Having a baby in a country other than one's own can present challenges. However with careful planning, and taking advantage of the benefits at hand, these obstacles can be easily navigated.
In the Netherlands, a special service is offered to mothers with newborns, created to alleviate stress and provide assistance. The service is known as kraamzorg, which enlists the support of a qualified maternity nurse for up to eight days at home to help care for both mother and baby.
As an expat, the concept of kraamzorg can feel alien, or even intrusive, as the concept is not widespread. It is therefore best for expats to educate themselves as much as possible on the subject of kraamzorg, to make the most of this advantageous service.
The kraamzorg process
The first face-to-face meeting with the kraamzorg organisation occurs when the mother is around thirty-four weeks pregnant. The kraamzorg representative will come to the house, and evaluate the level of support that will be offered. This is the opportunity to ask any questions or address concerns about the kraamzorg process.
The kraamzorg representative will check that all personal and insurance details are correct, explain the idea behind the kraamzorg service, the hours of support a mother is entitled to, and what the maternity nurse will do. Note that the hours of care will be reassessed after the birth, and again during the first week after the baby is born.
Responsibilities of the kraamzorg
Just as important, the representative will explain what the service will not include. The main priority of the maternity nurse is always to provide care and instruction for the mother and newborn and her tasks will revolve around this. In essence, the recovery and the development of the baby over the first eight days is the maternity nurse’s principal purpose.
Flagging any issues with either the mother or baby to the midwife
Ensuring the areas that the mother or baby are in are clean and hygienic
Ensuring that the mother is healing well after the birth
Supporting the mother with feeding issues, whether this be breast or bottle-feeding
A mother will have to choose whether she wants a home or hospital birth. The role of kraamzorg in each scenario will be explained to her.
Other duties of the kraamzorg
The representative will then discuss the particular circumstances of the household and family, including additional support for the mother in the way of a partner, family and friends. It is important that a mother has help available when the representative leaves.
A mother will be asked about her partner and their availability after the birth, as well as other children, pets, medical conditions, disabilities, allergies, psychological or mental conditions, and daily routines.
Expats should note that school-going children belonging to the mother can be taken to school by the kraamzorg by foot or by bike. By car is not covered by insurance, and therefore is not allowed. Dog-walking is also not covered by the kraamzorg.
Essentials for the birth and the week after
The meeting will also cover the items a mother will need to have in the house for the birth (if planning a home birth) and the kraamweek (the week after the birth). A mother will already have been sent a list of required items for both her and the baby when she registered with the kraamzorg agency. Some of the items, such as bedverhogers (stilts for the bed) and kruiken (metal hot water bottles) may be unfamiliar.
A mother will be given a zorgdossier to keep for use after the birth. This is a file that will track the day-to-day progress of the baby and the mother's recovery for the first week after the birth. The maternity nurse will record the 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 the baby or the mother. This is done with the intention to help the mother through the nights with her newborn. The file must be kept for a minimum of ten years.
What to do when going into labour
During the preparatory meeting with the kraamzorg representative, a mother will also be given instructions on when and what number to call once she goes into labour. The timing of contact with a kraamzorg will differ depending on whether the mother is planning a home or hospital birth.