"Breast is best", we are told, but what can you do when your body does not seem to concur? Lactation consultant Myrte van Lonkhuisjen explains why it's OK to get help and where in Amsterdam you can find the resources you need.
Breastfeeding is the natural way to feed a baby, yet it has been aptly described as: "the most unnatural natural phenomenon". This may be because, for some, it is a skill that needs to be learned – ideally by observation and imitation, and supported by other knowledgeable women. Or, failing that, by trial and error.
For the best results, it is wise to:
- Allow time to learn
- Ask for help
- Accept help
Breastfeeding Classes during Pregnancy
The fun thing about preparing for breastfeeding is that the best preparation does not include buying stuff. Start looking for information during your pregnancy. Knowing how breastfeeding works and how to manage it may help enormously when your baby is born. Consider going to a class between the 20th and 30th week. This may seem early, but having a baby well before the due date happens to 8% of mothers, and breastmilk is especially important for premature babies.
All classes encourage partners to come along, so they won’t be the only one. In Amsterdam, you can find breastfeeding classes in Dutch at most hospitals.
An alternative option is privately-run classes in both Dutch and English by lactation consultants. You might like to try:
Organisations with regular Meet Ups
There are also meetings by two volunteer breastfeeding organisations:
La Leche League offers regular meetings for both pregnant and breastfeeding mothers in both Dutch and English.
Vereniging Borstvoeding Natuurlijk has, at present, no English-speaking groups in or near Amsterdam, but do keep them in mind and perhaps follow them on Facebook.
And don’t forget get-togethers by your birthing professionals, lactation consultants, midwives or consultatiebureaus – where expectant parents and parents of babies can meet and exchange experiences.
Take your Time and Ask for Help if You Need It
Once your baby is born, allow for time to learn. Many professional jobs provide an internship period of 6 weeks to 3 months: a baby is no different. It may take you as much as 6-12 weeks to feel competent at breastfeeding. Take it easy, rest whenever possible, and don’t expect too much from yourself or your family.
Do ask for help if you find yourself struggling. Start with your midwife and kraamzorg. Don’t be put off by conflicting advice during the first week: babies develop incredibly fast and so does milk production. It is quite possible that on day 2 you are encouraged to use a breast pump because there seems to be a need to increase milk supply, yet on day 6 you hear your production is too abundant for your baby. These are normal, healthy – and exasperating – fluctuations typical of the first weeks.
If the basic help you are receiving seems insufficient, you are worried, or you and/or your baby are in discomfort, do ask for specialised help. Find a good IBCLC lactation consultant or, again, turn to the invaluable resources of La Leche League or the Vereniging Borstvoeding Natuurlijk.
Last but not least: accept help. It takes a village to raise a child. While you are learning with your baby, allow others to support you. Learn to say "yes please" to an offer of a prepared meal. Learn to ask a visiting friend to help you fold your laundry so you have time to focus on breastfeeding your baby afterwards.
A little help is definitely a good thing. And what better way to give yourself and your baby a good start?