In Amsterdam

Breastfeeding Class, Amsterdam

One of the many things pregnancy has taught me is that no-one likes being judged …

Breastfeeding Class Amsterdam

Image: Flickr / Dan Nguyen


Pregnancy, such a personal life event, renders you remarkably open to the opinions of others. I’ve had my food choices questioned (“are you sure you should be eating that?), my movements (“I don’t think you should be carrying that”) and most recently my wish not to have a home birth (“Your upcoming road trip is more dangerous” – my midwife).

I’ve tried to become more zen about it. For the most part, I know these interjections are made with good intentions. But, also knowing how irksome they can be, I pledge to never pass on pregnancy information in a ‘judgy’ manner.

And so to breastfeeding class. For me, I attended because it’s something I hope to do. Whether other couples decide it’s right for them is their business. Either way, I picked up valuable information on the philosophy as well as the practicalities, so I’d recommend it whatever your personal inclination.

An entertaining teacher always helps. Running surprisingly late (the Dutch tend to be punctual), our teacher rushed into the venue, laptop mouse trailing across the floor. The day so far had, apparently, involved quite the catalogue of family incidents. If this start gave us the giggles, the comment a few minutes later really tipped us over the edge. We were asked to name the advantages and disadvantages of breastfeeding to help winkle out any urban myths. Eventually, we came to the claimed advantage of fast baby-weight loss.

“Wrong!” she said in delight. “Unfortunately, only those women who are very slim to start with might have this benefit.” She cast her eyes around our group, settling on one petite girl. “You might be a candidate,” she said, pointing at her. “But none of the rest of you.”

I’m well used to Dutch directness by now. But this one is still a cracker.

One of the most important things we talked about were the modern misconceptions and double-standards attached to breastfeeding. There appears to be a strange, negative correlation between the general visibility of boobs and acceptance of public breastfeeding. I found a poll on debate.org which is only 56% in favour. Prominent bosoms are everywhere: in newspapers, magazines, on shopfronts, in films, catalogues and of course never more than an internet click away. But, for some reason, seeing women publicly nursing is the exception to this breast-fest. Maybe it’s the fault of those selfish babies for turning breasts into something so very functional. 

Our teacher showed us the stereotypical image of a feeding mother versus the reality. In truth, with the range of clever clothes and cover-ups available today you don’t see a thing. Even if you did – who cares? It seems ludicrous to me that it would offend anybody. I love the story of the young Canadian Starbucks barista who came to the defence of a nursing mother. Maybe the complainant should be made to attend information classes.

I learnt a lot of invaluable factual information too. But it’s best you don’t hear that from me second-hand.  Enough to say, our teacher acknowledged it can be hard, but gave us all the practical advice so we’d have the best chance of success if we so chose. And, she let the men know how they can be useful in what might seem a 100% woman-centric task. I’ve tested Charlie on how much he remembered since and can honestly say he took in more than I did. A great result.

If you’re Amsterdam-based, look up Borstvoedingscentrum Amsterdam (classes in English).

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Have you ever encountered public breastfeeding objectors? Maybe you think it’s something to be done in private? I’d love to hear.

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9 thoughts on “Breastfeeding Class, Amsterdam

  1. Breastfeeding is always going to be controversial. I formula fed our first but breastfed our second until he was 21 months. In the early days I don’t remember any comments being made but as he got older I got lots of negativity for feeding a toddler. I just completely ignored them. Good luck with breastfeeding (and I was a big girl and managed to lose 3 stone from purely breastfeeding – the weight loss thing was true for me!) #blogbumpclub

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    • Yes it’s definitely one of those things everyone has an opinion on. But you can only do what’s right for you. Though it’s not the main point, encouraged to hear about the weight loss part. Do love my big belly but will also look forward to getting a more normal body back! – thanks for the comment

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  2. I breastfed Frog, because it was the right thing for us and we enjoyed it. It saved us money and we didn’t have any problems with it. I had friends who formula fed and friends who breastfed and everyone just accepted we did what was right for our families and our babies – no judgement either way. For us, it was a brilliant thing and I hope to do the same with this next baby, but we shall see! Hopefully we’ll have another positive experience. Great post – as ever, I’m fascinated by the difference in having a baby in Holland and having a baby in England. Thank you for linking up again to #BlogBumpClub. x

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    • Great to hear, and that you have a good non-judgmental group of people around you. It will be the same for us, I hope.

      The thing that really interests me between countries is how open they are to public breastfeeding. The Dutch are super-family orientated BUT you very rarely seem to see women doing it. Maybe I’ve just not been looking hard enough … but I definitely get the impression its done more in private.

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    • Nope … but they’re veyr ‘pro’ it. They’ve got the highest home birth rate in Europe I think … about 16% vs. 1% in other countries. And they do send every pregnant woman this care box ‘just in case’ … !

      I think it’s changing too with more and more expats who are hospital all the way. My midwives have been really cool about it, apart from my last appointment where one of them made some funny comments. Didn’t go down well!

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  3. I’ve breastfed three babies so far and had a different experience with each. My eldest was exclusively bf for 7 months until she self weaned but I was horribly self concious about it and preferred to hide away whenever I could. My second born suffered digestive issues, allergies and reflux and would projectile vomit during and after every feed, so I used to express into a bottle if we were going out as it became harder and harder to remain inconspicuous with vomit covered boobs hanging out! My third born breastfed until 15 months and finally I had the confidence to feed as and when she needed it. Perhaps having 2 other children with me mean that it wasn’t as easy to hide away, plus by this point I found objections to breastfeeding simply ridiculous. One person objected to my feeding my youngest in a cafe, but not vocally- he moved seats so he couldn’t see me, complaining and tutting as he went. By this point I couldn’t give two hoots and fully intend to breastfeed this one whenever it needs it. I think confidence comes with time and I am sure you will be fine x x x x

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    • Really interesting to hear your different experiences, thanks for sharing – very helpful for me as a first-timer! I can really see how confidence plays a big part in being comfortable to breastfeed anywhere. I’m sure to start with if I were to hear someone complain I’d find it really hard to have the courage to not run off somewhere private … which is why it’s so important I think that breastfeeding mamas don’t experience this kind of old-fashioned negative reaction. I heard just yesterday of a well known Amsterdam museum that told a lady publicly nursing to into a separate room to not offend anyone. Enough to say the local mama community here is outraged and planning a nurse-in!

      Thanks so much for the encouraging comment x

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  4. Thanks for all these tips on Amsterdam! I’ve been in the NL for 1.5 years now but most of my friends don’t have children so I’m hoping to take up some of your suggestions for meeting people :).

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