in the shade. Protect their eyes with sun glasses. Do not use sunscreen on babies. You can ask about sun protection for older children at the pharmacy.

There is a video on how to remove a blockage from a baby’s airway. You can watch it here.

On average, children stop nursing between the ages of one and two, if you let them decide when the breastfeeding should end. On the other hand, when a mother wishes to start weaning the child, the best way for both the baby and mother is to leave out one session at a time. The evening feeding is often left out last. It is easier to reduce the number of day-time nursing sessions or to end them completely, because you can offer the child other foods, drink or activities instead. The parents should remain calm and consistent, even if the child protests when they are no longer breastfed at night. It will take the baby and the family some time to become used to the new situation. It often takes 1–2 weeks to wean the child off the night-time breastfeeding. If the mother’s breasts feel strained due to the milk, she should express some to ease the tenderness. A prescription drug is available for quickly stopping the milk production under special circumstances.

Questions about toddlers and pre-schoolers (1–6 years)

It all comes down to their daily level of activity. They should spend plenty of time outdoors and playing games every day, and in the evenings they should begin getting ready for bed early enough. This means avoiding wild games, screens and anything else that might activate the child. The most important thing in the evenings is to calm down: talk about the day’s events and inform the child in advance about bedtime, as they may find abrupt transitions from playtime to bedtime irritating. Develop an evening routine for your family, such as reading a bedtime story, and stick to it. This will create a sense of safety for the child.

Read more about helping a child fall asleep:
MLL – Lapsella on vaikeuksia nukahtaa (in Finnish).

No, but many toddlers still need naps. A toddler will automatically stop taking naps once they start getting enough sleep at night. At Helsinki’s daycare centres, children take a nap or at least lie down to rest. The same arrangement is also beneficial for children in home care.

Negative age is a period in a child’s development when they begin expressing their own will. The child will practise wanting things, but in order to feel safe they will need clear boundaries.

A child going through this phase needs a parent’s help to regulate their emotions in order to later be able to do this independently. They will also learn to recognise their own boundaries and spend time with other children and adults. You can verbalise the child’s emotions by saying, for example, ‘You are tired and upset right now because...’

For example, if the child is having a tantrum and you are in a hurry, becoming upset yourself will only make things worse. Even though it is not easy, the child will feel safe when you stay calm and keep giving them clear instructions, and options if possible. This way, the situation may be resolved faster. During a tantrum, you can also try calming the situation down by calmly holding the child in your arms or staying close to them.

Toddlers’ tantrums typically relate to putting on or taking off clothes, having to transition from one activity to another, and being tired. You can try to anticipate these situations and give the child instructions in advance before moving from one activity to the next. However, a parent should always be the one who decides what is done. In a challenging situation, you can try to steer the child’s attention away to something else. A game or a bit of humour may also help solve a problematic situation. Give the child positive feedback when they behave well and things go smoothly.

Read more about tantrums

Children are afraid of losing their parents, which is natural. This is known as separation anxiety. A child must be allowed to miss another person, and telling them to just be brave will be of no use. You should clearly explain to your child in advance when you are going to be absent, even if the child cannot yet speak. A parent should show tenderness towards the child before leaving, and the child should see the parent go. The parent can leave a photograph of themselves to the child or talk to them over the phone while being away. Children older than three years of age can already maintain a mental image of their parents and know that the parents will ultimately come and pick them up.

It is impossible to give an exact recommendation on how much time a child should spend watching television each day. Instead, what matters is what the child does in front of the TV and how they react to what they see. A child’s daily activities should include interaction with others, playing, exercise, rest and relaxation. You will know that a child is spending too much time in front of a screen if watching television interferes with the time they spend doing other things or makes the child irritable or tired, negatively affects their ability to concentrate or leads to sleeplessness. You can make agreements with the child about using media.

A child does not need a television or a computer to support their development. However, when the child turns two, a moderate amount of media access can be utilised as a learning tool. The child should be introduced to screens gradually, and the time that a small child spends in front of them should be limited to brief moments. You should help the child learn about the television or the computer together. A parent should pay attention to the recommended age limits and unsuitable content. In addition, they should think about how media is being used in their family in general. Is the TV often on? Does a child have access to a tablet on their own when they are feeling bored? How often do the family members use their smartphones in the company of the child? A child should learn to cope with boredom.

Read more about children and media:
MLL – Lapset ja media (in Finnish)

There is no need to worry. The position of a child’s legs and feet will change considerably as they grow. Newborns have bowed legs, i.e. their knees are away from each other. The position of the knees will change into knock knees and the feet will turn inwards when the child is around three. Many pre-schoolers, on the other hand, have flat feet, meaning that the feet are externally rotated and the weight is on the inside of the foot. The legs will straighten out by the time the child starts school.

In most cases, no. A toddler may find it easier to become accustomed to the new situation if they have ample time to get used to the new family member and spend time at home with the rest of the family. However, remember that a three-year-old will need daily social interaction and activities with other people.

There is no need for any treatment as water warts are harmless. They are caused by a virus. The child’s body will ultimately become immune to the virus, and the water warts will disappear on their own, although this may take several years.

Read more about water warts:
Terveyskirjasto – Ontelosyylä eli molluska (in Finnish)

A toddler’s skin should be protected with clothing and their eyes with sunglasses. A hat is also important. If necessary, you can use a physiological sunscreen in skin areas that cannot be covered. Ask for more information at the pharmacy.

By talking to your child. Children learn to speak through ordinary everyday discussions and speech, when you talk to your child and listen to them speak in turn, and when questions are asked and answered. In addition, speech and language development are also supported by playing, singing and reading together. Language development varies greatly between individuals: every child’s language and speech develop at their own pace. The stages of development follow the same order, but the pace at which everyone goes through them varies greatly. Reading and talking to the child are essential to their speech development. Reading books to them every day will be beneficial. The City of Helsinki’s libraries have a large collection of books for children of all ages. Use the map to find a suitable library:

Provide your child with a wide range of opportunities to move around. Playing outdoors, climbing, jumping, ball games, traditional outdoor games, riding a balance bike, using a slide and playing in the snow or sand promote children’s development. Let your child boldly test their skills, such as climbing a tree, while you are present.

Read more about outdoor games:
Perinneleikit ry – Pihaleikit (in Finnish)

There is no need to worry, if the child has energy to stay active and is feeling healthy. Try to remain flexible about food and remain calm despite feeling annoyed or worried. Issuing orders, assigning blame, forcing or blackmailing the child, or having an excessively strict attitude towards eating or not eating, will only serve to make the meal times less comfortable. Prepare your food together and make sure that your whole family eats the same food at the same time.

Remove all distractions during meal times and make these moments about pleasant interaction. Try to talk about food and eating in a positive way. Keep the daily eating schedule regular and cut back on snacks between meals. You can introduce new flavours with the help of old favourites. Encourage your child to have a taste and tell them what you would like them to do, but trying to coerce the child will not work.

Read more about picky eating:
Neuvokas perhe – 10 vinkkiä nirsoiluun ja valikoivaan syömiseen (in Finnish)

There are no specific toys that are absolutely necessary for a child’s development. The most important thing is that you play and talk with your child and look them in the eye. Use your imagination and familiar surroundings to your aid. A child can train their imagination and playing skills with any objects that are safe. All children need something they can play with.

It is difficult for a child to regulate their emotions, especially when their speech is still developing. A child may express themselves through emotions when words are not enough. You should intervene immediately if a child behaves violently. Be consistent and fair. Tell the child that no one should hurt another person under any circumstances. Remember that a child’s emotions are never wrong but that they must practise expressing them in an appropriate way.

Read more about helping a child regulate their feelings:
MLL – Lapsen tunteiden säätelyssä auttaminen (in Finnish)

There is a video on how to remove a blockage from a child’s airway. You can watch it here.

Having a new younger sibling is a huge change in a child’s life, and being jealous is completely natural. Discuss the matter with the child already during the pregnancy. Many parents tell the news to their child after the structural ultrasound scan. Try to keep your family’s everyday life unchanged around the time of the birth. Let your child show tenderness and interest towards the baby and praise the child’s skills. You should also set aside some time for the older child to spend with their parents, together and separately.

Read more about a new child and jealousy:
MLL – Mustasukkaisuutta, kun perheeseen syntyy vauva (in Finnish)

Libraries also have several books on the topic: Helmet search

21.01.2019 15:18