Having a baby in the Netherlands
Understanding the Kraamzorg
By Amanda van Mulligen
Having a baby in a country other than your own can present its one unique challenges and can inspire its own high hurdles.
In the Netherlands Kraamzorg, the support of a qualified maternity nurse for up to eight days at home to help care for both mother and baby, is a service that aims to alleviate stress.
However, as an expat, the concept of kraamzorg is usually alien, and can even feel intrusive; after all, a stranger will be coming in to your home when you and your family are at their most vulnerable.
In order to best overcome the culture shock of this unexpected helping hand its a good idea to educate yourself about what to expect.
At the end of the day, when you find yourself getting used to motherhood in a foreign country, away from your usual networks and support, the help can be invaluable.
Your first face-to-face meeting with your kraamzorg organisation will come when you are around thirty-four weeks pregnant. Your chosen company will call you for an appointment to come to your home and discuss what support you will receive. If you are feeling unsure about the kraamzorg service and the role the maternity nurse will play in your family after the birth of your baby, this is a great opportunity to get all your concerns addressed and your questions answered.
Your kraamzorg representative will check that all your personal and insurance details are correct, explain to you the idea behind the kraamzorg service, the hours of support you are entitled to, and what a maternity nurse will do for you and your family. Note that the hours of care you are entitled to will be reassessed after the birth, and again during the first week after your baby is born.
Just as important, she will explain what the service will not include. The main priority of the maternity nurse is always to provide care and instruction for you and the newborn and her tasks will revolve around this. In essence, your recovery and the development of your baby over the first eight days is the maternity nurse’s principal purpose.
- Flagging any issues with either of you to the midwife
- Ensuring the areas you and the baby are in are clean and hygienic
- Ensuring that you are healing well after the birth
- Supporting you with feeding issues (whether this be breast or bottle feeding)
She will then discuss the particular circumstances of your household and family, including additional support you have available in the way of partner, family and friends. It is important that you have help available to you when the maternity nurse leaves you each day and this will be factored in to the amount and type of support you receive.
You will be asked about your partner and their availability after the birth, other children, pets, medical conditions, disabilities, allergies, psychological or mental conditions, and daily routines.
Handy to know if you have already have children who attend school, the school run can be undertaken by your kraamzorg so long as the journey can be done on foot or by bike. Taking children by car is not allowed, as kraamzorg has no insurance cover for this. You should also be aware that you need to make arrangements for your pets (e.g. dog walking) if your partner will not be around for such tasks as this is not something a kraamzorg service will normally take off your hands.
Essentials for the Birth and the Week After
The meeting will also cover the items you need to have in house for the birth (if you are planning a home birth) and the kraamweek (the week after the birth). You will have already been sent a list of required items for both you and the baby when you registered with your kraamzorg agency, but if you have any queries about items on the list this is the time to address them. Some of the items, such as bedverhogers (stilts for the bed) and kruiken (metal hot water bottles) are probably unfamiliar, even if you have already had children in another country.
You will be given a zorgdossier to keep for use after the birth. This is a file, which will track the day-by-day progress of your baby and your own recovery for the first week after the birth. The maternity nurse will record your baby’s weight, feeding patterns, temperature and urine and bowel movements over the course of the day and capture any issues. She will also write down her advice about feeding or care for your baby or you to take into account whilst she is absent, particularly with the intention of helping you get through the nights with a newborn. Note that you are required to keep this file for a minimum of ten years.
Instructions for Labour and Birth
During this preparatory meeting you will also be given instructions on when and what number to call once you go into labour. The timing of contact with kraamzorg will differ depending on whether you are planning a home or hospital birth.
You will have the chance to ask any questions you have during this meeting, and it is a good idea to make a list before the appointment, so you cover all your queries and address any concerns.