To provide a little background for this post, the Consultatiebureau, also known as CB, is a place where parents bring their children in for baby well check ups. Babies are weighted, measured and vaccinated. Parents get advice on parenting, feeding and – in theory – get referred to specialists should problems occur. It is all for free. And while it is wonderful to have a place where the babies are being checked on, advice given to parents, the advice they give often doesn’t make sense.
In expat circles, the Consultatiebureau is famous, or should I say notorious for providing parents with all kinds of useless, or often ridiculous advice. So far, they have been good to me though. Sure, some of their advice was less than useful, but they weighted, measured and vaccinated my children and everything else I sort of figured out for myself. Once, they even found an appointment for me that was on a Saturday when other times didn’t work for me. So I smiled when others told me that their doctor or nurse at the consultatiebureau asked them why they’re not feeding their child more bread or milk because I just couldn’t relate. Until yesterday. Yesterday came the advice that changed everything.
“Put tape on your nipples to wean your son off”
Can I just let this sink in? We were talking about his low weight and the doctor seemed surprised that I was still breastfeeding at 11 months. I was telling her that I am fine with waiting to wean him off but she insisted that I increase his food intake and give him formula. I am planning to wait for another month to wean him off and was relaxed about this, but she thought I would best wean him off. As great ways to do it, she suggested: giving him the bottle or a cup. Having someone else give him the bottle – wow, how funny I didn’t think of that! And, as the last resort, “put tape on my nipples”. Obviously, this is the piece advice I am willing to ignore, among with many others.
But then I thought that I have heard, countless times, other expat parents complaining about the Consultatiebureau. I then asked them to share the worst advice from the consultatiebureau. Some of the stories I am sharing below are mine, others are from other expats in the Netherlands. I have included commentary (in Italics). Enjoy the worst advice from the consultatiebureau.
“Don’t breastfeed your baby at night anymore, you wouldn’t give in to your toddler crying for some lolly’s at night either, would you?!” It’s not the same, you know…
“What about bottle feeding before bed, they sleep longer that way” No, not necessarily.
“Don’t always pick up your crying baby from the play pen, he is just manipulating you, yes even at 4 months of age” Yes, that’s exactly what he’s doing. He’s thinking: “Hey, let’s manipulate mom a little”.
“Let’s just wait and see what happens”- about a girl who wouldn’t roll or crawl at 12 months. What happened was therapy but only after I intervened.
“She’s not putting on weight, come back in another month”. After a month: “She’s fine, what were you so concerned about?” Rinse and repeat at least three times.
‘If she’s not sleeping during the day, it is her way of saying: “Leave me alone, I want to go to sleep”! Because you know the baby so much better than the mom even though you only saw her like maybe twice for 5 minutes?
“Just speak Dutch to them” How would you like a child to learn Dutch? From somebody who speaks it really well – a Dutch person- or someone who doesn’t speak it much? And even if the parent spoke Dutch, they should choose what language to talk to their children
“Praise her when she eats well” My biggest pet peeve. I am quite relaxed about what they eat. But I am not praising them for cleaning their plates, or eating food. I would praise a picky eater for trying new foods (it’s about the trying not aobut the food), but would prefer to remove all praise from eating.
“Oh, you can pick her up from school earlier, that’s not a problem”. – Except the school is at the other end of the town and I don’t have a car. And two more children to look after. How am I going to do that? Do you have other ideas? Didn’t think so.
They told me when my son was 4 months that he had development problems because his head circumference was lower than the normal on the chart. He was premature and they were comparing him to the normal chart. Let me repeat. He was premature. That means that he is not developing like the chart, but may hit growth and developmental milestones later. And you compare him to a normal chart. Aren’t you listening???
“Your child is too small” (to the child’s also very small parents). Too small for what? Too small for whom? So he or she is small? can’t you think of worse problems?
“No, choking isn’t dangerous”- except we almost needed to perform the Heimlich maneouver on her.
“Just give him some bread, with processed cheese or ham” – we’re talking about a 6 months old here. And I am just ignoring the fact that noone should eat processed cheese or ham. Especially not 6 months olds.
“Is it strange that my son had a different skin color from me!” How about you keep your curiosity to yourself or maybe you can ask this question in a more tactful manner?
At around 9 months, they told me I should give Ben milk mixed with lemonade. We had no problems with his growth and this was after I’d told them he was drinking his milk quite happily! Milk. With lemonade. The mom told you her son likes milk. Without the lemonade. And can you explain why you suggested lemonade at all?
I had difficulties to start breastfeeding (had little milk) and asked a doctor (not a nurse) what I could do to stimulate it, besides feeding all the time. She told me – well, you could research on the internet….. Also, I was literally advised to stop BF at 6 months as APPARENTLY it is of no use to the baby anymore.” Hm.. here I thought you were there to help and not tell people to do research on the Internet? Oh and as to when to wean a child off is the parents’ decision and not yours.
“That’s weird. He is not looking at me. He’s only looking at you!” No really? A little baby is looking at his mom, not at some weird doctor. Weird.
These comments and pieces of advice would be hilarious if it hadn’t been for the fact that they are voiced by doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. I am just a mom, not a doctor and shouldn’t be made to check and double-check on everything they tell me. I know that in some cases I am more qualified than they are (for example, about bilingualism), but in other cases I truly want to trust that the doctor is well-educated and knowledgeable about children and their well being.
But what should you do when a lot of this advice is just, out of need for a different word, ridiculous? The fact that we live in a different country isn’t making our job any easier – because often ideas about health, baby wellbeing and development are also culturally sensitive.
Many expats give the advice: “Just smile and nod and ignore”. As it turns out, the Dutch do the same thing! We are more integrated than we thought!
So, what’s maternity care like where you live? Who performs check-ups, vaccinations and gives advice on parenting and child development? Are you happy with the system?
This article is previously published on the blog The European Mama.