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HEALTH

No screens for under-threes: France to give new baby advice to parents

French parents have been told to keep children younger than three away from screens in the government's latest book of health-related advice for under-18s. Here's what else they've recommended.

No screens for under-threes: France to give new baby advice to parents
Photo: Patryk_Kosmider/Depositphotos
The government's new “health book” (or “carnet de santé” in French) which contains the latest medical advice for children is set to appear at the beginning of April. 
 
The book, which is free and traditionally handed over by the maternity ward or a doctor, will replace the edition which has been distributed since 2006 with the updated version designed to “take into account the scientific advances and the expectations of health professionals and families”.
 
Here's a selection of some of the latest recommendations to be included. 
 
No screens for under-threes
 
In a world where the number of screens is generally increasing, with televisions, smartphones and iPads all competing for a person's attention, this new addition to the carnet de santé is likely to have parents a little concerned. 
 
Not only is the government advising parents to keep children younger than three away from screens, they say they shouldn't be in the same room as one even if they're not watching it. 
 
 
11 compulsory vaccinations
 
One of the main changes is the new vaccination schedule.
 
Previously only three child vaccinations were obligatory by law in France: diphtheria, tetanus and polio.
 
But for children born since January 1st, 11 immunisations against conditions such as measles, hepatitis B, meningitis C, rubella, mumps and whooping cough are now obligatory. 
 
France plans to make 11 vaccinations compulsory for children

 
Babies under six months in the same bedroom
 
Another new addition to the list is the recommendation that parents should share a bedroom with babies until they are at least six-months-old. 
 
This is to reduce the risk of unexpected infant death.
 
Use glass bottles 
 
Parents have also been told to use glass bottles rather than those that contain bisphenol A or BPA, an industrial chemical used to make certain plastics, for the sake of the environment. 
 
Don't shake your baby
 
Included on the list is the explicit warning that “shaking a baby can leave them disabled for life.”
 
“If you are exasperated, lay your baby down on the bed (on their back), leave the room and ask for the help of a loved one (family, friend, neighbour …) or a professional,” the book recommends.

HEALTH

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.

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