Familiar with Kraamzorg? Chances are you have heard something about this incredibly helpful and compassionate service, but may still be a bit fuzzy on the details. Charlotte Hutting provides an inside view on this uniquely Dutch approach toward postnatal care.
What is a Kraamverzorgster?
Kraamzorg is a medical service in the Netherlands that provides postnatal care in the initial 8 – 10 days immediately after birth. A kraamverzorgster is the professional caregiver that comes to your home on a daily basis to deliver this care. This includes:
- Medical checkups for mother and baby and follow-up discussion of any concerns with your midwife
- Helping to initiate and assist with breastfeeding and/or bottle feeding
- Teaching the entire family how to bathe, dress and feed the new baby
- Helping any other children at home become comfortable with this newest family member
Your kraamverzorgster will help you gain confidence as a mother by discovering and trusting your instincts, as well as learning how to know your baby’s character. Sometimes this is very subtle, and other times it is rather obvious, e.g. diaper full of pee means the baby must have drunk some milk – Yay!
What Kind of Training Does a Kraamverzorgster Have?
There are a few different ways to become a kraamverzorgster. After completing middle school (mavo/vmbo-preparatory secondary vocational education), people can choose to continue their studies in the caretaking professions. While students are given a broad knowledge about caretaking in general, they can choose to concentrate on kraamzorg. This takes about three years. If a student is over 21 when they begin caretaking studies, they can choose from three kinds of shorter courses, which last from three to eighteen months depending on their previous studies and working experience. Most kraamverzorgsters are returning students. When they have finished their studies, kraamverzorgsters are employed through an agency or are self-employed.
The bottom line is that kraamzorg is flexible and is intended to help you with whatever YOU need to gain strength and get comfortable with your new life.
A Typical Day for a Kraamverzorgster: Working Hours and Tasks
It is hard to say what is typical, because kraamzorg is customised to each family’s needs but, generally, kraamverzorgsters work between three and eight hours a day and while services provided can vary widely, it always includes daily medical checkups.
For mother, this will mean checking temperature, heart beat, examining breasts and womb and discussing how she is feeling physically and mentally; for baby, this will mean getting weighed and having her behavior evaluated (feeling stressed, relaxed, angry, etc.).
But kraamzorg offers much more than this. Depending on how much help you have during the day from a partner or other family member, your kraamverzorgster may help you in some of the following ways:
- washing dishes
- light grocery shopping
- babysitting an older child or children
- making you breakfast
- teaching you baby masssage
- preparing you for your first walk outside with your baby
Your kraamverzorgster may help you discover and set some new boundaries or professionally (very important), and firmly ask those visitors having a fun time in your living room while you yawn and yawn to please go home now!
The bottom line is that kraamzorg is flexible and is intended to help you with whatever you need to gain strength and get comfortable with your new life.
How Much Does Kraamzorg Cost?
The cost depends on your insurance, so check with them to be sure about your situation. Don’t forget to check whether your kraamzorg agency or your self-employed kraamverzorgster has a contract with your insurance because that can make a difference in the coverage as well.
It is sometimes possible to change your insurance policy before the end of the year and choose postnatal care, in which case kraamzorg should be fully covered. If it is not fully covered (mostly this happens when you try to change coverage when you are already pregnant), you might have ‘basis’ insurance. This means most of the costs are covered except for a small amount per hour (currently €4,30 euro per hour). Depending on how many hours you choose, it could cost you somewhere between €125 – €250. Some luxury insurance packages also include kraamzorg for an additional 5 days of 3 hours a day if it is deemed medically necessary or if you or your baby were in hospital for more than 10 days and the kraamzorg coverage period of ten days had passed by time you got home. If you feel you want more help, you can always call the kraambureau and ask for the possibilities.
What are the Benefits of Having a Kraamverzorgster in the First Few Days of My Baby’s Life?
You can think of a kraamverzorgster as your own temporary private nurse, mom, aunt, best friend, shoulder and coach. She will be there but knows when to step back and she will find her way so don’t see her as a guest but as a respectful and somewhat invisible part of the family for a short while. I believe you know you’ve had a good kraamverzorgster when the 8-10 days is over and you don’t want her to leave but….yes, you also feel like you’re ready for your new little family to fly solo.
How (and When) to Register for Kraamzorg?
It is best to sign up around the end of the first trimester. Your midwife may recommend some kraamzorg agencies, but you can also choose one yourself. About ten weeks before the due date someone will come to your house to complete your intake (house calls are only in Amsterdam, in other cities it is usually done over the telephone). Together you will go over your living arrangements and decide which services would be most beneficial. Please note that the person who performs the intake is unlikely to be your kraamverzorgster.
You can find information about Kraamzorg
- Through the website of your insurance company
- Through the website of the city of Amsterdam (not all agencies are listed because they must register, but mine is listed!)
- Through links to kraamzorg on your midwife’s website.
- Through the sector organisation called Bo Geboortezorg
Charlotte Hutting is a birth coach at Kraambureau Het Geboortecollectief and loves her work there. She lives with her two sons, husband, and cat in Duivendrecht. She is a journalist, a qualified social worker and has been working as a birth coach since 2011.