Birth, challenges of motherhood, Food, Netherlands

Breast is Best – But Put It Away Please!

Breast is best but nearly half of Dutch people
would prefer not to see breastfeeding mothers
near them in public
Photo: Carin Araujo

There has been lots of press coverage in the Netherlands recently about breastfeeding: the lack of acceptance in public places for breastfeeding, the lack of facilities for breastfeeding mothers and so on. If you take a peek in pregnancy and birth forums the topic of how to discreetly breastfeed your baby in public generally comes up. Many women feel uncomfortable doing it outside the home (me included) but it remains a necessity for most unless you choose to become a hermit for months on end. After all, it is a generally accepted message that breastfeeding is the best, healthiest way to feed babies. So shouldn’t it be encouraged as much as possible?

I speak from experience when I say that trying to find a warm, dry, quiet place to breastfeed is a challenge in itself – and that whilst a baby is screaming for a feed…. I have ended up in an office in a first aid hut at the Efteling, a changing room in Peek & Cloppenburg, a dark corner at a table in a pancake restaurant, a toilet cubicle and a far flung table in a restaurant in Blijdorp, a woody hill in a French theme park and the front seat of our car at a service station or side of the road more times than I care to mention. The concept of a place to breastfeed a baby seems lost on many places, even if they are geared especially to children……

The only place that springs to mind where breastfeeding mothers are well catered for is Euro Disney in Paris where there is a heated room set aside, with chairs, for those mothers who wish to feed their babies in relative calm and peace. I have noticed that my local H&M in Zoetermeer also has an area for feeding but I have never been inside (I think you have to go and ask for the key). But in general facilities are poor if you want to breastfeed your baby in public areas.

How are breastfeeding facilities where you live? Is breastfeeding in public encouraged or frowned upon?

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3 thoughts on “Breast is Best – But Put It Away Please!”

  1. This is good to know, as we are looking to return to NL to finalise my work there later this year (although I'd be surprised if I'm still feeding master numbat by then anyway).

    I was lucky that Melbourne stepped up its game in the past year or so — the two big department stores and the main shopping centre in the CBD have parent rooms (with enclosed feeding areas, like changing rooms), and most of the shopping centres in the suburbs do too. I tend to use them only if it's too noisy/busy in the public areas. I've never encountered any hostility in public either, but I have heard stories about others being harassed.

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  2. Thanks for sharing that Nicole. My main issue has always been if you are outside and it is so cold!! The Efteling or the zoo is a good example – the facilities are just lacking in places where you would think they would be available.

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  3. I come from Turkey and have been living in the Netherlands for 2 years. I was very surprised when I found out that there are no designated breastfeeding rooms in shopping malls. Every shopping mall I've been to in Turkey had a nursing or baby room with a changing table and comfy armchair or sofa. I think it is required by law to have a nursing room in public places of a certain size in Turkey.
    In the Netherlands, I've found such a nursing room only in Ikea and Prenatal in Heerlen so far.
    Most of the times I nursed my toddler twins in cafes on a chair looking at a wall, or practically everywhere (corners are preferred). My in-laws are Dutch, they respect our choice. But I can tell that toddler breastfeeding is not so much appreciated in NL. Nobody says 'keep on, good job'. I sometimes feel like a weirdo, but I know that I am doing something right and good, so I don't mind those looks.

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