Dutch mothers welcome breastfeeding cafes

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

World Breastfeeding Week started on Sunday. For the next seven days the beauty of breastfeeding, related health aspects and the problems it may lead to – for example at work or in social life - will be in the spotlight. 
A number of special breastfeeding cafes have been opened in the Netherlands over the last couple of years. In sociable surroundings young mothers can exchange experiences and get tips from professional maternity carers. They can do this openly, without having to worry about colleagues or other onlookers.
Wendy Seelen from Careijn Maternity Care runs a breastfeeding cafe at ‘De Peer’ in Breda. Mothers meet there every Wednesday morning.
"Our approach is not really to solve problems,” Wendy says "but to offer a place where mothers can get answers to their questions and support by exchanging information. A good atmosphere is also important, hence the cafe concept. Mothers should also be able to meet each other outside a health care environment, because breastfeeding does not belong in a health care environment. Moreover, it is something that belongs in the outside world.”

Listen to the report from ‘De Peer’:

Outside world
But the outside world does not always have a positive attitude towards breastfeeding. Frequently people frown when a mother uncovers her breast in public. And at work breastfeeding isn’t taken for granted either, even though under Dutch law a young mother may spend a quarter of her time expressing breast milk or breastfeeding.
Although employers are not allowed to say anything about it, many women often do feel the unspoken annoyance. Wendy Seelen thinks the emancipation of breastfeeding is a must. And according to her, the four months of maternity leave allowed here in the Netherlands is rather short. By the time a breastfeeding rhythm has been established and the mother feels comfortable with her baby, she has to go back to work again.
Comforting words
Eva, who is breastfeeding her three-week-old son Lars in cafe ‘De Peer’, doesn’t need to deal with the work situation yet. It is her first visit to the cafe. She has come for the company of other mothers, but she also has a practical reason for joining the group.
"Because there are already some problems. I have mastitis and Lars has lost weight. Therefore I wanted to get some tips and hear how things work with other mothers."
Eva gets what she wants: useful tips from Wendy Seelen and comforting words from her ‘colleagues’. But first and foremost the message of the breastfeeding cafe is that breastfeeding is natural and normal. As Wendy says: "Breastfeeding your child on the tram? It shouldn’t be a problem.”
Here is a selection of the breastfeeding photographs you sent in. Click on the photos to enlarge them.