Do you want your kid to stand out or be one among many? Picking a baby's name is like deciding on a tattoo - except for someone else. While it's an expression of the parents' identity, the child is the one stuck with a bad idea. In any case, it's still not a good idea to criticize someone else's name choice. Ben and Mia are regular favorites; Marie and Elias topped Germany's name list in 2016.
Breastfeeding in public
Even though it doesn't work for all moms for a number of reasons, breastfeeding is a widespread practice in Germany. Germans are comfortable with nudity, so breastfeeding in public is generally not a problem. However, the country doesn't have a law explicitly protecting nursing mothers. Shop owners may determine that they don't want to see it in their establishment - and a few controversially do.
Breastfeeding older babies
This is another topic no one wants to be judged upon. You might even see mothers still breastfeeding their three-year-old child at the playground - but this is rather an exception. Since parental allowance is paid in Germany for 12 months (and up to 14 months when shared between the two parents), many moms try to stop breastfeeding before going back to work - but there's definitely no rule.
Speaking of getting back to work, organizing childcare is another stressful topic for new parents. If many are relieved to find any nearby solution, some German parents see the childcare they choose for their child as a crucial academic decision. Sending them to a Waldorf pre-school, for example, makes it easier to later be admitted to a school based on the same alternative educational philosophy.
Some parents openly reject vaccines; they are not obligatory in Germany. OECD data records a 96 percent childhood vaccination rate in the country - but other German studies claim it's lower. Vaccination opponents' beliefs only work as long as enough people follow the planned vaccination program to ensure herd immunity: Berlin faced a measles epidemic in the winter of 2014-2015, with 1,392 cases.
Crying it out
A universal phenomenon: Babies wake up many times a night and parents are exhausted. Following what's known as the Ferber method in the US, the book "Jedes Kind kann schlafen lernen" (Every child can learn to sleep) is a bestseller in Germany. It recommends letting babies cry alone in bed until they sleep through the night. It's a lifesaver for some; others describe this method as pure torture.
Those who are against the sleep training method are likely influenced by attachment parenting, a philosophy promoted by US pediatrician William Sears. This approach recommends, among others, sleeping near the baby, or co-sleeping - another controversial topic. Germany hosted its first Attachment Parenting Congress in 2014, backed by the Federal Minister of Family Affairs.
Disposable or cloth diapers - or diaper-free
Diapers are another universal parenting issue. With many easy-to-use models on the market, some parents try out cloth diapers. The extra workload isn't for everyone one though: Many will stick to disposable ones - and they can at least turn to eco-friendly brands. Those practicing the "Windelfrei" (diaper-free) method are still rare, but they automatically win the "most-dedicated parent" contest.
Homemade baby food or store-bought jars
You'll recognize the parents who care about this dedication contest (and naturally, about their above-average extraordinary child) by the way they lovingly prepare their baby's food. All organic, of course - and the accessories to serve the royal puree are from fair trade designers. They might judge those who just buy jars - but they'll still admit that they're useful when traveling.
Alternative approaches to education
In the 1960s and 1970s, Germans reflected a lot on education and came up with concepts such as "antiautoritäre Erziehung," or anti-authoritarian education, which aims to promote a child's freedom of thought. The influence of this approach is felt in Germany to this day. Beyond various current popular theories, each parent develops their own style - and no one likes to hear it's wrong.
TV and electronic devices
There are amazing apps and TV shows developed for toddlers. Many one-year-olds are better than their grandparents at swiping through a smartphone's pictures. Although there is no consensus among German parents concerning digital media use for small children, most of them feel better when they restrict their child's contact with a screen - while secretly enjoying the break those gadgets provide.
Another way some Germans measure how "good" a parent they are is by the number of years their child has never been put in contact with sweets - and that in a country where ice cream is an almost-daily ritual for older children in the summer. Incidentally, the second child usually gets to bite into some of that evil candy earlier in life - by then, parents have lost all their great principles.
Although parents of young children worldwide are all confronted with these topics, here's what you need to know before you start debating them at a German playground.
The German expression "Rabeneltern" - literally "raven parents" - does not have a direct translation in English. It's an insult used to refer to negligent parents, derived from the original "Rabenmutter" (raven mother) that already appeared in 14th-century texts and even in Martin Luther's translation of the Bible.
The metaphor refers to the fact that raven chicks leave the nest before they learn to fly, and even though their mother still keeps feeding them there, they seem abandoned and vulnerable when they're left on their own.
The term was therefore used pejoratively to describe working moms who weren't always around to take care of their children.
Nowadays, parents ironically describe themselves as "Rabeneltern" to precede any outside judgment, for example, when they - exceptionally, of course - let their children overdose on sugar in front of the TV while the adults sit around and drink beer.
Click through the gallery above to discover a dozen topics that are a source of sensitive debate among parents in Germany.
The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business
Grown-ups might find this book about the little mole with poop on his head a bit embarrassing, but that hasn't kept it from becoming internationally known. Wolf Erbruch's 1989 book has a promising title — and doesn't disappoint. In 2017, Erbuch became the first German to win the Astrid Lindgren Prize, which was founded in 2002 in honor of the Pippi Longstocking author from Sweden.
Max and Moritz
"Max and Moritz (A Story of Seven Boyish Pranks)" was published by Wilhelm Busch in 1865 and has since found its way into countless German children's rooms. The illustrated story about the two mischievous boys is told in rhymes that are still quoted to this day. The book's title satirizes the way theater plays were often given subtitles at the time.
Die Häschenschule (Bunny School)
The book "Die Häschenschule" by Albert Sixtus, illustrated by Fritz Koch-Gotha, is also told in rhymes. The story of bunny siblings Hans and Grete was first published in 1924 - a time when teachers were authoritarian, pupils were well behaved and foxes were naughty.
Alarm im Kasperletheater (Alarm in the Puppet Theater)
This 1958 children's book by Nils Werner, illustrated by Heinz Behling, was a classic in communist East Germany and was adapted as a film. Even today, it's particularly popular in eastern Germany. In the story, a little devil steals the pancakes for grandma's birthday party and a wild chase ensues. Behling was also a caricaturist and co-founder of the East German satire magazine, "Eulenspiegel."
Rundherum in meiner Stadt (Around in My City)
Ali Mitgutsch is considered the father of hidden-picture books in the German-speaking world. His first volume, "Rundherum in meiner Stadt" (Around in My City) came out in 1968 and received the German Youth Literature Prize the following year. Since then, numerous volumes of highly detailed illustrations have been published in Germany and abroad. His books contain no words, but lots of humor.
In 1982's "Friends" by Helme Heine, a pig, a chicken and a mouse go on adventures together. The author, a Berlin native, currently lives in New Zealand and his works have been translated into many different languages. "Friends" was adapted as the animated feature "Mullewapp" from 2009.
Bobo's recipe for success seems to be simple drawings about everyday life in the zoo, at the playground and in the backyard, each accompanied by some short text. Swiss author Markus Osterwalder first released the stories in 1984 and they have since been adapted into numerous cartoon series.
In 1992, Swiss author Marcus Pfister released his colorful picture book about the joy of sharing, friendship and being an individual. The story of the fish with the shiny scales has been translated into numerous languages and adapted as a musical and cartoon series. The fish is also available as a bath toy.
The poem "Next Please" by Austrian poet Ernst Jandl, about the fear of waiting your turn at the doctor's office, was first published in 1970. In 1997, Norman Junge illustrated a children's book based on the poem, which was nominated for the German Youth Literature Prize. The original German title is "fünfter sein" — being fifth.
British author Julia Donaldson and German illustrator Axel Scheffler teamed up to make a true classic with "The Gruffalo." The English version appeared in 1999 and the German edition followed in 2002. In the story, a mouse tells the other animals about his imaginary friend, the dangerous Gruffalo. But it turns out he's real! A 2011 animated film based on the book was nominated for an Oscar.