Friday, 1 September 2017

Car Seat Laws for Kids in Korea

Last Updated 25 September 2016

Legally speaking, in Korea a child must be in a car seat or a booster seat until they're six years old (Western age). The fine is 60,000. However, it's very unlikely that you will be pulled over and fined. I've seen infants on the driver's lap, kids bouncing around, and even kids popping up through sunroofs.

With that being said, you should put your child in a car seat and you should spend money on a new car seat. Please don't buy a used one. If it's been in any crash or slightly damaged in any way, it could be compromised. It's not worth saving money when your child's life is on the line. Since it's a big ticket item, consider putting it on your baby registry

Remember to keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It doesn't matter if they're a year old, you don't have to turn them around: keep them facing backwards.

It's not easy to install a car seat. You can check online for more info. Unlike some countries, fire departments and police stations cannot check your car seat to make sure it's properly installed. In addition, hospitals and birthing centers aren't going to check if you have a car seat installed before you take your baby home. You could go home in a taxi with them in the front seat and they're not going to stop you. Here are some good sites.
Also, never ever put your child in a car seat while they're wearing coats. This video shows what happens when you put your baby in their car seat while wearing a coat. The car seat lady and this crash test will explain more and why it can be deadly.

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

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Sharing Breast Milk in Korea: Donating and Receiving

From what I understand, there are only two milk banks in Korea. It doesn't seem like a lot of expats use them and I'm not sure if it's because of lack of knowledge or the language barrier. I'm not actually sure how much Koreans use them. From what I've been told it's expensive and there's not enough.

Keep in mind that you're getting the milk "straight from the source". Here's a very thorough article from Eats on Feets about things to keep in mind if you're going to be donating or getting donated breast milk. In milk banks, the milk goes through a pasteurization process. You need to be able to trust the mom you get the milk from. Sometimes the baby doesn't like the taste of donated breast milk. In that case you could try scalding the breast milk. There's an article by KellyMom which explains that babies aged 1-6 months need about 19-30 oz (570-900 ml) a day of breast milk.

Some women get milk from one other women, while others get milk from many. Some women who get donate breast milk help the other mom by buying them breast milk storage bags, or doing something nice like baking some homemade cookies or bread. It's not necessary, but it's a nice gesture since they're using their time and energy to donate milk to your baby.

When women are looking to donate milk or get donated milk they usually turn to Facebook. It helps if you can find a women with a baby who's close to your baby's age.There are two main groups that can help you.

Donating or Getting Breast Milk in Korea
Human Milk 4 Human Babies (HM4HB) - South Korea 
You can message this group and they will post on your behalf whether it be an offer or a request. It's not that active, but when people post, they usually get responses.

MMKorea Nursing Support 
This is not a milk sharing group, but a breastfeeding support group. With that being said, it's Korea-wide and women are usually able to able.

Other options 
Post in local parenting or mom groups. Someone often knows someone. Some women have been known to pump specifically for another baby.

Check military groups. Often moms who PCS have to get rid of loads of milk. If you know someone who's military, ask them if they can post on your behalf.

Eats on Feets currently does not have a chapter in Korea, but you could start one!

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

Saturday, 8 July 2017

The Big Latch On Korea 2017

No automatic alt text available.August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month and all over the world people will be participating in events to celebrate.
The latter two you can do on your own, but the Global Big Latch On takes place with other people.

What is The Global Big Latch On?
Their website states that "Global Big Latch On events take place at registered locations around the world, where women gather together to breastfeed and offer peer support to each other. Their friends, family and community join this celebration to promote and support breastfeeding. Volunteers from within the community host each location, hosting a Global Big Latch On event creates a lasting support network for the community."

 It started in New Zealand in 2005. There are many reasons behind this event, according to their site.
"Global Big Latch On events aim to protect, promote & support breastfeeding families by:
  • Provide support for communities to identify and grow opportunities to provide on-going breastfeeding support and promotion in local communities.
  • Raise awareness of breastfeeding support and knowledge available locally and globally. 
  • Help communities positively support breastfeeding in public places. 
  • Make breastfeeding as normal part of day-to-day life at a local community level.
  • Increase support for women who breastfeed – women are supported by their partners, family and their communities.
  • Ensure communities have the resources to advocate for coordinated appropriate and accessible breastfeeding support services."
Who Can Participate?
Breastfeeding moms, their partners, and their supporters are welcome to join. They will count three different things: the number of latches, the number of breastfeeding women, and the total number of people. They recognise that breastfeeding journets are different. As such, in order to be counted as a latch, you can have
  • A direct latch
  • A supplemental nursing system or nipple shield
  • Express milk using your hands or pump
  • Feed your child breast milk using an alternative method
In Korea there will be 2 events, one in Yongsan, Seoul and one in Songtan, Pyeongtaek. Be sure to check out Big Latch On Korea on Facebook as well.

Want to Donate or Help Out?
If you're a small or local business, consider donating a prize for the raffle. If you'd like to donate money, please do so on The Big Latch On website. If you'd like to donate your time, please contact Sheila (Seoul) or Sharon (Pyeongtaek) to find out how you can help out.

Yongsan, Seoul: Friday, August 4th from 10-11:30am
The location is TBA. You can register on the Facebook page or on the Big Latch On website. The location code for this event is 1324. Victor will be there to take photos. There will be a raffle and the following businesses will be providing prizes.

Songtan, Pyeongtaek: Saturday, August 5th from 10-11am
The event will be held at Cornerstone, which is a coffee shop near Posco. You can find a map on the Facebook event. Since they are letting us use the location they have asked that people buy one drink. You can register on the Facebook page or on the Big Latch On website. The location code for this event is 1326.
Tender Embrace Birthing offers childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn care classes and support.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Where to Buy a New Breast Pump in Korea

I previously wrote about where to buy a used breast pump in Korea. Below you can find some information about buying a new breast pump in Korea. Pumps can be expensive but you can also put them on your baby registry. When planning on what to get for your baby, you need to consider how you will raise your child. Different people will spend money on different things.

Closed vs. Open Breast Pumps
A closed pump keeps the milk from entering the tubing. The Pumping Mommy and Kelly Mom also have some great info about why you should buy a closed breast pump, especially if you're buying a used one. Closed pumps are WHO compliant. Open pumps are not.

Closed Breast Pumps
Here are some closed breast pumps. There are hospital-grade, double electric pumps, single electric pumps, and single manual pumps. Be sure to read the reviews to see which one would be best for you. I always read the negative reviews first.

Baby Fairs are a good place to check out different breast pumps. Sometimes it's cheaper to buy a pump at a baby fair than at a store. Stores dedicated to families, such as Moms Mom and Toys R Us
may have them. Bigger department stores such as Lotte and Shinsaegae may as well. In Lotte in Myeongdong, there is a place called BB on the 7th floor that has some pumps. Around women's hospitals there are often stores dedicated to families and some bigger hospitals may actually have a store inside. Mothercare is located inside Homeplus and they may have some pumps. Sunny Smart Shopping and Ask Ajumma are services that can help you locate a pump whether from a brick-and-mortar store or an online store. 

Online direct from companies
Online from people
Sometimes people buy a pump or are given a pump and never use it. You might find one listed on one of the sites below. 

    NB: I will be taking a break from blogging in July and August. I will be back in September. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me on

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

    Monday, 1 May 2017

    Why the Words "Low" and "High" Should Not be Used by Your Doctor

    It typically happens like this. You go for a routine doctor's visit only to be told . . .
    • your heart rate . . .
    • your baby's heart rate . . .
    • the amniotic fluid . . .  
    • the baby's weight . . . 
    • your blood pressure . . .
    is too low / too high so we need to do . . .
    • an induction.
    • an (emergency) C-section.
    • more tests. 
    This is absolutely horrible and bullies parents into decisions when they have not received complete informed consent. More often than not it's accompanies by fear and guilt techniques such as if you don't do this your baby could have serious long-term problems or even death. When you're told this by your doctor (someone you trust), you blindly do what they tell you. Granted there are situations that do merit immediate care. However, more often than not, things are normal.

    Let's step away from doctors and get a different perspective. Imagine you want to find out the weather forecast for the next week and all that you can see is the date and "hot" or "cold". That's it. No temperatures. That's not very helpful, is it?

    That's precisely what doctors are doing when they tell you your numbers or your baby's numbers are "low" or "high". They're not giving you the complete picture, so how exactly can you make an informed decision when you're missing the vital information?

    Always, always, ask for numbers. "Low" and "high" are subjective. Numbers are concrete and objective. Let's look at two different situations. You need two numbers:
    • what the normal range is
    • what your number is.
    Only then, can you make an informed decision.

    Situation A
    You go in for a routine visit and are told your X is low. You ask for numbers and are told that the normal range is 100-120 and you are at 98. You're 2 numbers away from being within the normal range. You now know the complete picture and can decide what to do. That might be to follow the doctor's advice, ask for re-testing, check and see what can cause low numbers and try to fix it and then re-test. 2 numbers isn't that drastic and remember that there is room for error in all tests.

    Situation B
    You go in for a routine visit and are told your X is low. You ask for numbers and are told that the normal range is 100-120 and you are at 50. Now this situation is very different than Situation A. Here you are 50 numbers away from being within the normal range. Knowing this you will probably make a very different decision that what you would make in Situation A.

    Doctors do tend to have your best interests and the baby's best interest in mind. However, there are also many other things that come into play.
    • They're following hospital policies.
    • They actively manage births instead of using expectant management.
    • They want to go home because it's Friday / they have plans the next day.
    • They're afraid of being sued.
    The bottom line is that it's ultimately up to you to get the complete picture and make a decision based on concrete, objective numbers not abstract, subjective adjectives.

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

    Monday, 3 April 2017

    Miscarriage, Pregnancy Loss, Neonatal Death, and Infant Loss Support in Korea

    Losing a child is a difficult time for a parent. Many women suffer from miscarriages and some do not even know they were pregnant. A baby is usually considered stillborn if the loss happens after 20 weeks and if it happens before then it's considered a miscarriage. A very early miscarriage (before 5 weeks) is usually considered a chemical pregnancy. Neonatal death is when a baby dies within the first 28 days of life. Infant death is between 28-364 days.

    Despite the different terminology, the result is still the same: a child has been lost. There are places to seek out help and talk to people who have been through the same experience, trained volunteers, as well as professional counselors and social workers. There are also a number of books written on this topic.

    Depending on how old the baby was, many families find that photos or memory boxes (here's a list of what you can add to your memory box) can be very comforting. Others create certificates of life for their child that they lost in utero, such as the ones available at Bears of Hope, Grief Watch, and Memorial for the Unborn.

    Support in Korea, both online and in person

    Online Support in Korea (these do not deal with loss specifically)

    Counselors and Social Workers in Korea

    Online support, not specifically for Korea
    Tender Embrace Birthing offers childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn care classes and support.

    Wednesday, 1 March 2017

    The Difference Between Folic Acid and Folate: Which is Better?

    Folic acid is to folate as pitocin is to oxytocin. The former is the synthetic form and the latter is the natural form.

    The Linus Pauling Institute has some good information on what folate is. Chris Kesser and Wellness Mama both have very detailed posts about the differences between folic acid and folate. I highly recommend reading the articles and deciding which is best for you. It's easy to find folic acid supplements, but a bit more difficult to find folate supplements. Try searching for L-Methylfolate or
    5-MTHF. Below are a few folate supplements.
    Tender Embrace Birthing offers childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn care classes and support.

    Wednesday, 1 February 2017

    What Shots / Vaccines are Required to Visit, Live, Work, or Study in Korea?

    Updated 29 March 2017

    I'm not going to get into the whole pro-vaccine vs. anti-vaccine debate. I'm simply going to share the facts about visiting, living, working, or studying in Korea. Any pro or anti-vaccine comments will be deleted. Thank you for understanding.

    The Short Answer
    No vaccines are required to visit, live, work (however, certain employers may require them), or study in Korea. While no vaccines are required to enter or exit Korea, the CDC recommends certain vaccines. Please see below for more detail about specific situations.

    The Long Answer
    Visiting and Living
    None are required. The CDC recommends certain vaccines, but if you don't have them you can still come here. What shots you decide to get (if any) will depend on your lifestyle, where you travel in Korea, and what you are exposed to. Certain people are more at risk to getting diseases than others.

    They may be required depending on your career field and employer requirements. For example, if you work in the health profession, you might be required to get vaccines to keep your job. This means you can either change employers, change career fields, or get the required vaccines.

    Can You Leave Korea if You Have No Vaccines?
    I heard a story about a woman telling people that a child was not allowed to leave the country because they hadn't had their shots. This is completely untrue. No shots are required to enter Korea and none are required to leave. The country that you're going into may require vaccines but that's a different matter. I've traveled widely, even to countries with epidemics and although I also carry my  yellow international vaccine booklet, I have never been asked to show it.

    Are Vaccines Required if Your Child is Born in Korea?
    Both my children were born in Korea with Korean medical professionals. The first was born vaginally in a birthing center and the second was supposed to be born at home but ended up being born via emergency C-section at a hospital due to her heart rate dropping severally low. Right at birth or a few days following birth, babies born in Korea usually are given the following if you do not opt out.
    • Hepatitis B
    • Erythromycin (eye medicine)
    • Vitamin K
    • BGC (Tuberculosis) 
    • PKU test
    This is standard but they are not required to get anything; you can opt out, just make sure you have it in writing otherwise more likely than not they will get them. You can still leave the hospital if you don't get any of them or just choose to get some of them. They're not going to keep you there and make you get shots.

    If you get your child an ARC (alien card) then they will have a national vaccine record. It's very convenient. Basically you can walk into any hospital or clinic, large or small, give them your child's alien number and they can pull up their vaccine record that states where and when they got that shot.

    When you take your child to the pediatrician after they are born, they will get a booklet with information about their height and weight charts, vaccine schedule, and other things. On the vaccine schedule they will have one section for standard / required vaccines and another for optional vaccines. However, no vaccines are actually required.

    You do not have to get any vaccines for your child. Your doctor may give you a hard time, but your children are not going to be taken away from you. I don't know of anyone whose doctor has refused to see their child after they decided not to do some (or any) of the vaccines. What most people are faced with is a doctor that is totally confused about why you don't want that shot. Koreans traditionally do not ask doctors questions. When doctors have appointments with foreigners they usually spend twice as long talking since foreigners do ask questions. The good news is that playing the foreigner card seems to help out a lot. Saying something like, "We don't do that in our country." or "It's against my belief." may help.

    Are Vaccines Required for Korean Schools?
    No, they're not. Schools will ask for vaccine records, but if you don't have all of them, or don't have any of them you should be fine. If you only have some shots, just give them what you have. If you don't have any, then write none. This works for daycare all the way up to university, but the government doesn't start getting involved until they hit elementary school. I don't know of anyone who has had to fill out an exemption form like they require in certain countries. The only issue I have heard of is if there is an outbreak and your child is found to be responsible for that outbreak then they can be expelled. The School of ROK has information about shots and schooling. I haven't found any actual rules (my Korean isn't that good) so if you know of any please let me know.

    Are Vaccines Required for International Schools or Schools on Base?
    As far as international schools go, it depends on the school, so ask. Different countries follow different rules. What's required for a French international school will probably be different than what's required for an American international school. If it's required, ask if there are exemptions.

    I know that DOD (i.e. schools on base) do require vaccines. What they neglect to say on their website is that they accept medical exemptions as well as religious exemptions. A simple call to the school  should clarify it. If they say no, ask to speak to someone else, because they do accept exemptions and you can even find the exemption form here on their website. Please see the links below about religious exemptions for more information about the specific codes that allow them and what to write on the exemption forms.

    You don't have to be a church-goer or even belong to any religion to claim religious exemptions. Here's information about religious exemptions for DOD schools. Pretty much anyone can claim a religious exemption. You MUST write it in your own words. Don't just copy and paste. Here's information explaining how your personal beliefs will qualify you for a religious exemption. Both links have forms you can use to turn into the schools. You may or may not need to get the Chief of Preventive Medicine to sign them. Preventive Medicine is not located at the 121, but it's in a separate building near the commissary at Yongsan. It's building 5447 and their phone number is 0503-337-1750. They said they're the building before gate 6 near the commissary in the building that looks like a bungalow.

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

    Tuesday, 17 January 2017

    2017 Baby Fairs in Korea

    Below you can find information about baby fairs in 2017. This post contains information about baby fairs for other years.

    Baby Fairs are great since you can see and try many things you might want to buy for your baby. Some fairs have an entrance fee, though usually if you pre-register, it's waived. Prices range widely for the items. My suggestion would be to try the items out and then buy them at home or have friends or family ship or bring them to you. You should also definitely consider a baby registry. You can then have people ship you the items, go get them when you visit, or have family bring them when they visit.

    Even if you don't buy anything from the fair, it's still nice to be able to see the item ahead of time and sometimes you can get samples. Many people order online or have friends or family members bring things when they come to visit since it's usually cheaper that way.

    Below you can find info for baby fairs in 2016. For more information check out their websites or call them. All of them are held in big malls and should have English speakers. If they don't, call 120 and they will do a three-way call and translate for you. Or you could try Ask Ajumma.

    **** I am still trying to update this. If you have any information to add, please let me know!****

    Baby Fairs by Location
    AT Center in Gangnam
    • TBA

    Cheonan Stadium has the Cheonan Baby Fair
    • TBA

    COEX in Gangnam
    • Feb. 16-19

    KINTEX in Goyang, Gyeonggi-do Mom and Baby Expo and Korea Baby and Education Fair
    • Feb 9-12

    SETEC in Gangnam has the Seoul Baby Fair
    • TBA 

    Yongsan War Memorial has the Yongsan Babyexpo
    • TBA
    Baby Fairs by Dates 
    • TBA

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