US Family Raising Kids in Germany: 'There is Really Good Postpartum Care Here'

Leslie and Tim Loh moved from New York City to Munich, Germany, where their two children were both born. They share what child care, maternity leave, and other family resources have looked like for them.

Leslie and Tim Loh with their kids
Photo: Stephanie Wilhelm Fotografie

It's not uncommon for expecting parents to leave city life to make room for a new baby. While those little ones are tiny, their stuff can take up a lot of space! Plus, bringing a newborn into a home that's a bit quieter and calmer can make for an easier adjustment to parenthood.

Leslie and Tim Loh decided to do just that—in a slightly more extreme way. The two had lived in New York City for 10 years and felt ready to have children. They were looking to live in a different environment and also were eager to travel.

So, when Leslie was newly pregnant with their first child, Charlotte (now, 2.5), they packed up their lives and moved to Munich, Germany.

The location was a natural choice for the two of them, especially Tim. He works as a writer for a big company that has offices around the globe, including one in Munich, and he was a German major in college. While at school, he studied abroad in Innsbruck, Austria for a year and then worked in Berlin for a year after he graduated, so he was already used to the language and culture.

While Leslie was less familiar with German, she works as a freelance writer so knew she could work anywhere and felt ready for the adventure. With the support of Tim's company, they made the move.

Even though they were leaving one city for another, Munich is actually much calmer than NYC.

Leslie and Tim have a dirt trail that runs right next to their apartment where people are always running or biking and there's a river not far from that. The Alps are also really close and they'll often see people with skis coming back from a day trip. Plus, they don't live directly in the city center so while they have access to all the resources a city provides, their life is more low-key and nature-focused.

Now, the couple has added a second child to their family, Lukas who is 9 months, and they're happier than ever with their decision to live abroad. Here, Leslie breaks down her experience raising her babies abroad.

Child Care and Maternity Leave in Germany

In Germany, parental leave is centralized. As residents, both Leslie and Tim were able to receive benefits. "They have different options you can choose from as well, so I selected a plan where I can still work a few hours and take on some freelance assignments while supplementing my income," she explains. Tim was able to take off work for nearly three months when Lukas was born.

Leslie is now home with Lukas, who will begin attending daycare when he turns 1, while Charlotte, is at daycare until 2 p.m. Leslie says you can find options that run later but that's the standard.

Charlotte's daycare (called "Kita" in Germany) is fully German-speaking and government-subsidized so it only costs the family a few hundred dollars a month. "There are six kids with two teachers so it's really great care," Leslie explains. "The food is all organic—they eat couscous, ravioli, and gnocchi—better meals than I do."

While bilingual daycare options do exist, they are harder to get into and Leslie had trouble finding a spot. "We like ours though and are happy to give our daughter some fun adventure and more exposure."

Leslie and Tim Loh with their kids
Stephanie Wilhelm Fotografie

Pregnancy and Birth

When Leslie and Tim first moved to Germany, they found an OB-GYN easily through insurance. They were offered a choice between a hospital or clinic for delivery. Leslie says the clinic "almost feels like a beautiful home in the English Garden." The comfort still came with all the technological benefits of being at a hospital so Leslie felt safe and chose that option.

When Leslie went into labor, her doctor could not get to the hospital in time so Charlotte ended up being delivered by a different practitioner who didn't speak much English. "Sometimes there's a universal language though, like when they were saying 'push!' I could still tell what they were getting at," she says, laughing. Her husband helped with translations as well.

While pregnant with Lukas, she searched for an English-speaking pregnancy class and found one that not only prepped her but introduced her to friends. "The teacher was an awesome British midwife and there were people in the class from the U.K., Ireland, India, Italy, Turkey, and Finland—all over the world." After the birth class, Leslie continued on with a breastfeeding group and other Mommy and Me programs that she still continues with her son.

Leslie's second pregnancy had its own challenges: She had to be on bed rest for the last six weeks when her son was trying to come out early. "That was really hard because we didn't have family around, at least initially, to help," she explains. "Luckily, I had amazing friends from the class I mentioned that came to help my husband because he still had to work." Eventually, Leslie's parents were able to fly out to help too but it was a peak COVID time and they needed a ton of special paperwork to get into the country, so it wasn't so simple. In the end, they made it and stayed with Charlotte while Leslie went to give birth. "I would not wish bed rest on anyone, especially not in a foreign country, but thankfully we had the most wonderful families here that stepped in to help. You do miss people from back home in those moments, but it worked out."

Postpartum Resources

Having a baby for the first time comes with myriad questions that need answering. There's also a need for so much help to learn how to take care of a newborn for the first time. "Thankfully whether it was through gestures, or Googling or Google Translate, everything worked out and they were able to help me," she shares. "Everyone was really empathetic as well. They tried to speak slowly and realized I had just given birth, my hormones were all over the place, and I was in a foreign country."

A major insurance benefit in the country is that a nurse-midwife is provided who comes to check on each person after birth for free. "She'll come a number of times in the first month to check your physical health, help with breastfeeding, and also check the baby for things like jaundice," Leslie explains. "So you feel like there is really good postpartum care."

Medical Care

The family's pediatricians are English-speaking and the kids are on a similar vaccine schedule as the U.S. with slight variations for things that are more common in Germany. "It's been so simple and stress-free," she says. "I didn't expect that, I thought things would be much more intimidating."

The healing approach to medical care is actually more holistic than in the U.S. Leslie has called the pediatrician when her daughter was congested and they've said, "Have you tried cutting up onions and putting them next to her bed?"

"They have all the high-end technology but are very into natural remedies," she shares. "They try and keep antibiotics as a last resort."

Everyday Life

In the afternoons, Leslie explores the neighborhood with her kids. Recently, they went to a rock climbing gym. Other days they'll go downtown to get big bakery-style pretzels Germany is known for. "You see every kid with one in their hand," she shares. "Some days we'll go to the library or a park and in the summer, we actually live near a river so can go walk by there and put our feet in." She says they also have the most beautiful public swimming pools that are clean and kid-friendly. "They're heated too so you can go in the winter."

Language Barriers

When Leslie first moved, she was practicing German through apps on her phone, like Duolingo, and really trying to speak as much as possible when out and about. She would practice while buying groceries or doing any errand to expand her vocabulary. Now that her daughter is in a German daycare, she's also learning more words from her.

The teachers at Charlotte's daycare don't speak much English so she has to struggle through questions when she goes to pick her up at the end of the day. "That puts some good pressure on me," Leslie shares. "I'll ask in German, 'Did she eat a good amount of food? Did she have fun? Did she sleep?' So it's forced me to up my game a bit."

When her son, Lukas, starts daycare, she plans to take a full immersion course with her new free time.

Future Plans

While they don't plan to stay in Germany forever, they really love it now so want to stay at least a few more years, probably until Charlotte starts elementary school. Plus, they moved right before the pandemic hit so haven't had a chance to travel as much as they would have liked—a big goal of moving abroad in the first place even with two kids. Leslie is originally from Los Angeles and Tim is from Connecticut so choosing a place to land will be their next big adventure.

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