New parents often find themselves in the midst of a whirlwind after childbirth, with newborns appearing as enigmatic as ever. The challenges of caring for a baby, from diaper changes to feeding schedules, can be overwhelming, especially for first-time parents. Even those with medical backgrounds, like doctors, confess to feeling unprepared for the experience. For expats like Giulia, far from the support of family and friends, the stress of a traumatic birth can leave them physically and emotionally drained.
However, for parents who welcome their newborns in the Netherlands, a lifeline is readily available in the form of kraamzorg, or maternity care. In the Netherlands, every new parent, regardless of their circumstances, has a legal right to receive support from a maternity caregiver, fully covered by social insurance, for the first week after childbirth.
These skilled professionals visit new parents’ homes daily, typically for eight days, offering guidance, comfort, and practical assistance. Their role differs from that of midwives who continue to monitor the well-being of both mother and baby post-birth. Maternity caregivers not only keep midwives informed about the mother and baby’s health but also provide invaluable support to parents as they adapt to their new role.
For those who have given birth in other parts of the world, this system may seem nothing short of miraculous – something many wish they had experienced. In contrast, many new parents in other countries, like myself, are often discharged within a day of giving birth, left to navigate the early days of parenthood without much guidance. The focus tends to be primarily on the baby’s health, with minimal attention paid to the mother’s well-being.
Betty de Vries from Kenniscentrum Kraamzorg, the organization responsible for registering maternity caregivers, explains that maternity caregivers in the Netherlands take care of the mother during the crucial first week, providing advice on breastfeeding, bottle feeding, hygiene, and ensuring a safe environment for both mother and baby. They are available for most of the day, allowing them to closely observe and assist new parents. Esther van der Zwan, the organization’s director, emphasizes the significant responsibility that comes with this role. To prepare for it, maternity caregivers undergo three years of training, a combination of academic and practical experience, and regularly update their skills, from CPR to breastfeeding support.
The Dutch kraamzorg system is undoubtedly a beacon of support for new parents during a challenging period, offering comprehensive assistance that many around the world can only dream of.