Sunday, September 10, 2017

First week of school

The little one has started to enroll into the French education system since the beginning of September. She was so eager to go to school. I guessed she wanted to do everything just like her big sister.

Back to the school for the eldest, first day of school for the little one.

The big sister had no problem integrating into her new class, as her three closed friends are in the same class. Everyday she told me that she is so happy to go back to school.

 Happy to go to school

Ok I didn't know kids start learning computer skills at kindergarten level

Things turned out differently for the little one. The first day we sent her to her class, she was exploring the classroom without problems. We waved goodbye and she just smiled at us, whereas a little girl one age older than her (they are sharing the same class between 3 and 4 year old), had problem letting go of her mother. I picked her up after school and she was all fine.

Surprisingly, she was all gloomy the second day. She refused to wake up, saying that she was sick, and the whole morning laying down on the sofa didn't want to eat breakfast. She kept saying that she didn't want to go to school. I didn't know what to do. The big sister didn't have this problem at all. She went to school 6 months younger than her little sister now, and since the first day staying after school till we picked her up at 6:30pm. For certain people the school day was too long for her but she never complained.

I decided to bring the little one to school as I had to sent the eldest anyway. I told her that if her teachers agreed that she could go home, I would bring her home since I worked from home that day. However, when I told the teacher about her situation, the teacher insisted that she stayed. She held her little hand, brought her to a corner and introduced her to new friends. The little one burst in tears hearing that she had to stay. I turned cold turkey and walked away. It was the right choice, as in the evening when I picked her up, she was ok. Her teacher said that she was a bit disturbed eating in the canteen. In the evening she kept telling us that she vomited in my car, which was not true, I didn't know where she got the idea.

Wednesday had half day school, they were both happy to go, and happy to see me when I picked them up. The little one even tried to sing us a song with hand gesture, I guessed she learnt it from school.

Thursday and Friday were big days for me. My company had moved to a new location since Monday, and I was going there for the first time since I worked from home at the beginning of the week to be able to send and pick up the kids on time. The school gate for the eldest opens at 8h35, but the little one only at 8h45. I was afraid to arrive too late at work, so I arranged that a parent with whom both her kids in the same class as mine would take care of them as soon as she arrives at the gate. They had to stay after school so I had to prepare a snack for them. But surprisingly, the snack box was untouched in the little one's school back so she didn't have her snack. On Friday the other mother told me that it seems that parents have to put the snack box in a different location, and she was going to ask for me as her kids didn't need to stay in the garderie after school. Till now, I didn't know what happened, the little one said she did have her snack, but the snack box was missing...

It seems that we parents have problem getting used to the new school year...

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Milk formula : a real necessity or a result of marketing

Recently we had a gathering with friends in our place. I told some of them how parents attitude were so different between Malaysia and France regarding milk powder. At the end of the conversation, I told them that my kid has refused drinking milk before turning three, and I still had some milk powder left. When they left, one friend took the two tins of milk powder, saying that she would feed her kids with them. If they become sick, she would stop. These powder were already opened and on the tin it stated that it would be preferable to finish the powder within a month. This friend is a doctor.

These conversations just brought back my observations about how crazy the parents were in Malaysia regarding the quality of milk powder. They are willing to pay exorbitant price for a tin of milk powder. They believe that kids should continue drinking milk everyday until around 10 years old.

Several years ago I went back to Malaysia with my eldest daughter with a tin of Nestle Nidal. It didn't last for two weeks so I went to shop for Malaysian milk powder. I was so surprised to discover the price. A tin of PediaSure, weighted 900g, costed around RM50, wherease Nestle Nidal costed around 12€ at that time. So they were almost the same price as exchange rate was 1€ to RM4.4. But considering the minimum wage was around RM900 vs 1000€, the milk powder in Malaysia costed almost 5 times more than in France. And, low income group did not hesitate to buy expensive milk powder for their kids as it was considered necessary to help kids grow. I didn't believe at all that expensive milk powder could provide better nutrient, so I went for a cheaper brand. And last time I went back, the PediaSure milk powder has surged to RM90 per tin due to weak RM against USD.

When comparing the ingredients between the two brands of milk powder, I didn't see much different. Yet Malaysians were so crazy about the US imported milk powder.

They were huge price range in Malaysia for these products, it could go from RM20 a tin to RM100. These were not the case in France, milk powder was usually between 10€ to 20€.

Even organic milk powder didn't cost as much as those in Malaysia.

The milk powder companies were not allowed to advertise in maternity wards. So parents choose one according to their preference. I chose Nestle because it was the only brand I knew, and luckily both my kids accepted it without problem. I had heard that some parents had to change several brands as their kids refused to drink certain brand.

Milk powder is a necessity for babies so it has huge market potential in every country. In China, due to the one child (now two) policy, parents fight to provide the best milk to their kids. Due to the scandal that put down their own local milk powder producers, most of the Chinese parents buy their supplies from overseas. I have known of several Chinese friends here working part time as resale, they buy milk powder in French supermarkets and send to Chinese customers in Mainland China. Hong Kongese were mad at their Chinese counterparts as they smuggled the milk formula from the shells while visiting, leaving the local mothers facing the shortage of milk formula.

My mother had asked me several times how could we afford to let go of milk for our kids. I always explained that in French healthbook for kids, kids need dairy products which could be obtained not only from milk, but cheese, yogurts... so milk formula was not compulsory after they turn one or two year old. However, France had had the period where milk was forced into every household, and the real reason behind was that the milk industry was producing too much milk so their lobbyists influenced the government to force the milk consumption. 

Now I wonder, is the consumption of expensive milk formula in Asian countries, partly, or largely contributed by the excessive advertising and marketing campaigns in the that region?