Thursday, 1 February 2018

Home Births and Tricare Overseas (Examples from South Korea)

Tricare Overseas is not like Tricare stateside. A few women recently had home births in Korea and filed claims with Tricare Standard. After a year of going back and forth, with Tricare asking for more and more documentation and these women being reassured that Tricare would reimburse them, Tricare finally issued their response: they wouldn't cover it. None of it was covered. These women were about $8,000 out of pocket. The home births took place with staff from MediFlower.

What Kind of Labor and Delivery is Covered?
On Tricare's website it states that labor and delivery are covered. On that page, they also say . . .

Facility/Provider
Usually, your TRICARE plan determines the type of birthing facility you will use (military or civilian, office-based or freestanding, etc.). You also have different options for the type of provider who delivers your baby (obstetrician, Family practice provider and or Certified nurse midwife, etc.). These types of decisions will be made by you and your provider during your prenatal visits. 

However, there is no mention of home births, just certified nurse midwives. All midwives in Korea are CNMs.


What about Home Births?
Tricare Standard actually does mention home births. The December 2015 Tricare Maternity Care Fact Sheet talks about choosing to deliver at home and what the cost shares are. 
Source
Contacting Tricare on Facebook and the Tricare Overseas Hotline
That sounds promising, doesn't it? Don't get your hopes up. I contacted them on Facebook since the Tricare Overseas hotline kept saying home births should be fine when I talked to a representation after pressing 3 (for claims).

Source

Calling Tricare Overseas, Again
About a week later, I called the Tricare Overseas hotline, again. This time instead of calling about claims, I pressed 2 (for referrals and authorizations). I said it looks like home births are covered but women in Korea are repeatedly getting denied. They put me on hold and came back and said home births are considered home health care and home health care is not covered overseas. I couldn't believe it, but sure enough, you can find the information on Tricare's site as well. How in the world they consider home birth to be the same as an illness or injury is beyond me, but that's Tricare for you!

Source
The funny part is that they're wrong. (I know, you're shocked that Tricare is wrong). Home births are not home care. So why aren't home births being covered? It's because of the midwives.


Are Korean Midwives Covered?
The midwives they went through also work at a birthing center in Seoul. Tricare Overseas will cover births at that birthing center (MediFlower), but won't cover home births. Tricare says they cover midwife services if they're state licensed and certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board.

Korean midwife do not fulfill those requirements, so why is Tricare reimbursing patients who give birth at the birthing center but not those who give birth at home? When women give birth at the birthing center, a doctor is put down on the invoice since there is always a doctor on call. The midwife is then put down as a nurse. The same is not true for home births: the midwife is simply put down.

Source

Bottom Line: Tricare is Not Covering Home Births in Korea
It's not fair to women to be told that home births are covered and then to find out they're stuck paying the full bill. Had these women known, they may have gone to birthing centers or chosen a less expensive midwife.


Tricare's Convoluted Stance on Home Birth Overseas
On Tricare's website it states that labor and delivery are covered. However, there is no mention of home births, just certified nurse midwives (CNM). All midwives in Korea are CNMs. Tricare claims that home births overseas fall under home health care and therefore don't cover them. Home birth really isn't home care. If Tricare doesn't want to cover home births overseas, that's up to them, however, they should update their maternity section and specifically list home births.

If You Still Want to Have a Home Birth, Read This:
If you're going to have a home birth in Korea, here's a list of providers. You might also want to consider reading The Essential Homebirth Guide as well as getting some birthing supplies together.

I personally believe that women should allow to choose where they give birth as long as they are able to do so safely. Hopefully Tricare will change. I just wouldn't hold my breath. Since Tricare isn't covering home births overseas, you have three options.
  1. Choose a cheaper midwife. MediFlower is great, don't get me wrong, but they're also more than double what other birthing centers charge for people with Tricare.
  2. Choose to give birth wherever you want and pay out of pocket. Don't bother filing a claim.
  3. Go to the USA and find a CNM who will do home births.  

Tips for Dealing with Tricare or any Medical Insurance Company
This medical hack below has lots of tips to help you out. Many times the people dealing with claims are paid minimum wage and have no medical background. They're simply checking boxes. If a claim is denied, it's usually because certain boxes aren't check. The last thing you want to do is have someone with no medical background making decisions about your health coverage! So follow these tips below if your claims are denied. (This will not work for home births in Korea since they don't fulfill Tricare Overseas requirements).


 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Tender Embrace Birthing offers childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn care classes and support.


Monday, 1 January 2018

Understanding Korean Birth Certificates

Korea Citizenship
Just because your child was born in Korea doesn't mean they automatically get Korean citizenship. Most countries, like Korea, follow jus sanguinis (right of blood) not jus solis (right of soil, i.e. anchor babies). However, they will get a Korean birth certificate.

Birth Certificates
There are no local or national birth certificate records per se. There are family certificates, but it's different than what we use. Each hospital has their own format for the birth certificates. Your doctor or midwife should be able to give you a birth certificate in English as well as Korean. Once you have that, then you should be able to take it to your embassy or consulate and get that country to issue the baby a birth certificate.

You may need to get the birth certificate translated if the embassy won't accept it in English or Korean. If you get it translated, then you will also probably need to get it apostillised. Even if you don't get it translated, you might need to get it apostillised. Ask your embassy what they require. Some translators will do this for you for an extra fee. The apostillisation center is in Gwanghwamun in Seoul, is in the same building as the Korean passport office.

After that you shouldn't need the Korean birth certificate anymore. However, since birth certificates are only issued by the hospital, I would get a few copies just in case. You never know if you may need it in the future.

Information on the Birth Certificate
Each hospital has their own format. The birth certificates that I've gotten are just printed on plain paper and don't look like anything special at all. Most will include:
  • Mother's name, date of birth, job
  • Father's name, date of birth, job
  • Baby's name*
  • Birth date and time
  • Weight and Height
  • Name, address, phone number, email, and fax (if applicable) of the hospital or clinic
  • Doctor's or Midwife's Signature
  • Hospital's, Doctor's, or Midwife's Stamp
*Some hospitals will put down the mother's name followed by the word "baby" on birth certificates. For example, if the mom is called Mary Smith and the baby will be called Jane Smith, they would put down Mary Smith baby. Most embassies will not accept that, so make sure that they put your child's name down.

It's your responsibility to ask your embassy if they need any other information on the birth certificate. Some places put down more information, such as:
  • Nationality of the mother, father, and baby
  • Address of the mother and father
  • Number of prior pregnancies, miscarriages, live births, and still births
  • How many babies were born from this pregnancy
  • Certificate number

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Tender Embrace Birthing offers childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn care classes and support.


Friday, 29 December 2017

Giving Birth at Pyeongtaek St. Mary's: Emergency C-section

It's been a year since I woke up from an emergency C-section at Pyeongtaek St. Mary's. As I mentioned in my other post I had planned on a peaceful home birth with Danica and Jinny from Mama's Birth Center. I had written about my birthing experience on one of my private blogs but since I recently made that blog public, I decided to publish it here as well.

My first birth was at Agitanseun Natural Birth Center (김옥진조산원) Kim Ok Jin (Rosa) at her old location in Ansan. Since then I had gotten involved in the natural birthing community and become a childbirth educator, postpartum doula, breastfeeding counselor, Dunstan Baby Language Educator, and La Leche League Leader. I felt confident in my abilities to give birth naturally and had planned on a home birth.

Unfortunately, it ended up with an emergency C-section. For those who say I shouldn't have attempted a home birth, I totally disgree. Had I been in the hospital during labor, I'm sure I would have had a much shorter labor before they did major abdominal surgery that left me with a 5.5 inch scar from the C-section. Labor is beneficial for both the mom and the baby.

I had a lot of difficulties coming to terms with it, especially since I 100% believe that the interventions led to the C-section, with pitocin most likely being the cause of it. It turned into a horrific nightmare. Yes, the baby's heart rate was at 90 when I was transferred to the hospital, but it then dropped to 60 while there. My midwife refused to give me pitocin because it can increase or decrease a baby's heart rate. I believe that had they not given me pitocin, I could have had a vaginal birth.  The information has been copied from my other blog, Stay Inside Baby!

Transferred to Pyeongtaek St. Mary's
Around 7pm her heart rate dropped to 90 (the norm is 120-180) so they transferred me to Pyeongtaek St. Mary's. I was only 4cm dilated but it felt like I was in transition.To make it worse the baby had just gone up a station. I had asked if I could wait an hour, but they said no. My neighbor came over and helped frantically pack a bag to go to the hospital.

I think going in they wanted me to get a C-section. I was given an epidural, oxygen, pitocin, antibiotics (since I had a cough and runny nose), fluids, and a catheter. I had an EKG test and multiple NSTs. I was not allowed to eat or drink anything. I was allowed to move but with IVs in both my arms plus a catheter, movement was very limited.

My doula and midwife came with, but the doctor quickly kicked them out. Luckily, Mary the nurse was on call that night and she was familiar with my case. My doctor, Dr. Lee was also there, but he didn't perform the C-section. 

I am fully convinced that them hooking me up to pitocin caused her heart rate to drop. My midwife had pitocin and refused to give it to my. Why? Because it can cause a baby's heart rate to drop or go up dramatically. Had I not been given pitocin, I probably would have been able to have a vaginal birth.

They bullied my husband into signing the papers by saying the baby could end up dead. The reason the baby's heart rate was dropping was due to pitocin and all the stress they were putting me through. They should have taken me off pitocin. I wish I had had advocates for me there, but they had kicked my midwife and doula out. This was my second birth and I had planned it well, yet all the interventions got out of hand, as they usually do.

Frantic Birth Plan
When I realised the baby was going to be born soon, I started telling them what I wanted and didn't want. I didn't have a birth plan because I hadn't planned on giving birth in a hospital. I was told that immediately after the birth I would be able to hold her and breastfeed her, so I said no formula. True to their word, they did not give her formula: they gave her sugar water. I wasn't able to hold her for 13 hours, not because she wasn't ok, but because I was unconscious and had IVs in my arm. I said delayed cord clamping, but that didn't happen either. They didn't bath her, but they sure scrubbed all the vernix off her.

Emergency C-section
Her heart rate dropped to 60 (the norm is 120-180) and then they gave me a spinal and took me to the OR. In the OR they gave me something in my IV that made me unconscious. My husband was not allowed in. She was born on her due date at 11:39pm. They briefly stopped the drip that kept me unconscious. I remember seeing the coiled cord in the bucket before I saw her. They didn't do delayed cord clamping like I had asked. Her APGARs were 8 and 9. She had a flat head on top which makes me think she was brow presenting which would explain the small measurements and failure to progress.

Recovery
Afterwards I was unable to move or open my eyes for about 5 hours. I could hear what was going on around me though. I was flat on my back for 8 hours in order to prevent a spinal headache. When I woke up I had short-term amnesia. I thought I was in Peru with my ex. I left Peru almost 6 years ago. 13 hours after the C-section they took the catheter out and I was able to walk. Contrast that to my first birth where I walked out of the birthing center 8 hours after giving birth.

I was given antacids, antibiotics, and pain killer pills three times a day. I really don't think they helped. I ended up with 2 ketoralac shots 8 hours apart on the second day because the pain was so bad.

I was alone so I had to do everything myself, like bus my food trays four times a day and walk to the nursery. The food was decent. I got three meals plus a snack. I was able to choose between Korean food and Western food. I decided to go with Korean food since I knew that the cooks could cook Korean food. I certainly didn't eat everything. I didn't really like the food, so my daughter and husband got some. There wasn't much fruit. I think I got fruit once or twice, so my husband brought me some.

Amazing Nurses
I really didn't enjoy my recovery time at Pyeongtaek St. Mary's. However, the nurses and international clinic were amazing. Mary and Luna helped me fight against some of the policies and worked with me even though they might not have agreed with what I wanted. They helped me breastfeed without taking the class, breastfeed on demand, got the baby into my room, got me discharged early, and allowed visitors outside of visiting hours. 


Not Being Allowed to Hold the Baby
I still hadn't held my daughter. I was told that it was hospital policy that while I had an IV in my arm I couldn't hold her. They wanted to keep me on morphine, fluids, and antiobiotics for 1 day and then do 2 more days of antibiotics for my upper respiratory infection (aka the common cold).

Meaning that if I followed what they wanted, I would be able to hold her on the 4th day. I'd be free to look at her through the windows though. I told them to stop the morphine and fluids and that I didn't want antibiotics. I'm not sure if you've ever been suddenly taken off IV painkillers and given Motrin instead, but let me save you the trouble about imagining what it's like and tell you that headache medicine does not help when they've put a 5.5 inch incision into your lower stomach. It just doesn't work. They took all the IVs and catheter out and then I was taken to the nursery.

Being Told I Wasn't Allowed to Breastfeed
I was shown the baby through the glass and when I asked to breastfeed her, remember, it's been a little over 13 hours and all she's had was sugar water, I was told no. Why? I'm glad you asked! I had to take a class before I was allowed to breastfeed. Thankfully, Mary was there and told them that this was my second child, I'd breastfed my first until she was 4, I actually teach breastfeeding classes, and I was one of two La Leche League Leaders in Korea. After about 10 minutes of arguing how I was able to breastfeed, they finally "permitted" me to hold her.

Let me just tell you that the "class" they teach must be pretty crappy. All women were given nipple shields and they all used them, they "cut" their breasts instead of used C or U holds, and they were leaning forward.

Where Babies Can Stay
You had two choices about where the baby would stay: the nursery or your room. You couldn't take the baby to your room and then put them back in the nursery. Since it took me about 15 minutes to walk 10 feet (remember Motrin to recover from a C-section), I could barely take care of myself, so she stayed in the nursery. The first night she was in the nursery and my husband spent the night with me. The second night she was in the nursery and my husband was at home. The third night, we finally got her in my room and my husband spent the night with me.

If they're in the nursery, you're "allowed" to feed them 5 times a day for 30 minutes each. Five. They actually listed 6 times on the information sheet in the nursery, but I was told it's really 5. This is only for breastfeeding moms. So if you breastfeed, you get to spend a total of 2.5 hours a day with your baby. Yeah, that's healthy. If you aren't breastfeeding and would like to hold your baby, you either take your baby to your room or wait until you get home. Lovely.

Now, in order for a baby to be healthy and a mom not to lose her milk supply, a baby should eat a minimum of 8-12 times a day. Let's do the math. . . 12 divided by 5 means they're letting you feed the baby less than half of what is required for a baby to thrive. Thriving isn't just about nutrition, it's about touch. 2.5 hours a day with their moms, definitely not a healthy environment. Now let me just explain that all these rules are for normal, healthy babies. They're not in the NICU, they're not sick, they're totally health.

Of course, they could supplement the baby with formula or breastmilk in the bottle, but if you're trying to breastfeed, bottle feeding just isn't helping. Yet another reason why their breastfeeding "class" is crap.

I was pumping. My husband brought my pump since their pump "wasn't working" Fantastic, right? On Friday, I decided that I'd had enough and told them I wanted to be called every time she was hungry. They called me about every hour. It was horrible. It was hard enough walking to the bathroom, now I had to go downstairs (in the elevator, but still) about every hour. Thankfully, I knew my husband was coming that night and we were going to get her into our room. 

Having the Baby in Your Room
The third night (Friday) we finally got the baby to our room. No easy task. We had to sign a few papers, all in Korean, no idea what we signed. And even then they didn't want to hand our own child over to us.

We had to keep the room at a minimum of 26 degrees (78.8 F), but they preferred 28 degrees (82.4 F). We had to fill out a paper saying how often she peed, pooped, and ate. That paper was checked by a nurse at night and in the morning.

My Husband's Accommodations
No pillows or blankets are given for dads. Just a gym mat. We asked and again were told that it was against hospital policy. I was sweating so I gave him my blanket.

Dads are only allowed 30 minutes a day with their babies and that's from 8-8:30pm. Moms aren't allowed in during that time. There are no exceptions. My husband decided to keep working while I was in the hospital because then he could get 14 days off in a row. Plus, why waste days when I was in the hospital? And someone had to take care of my first child.

He missed the birth, but saw her through the glass before I got to see her because they knocked me unconscious. I got to hold her, but he didn't. He never got to bond with her during those first two days. He was about ten feet away, looking at me when I breastfed, but was told it was "against hospital policy" for him to hold his own child.

Trying to Leave the Hospital
When went in on a Wednesday night and were told 5 days, which meant that we were supposed to leave on Sunday since they counted Wednesday as day 1. Then we were told if we left on a Sunday, we would be charge 50% more since the accounting staff wasn't working and they weren't sure of the exact charges. What they'd do is overcharge us and then on Monday we would come back and sort everything out.

I'd had quite enough of the hospital policies, so decided to try to leave early. On Thursday, we asked to leave early. They said no. Imagine that. Even though both of us were perfectly healthy. On Friday, in the morning, after we got the baby into our room, we then informed them that we were leaving the next day. They tried to talk us out of it. Got a nurse, a doctor, acted very concerned. We politely insisted.

Saturday morning around 7am, I was given the ok. It took them about 4 hours to finally discharge us. We had to pay and get meds, which consisted of antacid, pain killers (yea Motrin, totally not enough), and antibiotics for my upper respiratory infection (common cold). But we finally left 2.5 days after arriving.

Interventions
A c-section is major abdominal surgery. They are necessary at times, but when 33% of women given birth are given them, you know they're taking advantage of the situation. Interventions are the #1 reason why I tell people to pick a good place to give birth. Here's what was done to us in the 2.5 days we stayed. There might have been more, but this is what I can think of now.

In Labor
  • Epidural
  • Oxygen
  • Pitocin
  • Antibiotics
  • Fluids
  • Catheter
  • EKG test
  • Multiple NSTs
  • Not allowed to eat or drink anything
The Birth
  • Being knocked unconscious for the C-section
  • Immediate cord clamping
  • Rubbing off the vernix
After the Birth
  • 5 hours being unconscious
  • Amnesia
  • 13 hours flat on my back
  • Baby being given sugar water 
  • Baby in the nursery
  • Being told I wasn't allowed to breastfeed
  • Only being able to hold the baby five times a day for 30 minute at a time 
  • Antacids, antibiotics, and pain killer pills twice a day 
  • 2 ketoralac shots
  • Husband not allowed to hold the baby until day 3
Complications Afterwards
11 days after the baby was born, my left breast was super hot and painful. I had no energy, just wanted to sleep and had a slight fever. I went to the ER at Osan AB and was told my WBC (white blood cell count) was 19,000 and the norm is supposed to be about  4,500-11,000. They did loads of tests: blood, urine, breastmilk, nose mucus, ultrasound on my breasts, temperature checks, blood pressure, and possibly more but I can't remember.

I was diagnosed with mastitis, which I fully believe was due to Pyeongtaek St. Mary's only allowing me to breastfeed 5 times a day.

The doctor originally wanted me to put me on meds, but I was allergic. His number two choice was to stop breastfeeding for 2-3 days while they dripped antibiotics into me. No thanks. Stopping is the worst thing you can do. They admitted me and the baby overnight and gave me antibiotics. My husband stayed with me the first night because I was still recovering from my C-section. They decided on day 2 that I should stay another night. We hadn't wanted to since that would mean missing the baby's appointment to get her passport, but my WBC was still high, so the baby and I stayed another night. My husband wasn't able to stay because we didn't have anyone to take care of my daughter. I left on the 3rd day. The next day they called me and told me I had a mild case of MRSA that I had caught while at the hospital (since I didn't have it when I went in) but that I wouldn't need treatment.

Final Thoughts
Although I loved the prenatal care I got there I would not recommend birthing there. Here's a list of places around Korea and here are 6 birthing centers in and around Seoul.

I know some people say that all that matters is that you have a healthy baby, but I don't believe that at all so please don't say that to me. I planned for a peaceful home birth and ended up with everything I didn't want plus complications afterwards. With all the difficulties we had with miscarriages, this complicated pregnancy, and a nightmare birth, we have decided that we are done with having kids.



-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Tender Embrace Birthing offers childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn care classes and support.


Thursday, 28 December 2017

Home Birth with Danica and Jinny from Mama's Birth Center

It's been a year since my second child was born. I had written about my birthing experience on one of my private blogs but since I recently made that blog public, I decided to publish it here as well. My first birth was at Agitanseun Natural Birth Center (김옥진조산원) Kim Ok Jin (Rosa) at her old location in Ansan. Since then I had gotten involved in the natural birthing community and become a childbirth educator, postpartum doula, breastfeeding counselor, Dunstan Baby Language Educator, and La Leche League Leader. I felt confident in my abilities to give birth naturally and had planned on a home birth. Unfortunately, it ended up with an emergency C-section. I had a lot of difficulties coming to terms with it, especially since I 100% believe that the interventions led to the C-section, with pitocin most likely being the cause of it. Below you can find out more about my experience with laboring at home with Jinny and Danica. The information has been copied from my other blog, Stay Inside Baby!

Labouring at Home with Danica and Jinny from Mama's Birth Center
I mentioned before that I was having a home birth. My midwife came to check out my house a few weeks before and I showed her my birthing box that I had prepared. Then she dropped off a bag full of supplies as well as oxygen.

I'd been having contractions for the past two nights. My husband and I had just gone to the pharmacy to get some cough medicine. I was having minor contractions but thought nothing of it. He went back to work and about 20 minutes later my water broke. I called him and told him and he asked if I was kidding since I had just told him to go to work. I then cancelled my doctor's appointment that I was supposed to go to. While on the phone I had sent kakao messages to my Jinny my doula and Danica my midwife. I texted my neighbor and asked her to pick up my daughter from daycare.

The midwife and doula arrived around noon and I was only 2cm dilated but it felt like I was further along. The contractions picked up in intensive pretty quickly and all I wanted to do was stay in the bathtub. It was comfortable and I didn't have to worry about peeing myself. The baby was sunny-side up so labor was much more intense than my first. Being in labor with a sunny side up baby is a lot more intense than being on pitocin with no painkillers. I spent a lot of the labor straddling the toilet in reverse and in the tub.

My husband was not that helpful to be honest. He went in the bedroom and was watching The Simpsons. My doula did pull him out of the bedroom and got him to help while I was on the birthing ball. She took photos so he does have proof that he helped. However, he said he didn't think he was needed since I had a midwife and doula. I don't think he really knew what to do. (He should have paid more attention in the birthing class).

We tried to flip the baby by side lying and hanging my leg off the couch. It just wasn't working. My midwife kept checking the station, dilation, and heart rate and things weren't looking good.

Transferred to Pyeongtaek St. Mary's
Around 7pm her heart rate dropped to 90 (the norm is 120-180) so they transferred me to Pyeongtaek St. Mary's. I was only 4cm dilated but it felt like I was in transition.To make it worse the baby had just gone up a station. I had asked if I could wait an hour, but they said no. My neighbor came over and helped frantically pack a bag to go to the hospital.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Tender Embrace Birthing offers childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn care classes and support.


Friday, 1 December 2017

35 Ways to Keep Your Kids (and Yourself) Warm in the Cold Korean Winters

Koreans are very proud of their four seasons, but they're not all nice. Winter is horrible and freezing cold. What's worse is that many places cut down on costs by not heating buildings like they should. The admin offices are always nice and warm and toasty though. Hallways and bathrooms (including water) aren't heated. Main doors and windows in the hallways are left open to let "fresh air" in. If you haven't learned about layers, now is the time to learn! Below are some tips to help keep you and your kids warm this winter.

Clothing
Basic tips for keeping warm in the winter are wearing layers. Korean kids learn to wear a t-shirt, button down school uniform, vest, school jacket, and coat. And they wear all these inside. If they get hot, they open a window. Makes no sense to me either, but that's just the culture. Use outerwear inside. Hats, scarves, and ear muffs. This goes especially for guys who shave their heads. I know of teachers who teach with a hat on because it gets cold. Some of these items are either hard to find in Korea or much more expensive than what I'd pay back home.

I usually buy things online, ship them to my parents' house, and then bring them back to Korea in my suitcase when I go visit them on vacation. You can also often find them in buy and sell Facebook groups. Uniqlo is amazing. If you haven't been there, definitely check it out. There are lots of affordable options to help keep you warm this winter.
Wool socks
 warm wool socks for kidsI discovered wool socks a few years ago and haven't looked back. They usually come in at least three different weights: light, mid, and heavy. I have a handful of mid-weight pairs from SmartWool.

Granted, I think they're expensive and I didn't want to buy them but I kept hearing rave reviews about wool socks. I paid about $10-$15 a pair. But hear me out, these socks have literally lasted me years and they are incredibly warm. They can be washed and put in the dryer and won't shrink. I bought five pairs and wear them from October to April. They've lasted four years so far and while in some places they're getting threadbare, there are no holes. They are fantastically warm. I highly suggest getting a pair. Wool socks and flannel sheets have been a game changer for me. Amazon tends to have good deals and Sierra Trading Post has discounted seconds that are about half the price as Amazon and I've never found any flaws with seconds.

Wool pants and diaper covers
Keep your baby warm with wool diaper covers, even if they use disposables. They also make wool pants for both kids and adults. You can find ones that are like long underwear as well as wool-blend dress pants.

Long underwear
 wool and silk long underwear kidsIn Korea, you can easily find thick black pants with fleece on the inside, but I found that the back was low and they just weren't comfortable. Someone recommended I go to Uniqlo because they're famous for their Heattech line. Back when I first started shopping at Uniqlo, they only had one version, but now they come in three different weights: regular, extra warm, and ultra warm. I prefer ultrawarm. Regular just doesn't cut it for me. It works in fall and spring, but in winter, I want the warmest option possible. Find out more about Uniqlo in the section below.

Besides Uniqlo, people have recommended CuddlDuds. Uniqlo's Heattech usually is made of polyester, acrylic, rayon, and spandex. CuddlDuds is made from modal and spandex. I have one CuddlDuds shirt and it's pretty warm as well. I don't own any CuddlDuds pants, so I can't talk about those. Other people swear by silk long underwear or wool long underwear. Some long underwear have both wool and silk so you don't have to decide between only one.


Uniqlo
Uniqlo has lots of affordable options that can help keep you warm in the winter. Uniqlo is based out of Japan and there are stores all over Korea.
     purple warm cashmere scarf
  • Heattech: Uniqlo has lots of affordable options that can help keep you warm in the winter. I talked about their Heattech long underwear, but there's so much more to Heattech than long underwear. They have socks, shirts, scarves, gloves, leggings, and more.
  • Blocktech: this is thin outerwear designed to keep the wind out. I haven't tried any of their Blocktech items.
  • Fleece: They have regular fleece as well as fleece lined options, such as fleece lined jeans and leggings. They're amazing! 
  • Wool: they have some good wool options. I would skip the wool socks, at least the women's ones. They're thin, not warm, and get holes. You can try the men's ones, but I personally buy mine from Smartwool. Check out Sierra Trading Post since they sell them for about half of what you'd pay on Amazon
  • Cashmere: Uniqlo has good, affordable cashmere. I'm constantly hearing about how Uniqlo's cashmere rivals more expensive brands. They have tops, hats, gloves, and more. Here's an article that talks about how they keep their prices low and another that surmises that the grade of cashmere is probably a mix of A and B.
Like wool socks, you will pay a decent amount, about 10,000-25,000 for tops or bottoms. Buy at the end of the season if possible. If not, they're still worth buying. Mine have last years. I would not buy Heattech socks. They're thin, not that warm, and easily get holes in them. Buy wool socks instead.

Home
Small changes in your home can make a big difference to keeping the heat in, the cold out, and lowering your heating bill. Many of these items are ubiquitous in Korea. You can find them online (gmarket and coupang), at discount stores (such as Daiso), and grocery stores (like E-mart and Home Plus). Usually buying them online will save you money, but sometimes stores have good deals as well. You can also often find them in buy and sell Facebook groups.

Electronics
Here are a few recommended electronics to get you through the cold winter. 

     winter space heater
  • Electric blankets: They're much safer than they used to be. They will also save you money on your heating bill. 
  • Electric floor mat:You can buy small or large electric floor mats.The floor is heated as it is, but an electric floor mat will save you money.
  • Space heaters: Again, like electric blankets, space heaters are safer than they used to be. You still have to take precautions when using them though.
  • Heated seats: Gmarket has 1, 2, and 3 person seats that they call heating pads. They're not really made for multiple people. The number refers to the length. I have a 2 person one that is perfect for my office chair.
Home Hacks
There are plenty of little home hacks you can do to make your home warmer and keep your heating costs down.

  • Flannel sheets: They make a huge difference! I love my flannel sheets and switch them out for my regular sheets in the fall. I absolutely hate regular sheets in the winter now. It's hard to describe but honestly, they're so cold, it's painful. Flannel sheets, wool socks, both amazing!
  • Electric blankets: They're much safer than they used to be. They will also save you money on your heating bill. 
  • Regular blankets:Your regular old blankets, quilts, afghans, and fleece blankets are great for keeping you nice and warm. 
  • Electric floor mat:You can buy small or large electric floor mats. The floor is heated with the ondol, but an electric floor mat will save you money.
  • Indoor tent: Koreans love tents. There's nothing like going to a a beach or park and seeing tents all over the place. Well, they're not just for the outdoors! They capture heat and are used inside. Stick an electric floor mat inside and you're good to go. You can also find tents that fit over beds.
  • Hot water bottle:  An easy, cheap, no tech-needed hack is a hot water bottle. They can get pretty hot, but if you buy ones that come with knit covers, they're nicer to cuddle up with and won't burn your child. (cover and cleaner)
Windows and Doors
Heat can quickly escape through winters and doors so make sure yours are sealed up tightly. 

  • Bubble wrap: Put bubble wrap on your windows to help insulate them. Sounds weird, but people swear it works and lowers their heating bill. Here's a good video explaining how.
  • Plastic wrap: After you put bubble wrap directly on your windows, then cover them with plastic wrap to keep out drafts, then top all that off with some nice, thick insulated drapes and watch your heating bill go down. 
  • Drapes: Open the drapes during the day to let the sun in and close them at night. Make sure you have nice, thick drapes. Insulated drapes make a huge difference in cutting down on drafts.
  • Magnetic windproof door: In Korea, they're very common, stores use them all the time. It's a thick plastic covering held together by magnets.
  • Foam strips: Putting them around windows and doors will help cut down on drafts.
  • Draft stopper: Putting these at the bottom of doors will help keep out drafts. You can buy them or simply save money and roll up a towel.
  • Put a blanket in front of your door: You can also use insulated drapes to keep the drafts out. 
  • Closing doors: Creating a smaller space by closing doors to rooms will also help. This is especially true when you're sleeping. Close your bedroom door and keep the heat inside. 


Food and Drink
Drinking hot drinks and eating hot soup is a great way to stay warm. Drinking ginger tea or ginger honey crystals can help you keep warm because ginger improves circulation. High fat foods, such as nuts or avocados, can also help you feel warmer.



Cars and Strollers
It's one thing for an adult to have to deal with the cold, but it's an entirely different matter for a baby or child to brave the cold weather. Before I had a car, I took my stroller everywhere and believe you me, my daughter was always nice and toasty. Sometimes she'd fall asleep in the stroller and would come out with her cheeks flushed and her hair pasted to her forehead because it was so warm. I used a stroller for a long time simply because I didn't want her walking outside in the cold and slipping on the ice when I had to walk up and downhill in the street since our street had no sidewalks.

Many of these items are ubiquitous in Korea. You can find them online (gmarket and coupang), at discount stores (such as Daiso), and grocery stores (like E-mart and Home Plus). Usually buying them online will save you money, but sometimes stores have good deals as well. You can also often find them in buy and sell Facebook groups.



Footmuffs for strollers
I've always called them sleeping bags. I've also heard them being called buntings. Whatever you call them, they're awesome. They come with or without hoods and keep your kids snug as a bug in a rug. If you want a super warm option, check out this lambswool foot muff.

Stroller covers
Driving in Korea is a pain and parking is worse. Unless I know there's parking available, I take my stroller, even in the dead of winter. I've got a collection of stroller covers. I have quilted ones for winter, like this Manito one, and I have summer ones that keep kids dry when it rains. I have them in different sizes as well, since I have different strollers and they're not a one size fits all item. Gmarket has loads of stroller covers, just make sure you choose the correct option when checking out. I have a jogging stroller, a regular stroller with detachable car seat, and two umbrella strollers. I haven't found any that fit the umbrella strollers since they're too low to the ground, so I simply unzip the bottom section and my daughter's feet stick out. It works fine that way.

Lambswool seat liners
Speaking of lambswool, a cheaper option that a lambswool foot muff, which will run you hundreds of dollars, is a lambswool seat liner. You could use it on it own or perhaps put it inside a regular foot muff for extra warmth. I use one in my stroller. I know that people like to add things to car seats as well such as this infant support insert. My only issue would be to make sure your child is buckled in correctly when using inserts. Car seats aren't supposed to be cute, they're supposed to save your child's life. There's more info in this post about how to buckle your child in correctly.
 Cozy Cover winter car seat cover

Car seat covers
Puffy coats and car seat do not mix. There's more info in this post about how to buckle your child in correctly and why puffy coats can be deadly. Since you can't use puffy coats, car seat covers are great for keeping warm. There are some like this JJ Cole one where their heads stick out of a section. Or the Cozy Cover where their heads stick out of a circle. There are also ones which have the top part just like a blanket, so it doesn't go around the baby's head, such as this JJ Cole one. No matter which one you get, make sure your baby can breath.



On the Go
Hand warmers
There are hand warmers available in convenience stores. Some of them can only be used once, but I like the ones that can be boiled and re-used. Amazon also has a good selection. These are ubiquitous in Korea. You can find them at Daiso, discount stores, grocery stores, and online.

Rice Socks
I know a lot of people swear by rice socks. They're cheap and easy to make. Take a clean sock, stick uncooked rice inside, tie a knot and chuck it in the microwave for 30-60 seconds. Some people put a mug of water next to the rice sock as it's in the microwave. You can also use it cold, just stick it in the freezer. You can also buy ready-made packs, like the Bed Buddy, that you can use hot or cold.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Tender Embrace Birthing offers childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn care classes and support.


Privacy Policy and FTC Disclosure

Please read Tender Embrace Birthing's Privacy Policy and FTC Disclosure

html