Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Breastfeeding in the Netherlands

Photo: Marek Bernat
80% of mothers start out breastfeeding their babies in the Netherlands and this number decreases to 20% by six months. In a recent survey carried out by the Voedingscentrum in conjunction with UNICEF Nederland, 56% said they gave breastfeeding outside of the home. The rest said that a lack of facilities and the fact that breastfeeding is very personal prevented them from feeding by breast when they are out.

To add to this 45% of those surveyed do not see breastfeeding in public as normal but a majority does accept breastfeeding in general.

I certainly echo the sentiments of those mothers who feel that the facilities to breastfeed outside of the home (and by this it is meant somewhere inside where it is warm, quiet and clean) are few and far between. My latest outing is a good example. On Sunday we went to the Efteling and my 5 month old started getting cranky around 11am - our call to find somewhere to feed him and quick. My husband asked for assistance at one of the food stalls.

"Is there anywhere my wife can go inside to breastfeed our baby?" He asked.

"Breastfeed? What do you mean?" the woman behind the foot stall answered. Perplexed but determined he continued, only to be told that a nearby restaurant had an 'indoors'. So we searched further and eventually found the first aid centre where I was allowed to pull up a chair and feed my son. No signs, no info - just a bit of intuitive searching on my husband's part.

The lack of facilities and acceptance outside the home makes the early months with a breastfed baby hard as they need feeding every 2 to 3 hours. Mothers in the UK feel no differently to those in the Netherlands.

The Voedingscentrum is encouraging local councils to put breastfeeding on the agenda and make places available to mothers (look for signs saying "Voeden kan hier") but there is some way to go to make the country a breastfeeding haven.

The most recent campaign by the Voedingcentrum can be seen in The Hague on the Plein by way of 14 life-size photos taken by Olaf Posselt related to breastfeeding. The photo exhibitions runs until the 10th October.

Is breastfeeding accepted as the norm in your home and/or country? What are your thoughts on the topic?


Anonymous said...

Here in Washington state, we've had a number of laws in recent years go in effect to protect breastfeeding mothers. It is not at all unusual to see mothers breastfeeding their children. Breastfeeding mothers must be given accommodation in their place of work.

Here is a list of laws in the various states:

Amanda van Mulligen said...

Here too there are laws to protect breastfeeding mothers at work - whether there is a proper place to actually feed your baby or express is another matter. It's breastfeeding in public spaces that needs attention here.

Pamela said...

You'd think in a country with such amazing postnatal care they would continue the supportive attitude into breastfeeding. I'm having a hard time reconciling this at the moment - I live in the centre of Amsterdam, my baby is 3 weeks old and I've not yet built up the courage to breastfeed him in public but I know there will come a time when I don't have a choice and I'm not looking forward to it.

In Australia, by law breasfeeding is a right, not a privelege and so breastfeeding mothers cannot be discriminated against. Many restaurants and venues are now putting stickers on their doors that say "breastfeeding welcome here".

Gezonde tussendoortjes said...

thank you for the nice information!

Olaf Posselt said...

For those who are interested in the pictures of the exhibition; you can find them here:

Amanda van Mulligen said...

Thanks for including this link Olaf - the photography is beautiful!