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?

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