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Things to look out for when raising a newborn in Tokyo

I can’t believe it has been more than a year since I gave birth to my baby girl, or should I say toddler?

I remember struggling (still am, actually!) to keep up with all the checks, vaccinations and whatnot. Wouldn’t it be great if I had known what to expect before it happens? Hopefully this post can give new mothers an overview of what’s ahead!

1) Registration of birth – 出生届 (shussei-todoke)

Register your newborn’s birth with the ward (or municipal) office within 14 days, including the day of birth itself. This is fairly quick, and may also qualify you for a monthly childcare allowance, or 児童手当 (jidou-te-ate), (up to 15,000 yen) depending on your income.

This is also the time to ask or apply for the ‘birth gift money’, also known as 出産育児一時金 (shussan-ikuji-ichijikin), (one time payment of about 420,000 yen to 500,000 yen depending on your ward), if you have not done so yet.

As long as you are on National Health Insurance – NHI (or its equivalent), you are eligible for the gift money, regardless of where you gave birth. So, if you gave birth outside Japan, you can also apply for the birth money. It’ll be credited into your account after a couple of weeks.

Birth registration form.
Birth registration form. Photo credits: Kengo (CC License)

2) Home visit – 新生児訪問 (shinseiji-houmon)

This really took us by surprise! When Emma was about 2 months old, a lady from the ward office came by unannounced for a home visit. Well, I’m not sure if they usually call beforehand, as we didn’t receive any.

The lady looked around our house, checking to make sure the environment is appropriate for a baby, and asked a couple of questions to see if we could manage on our own. She asked about our family structure (all 3 generations), our source of support and my state of mind.

The last thing she did was to measure Emma’s weight. The whole visit took about 30 minutes, with quite a large part spent on us trying to understand each other.

If you have any questions about raising your child, you could start writing them down and ask them during the home visit. We asked what we could think of, mostly about keeping Emma warm in winter (is our house temperature alright? how hot should the bathwater be?)

3) Health checkups – 健康診査 (kenkou-shinsa)

You’ll receive a couple of coupons in your mail (similar in size and look to the ones used for pregnancy checks) for your baby’s health checkup. Together with the coupons, you’ll find a list of pediatricians. The checkups are at the following months

  • 1 month
  • 3 – 4 months old*
  • 6 – 7 months old
  • 9 – 10 months old
  • 12 months (most wards do not provide a coupon for this. It costs about 5000 yen if you choose to do it anyway).
  • 18 months old (you’ll get the coupon for this later)

The 3 – 4 months check is done slightly differently. You will receive a letter, with a date and time, informing you to go to a health centre (mine was at my ward office) for the check-up. This is done en masse, with many other babies arriving for the check-up. It ends off with a few talks by various groups of people. We were given board books, and attended a talk on first foods preparation.

4) Vaccination/ Immunization – 予防接種 (yobousesshu)

This deserves a post all by itself!

Briefly, all recommended vaccinations (until 1) are covered by the ward office. The only ones you have to pay for are Rotavirus  and Chicken Pox.

The free recommended vaccinations, until 1 years old, are

  • DPT-IPV (3 shots, starting at 3m. 4th shot after 1Y)
  • Hib B (3 shots, starting at 2m. 4th shot after 1Y)
  • PCV 7 (3 shots, starting at 2m. 4th shot after 1Y)
  • Hep B (3 shots, starting at 2 months)
  • Mumps (1 shot at 1Y, 2nd shot at 5Y)
  • BCG* (1 shot at 1Y)
  • MR (1  shot at 1Y, 2nd shot at 5Y)

The optional ones that you’ll have to pay are:

  • Rotavirus (3 oral doses, starting at 2m)
  • Chicken pox (at 1Y)

I heard that the chicken pox vaccine will be covered by NHI come July 2014.

*Similar to the 4th month check, you’ll receive a letter asking you to go to the health centre to get the BCG shot. We were given a specific date and time on our letter.

Vaccination schedule as of April 2012 (Japanese). Image provided by IDSC.

5) Dental check

Dental checks are covered by NHI. You can choose to do this anytime, without needing any coupons. Our first visit to a dentist specialising in seeing children (小児歯科 – shouni-shika) was when Emma was 14 months old but you can make an appointment once your child starts having teeth.

If you understand Japanese, there are always baby dental care talks you could attend. In my ward, this is held twice a month.

Map of dentists specializing in young children near you:

 


Well, I guess that’s about it! Please leave a comment if you have anything to add, or if your experience is different from mine. Thank you!

 

Photo credits: hitthatswitch (CC License)

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