Friday, November 29, 2013


"Kraamzorg" is the support service you can get as a mother with newborn during first 2 months at home. I heard about it for the first time during our information sessions at the hospital.  Apparently a lot of people are unfamiliar with the service, so I figured it was worth a short post.

Kraamzorg provides general support in the family with a new-born:  non-medical care of the baby (bathing the baby, help with feeding, ...) + household tasks (cooking, grocery shopping, ironing, some cleaning, care of older children, care of pets, ...). Unlike the midwive/health service nurses/lactation experts that can visit you 10 times (refunded),  kraamzorg cannot give you any medical advice or breastfeeding advice. The midwive visits are shorter, focussed on the baby's health (weight, responses, ...) and the mother's health (feeding, postpartum healing, ...).  The people that give the support are not trained as cleaners or so but as care-givers and they only go to families with newborns. As a result they are quite experienced and can give excellent support e.g. when the baby has cramps for the first time and the new parent feels uncertain how to comfort the little one.

The price of kraamzorg is dependend on your income, ...yet as a double income family you will definately pay the maximum amount of 7,5€ per hour. Yet the Belgian healthcare pays back 4€ for 60 hours of support and medical insurances refund an additional amount.

There are multiple organisations that provide kraamzorg...some focus more on many hours in the first 2 weeks, while others spread it out more across 2 months.

I have chosen the latter option, getting help twice a week for 3-4 hours each time.  They took care of Kabouter if he was fussy while I was enjoying breakfast or took the opportunity to enjoy a long relaxing shower.  They bathed him while I was having that much needed nap and gave him a bottle once when I had to go out for an urgent errand.   Besides that they ensured I never had an ironing pile, there was each time a new stew or oven dish + soup ready and our main rooms were cleaned.  Wow, efficient wonder ladies. I miss them.    In my opinion they were very much worth the money!!  So if you are pregnant in Belgium, I recommend to book your kraamzorg already ;)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

It takes a village (and a family) to raise a child

And our Kabouter has a lot of loving family members that love to help out and take care of him! Yeaay

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Facial expressions




Passed out





Happy, making you melt

Sunday, November 17, 2013

What I didn't know about breastfeeding before

"Are you going to breastfeed?" I often got the question during my pregnancy and I answered without much reflection that I'd love to try it. It seemed rather obvious to me that it is the best option. I also knew that some mothers need to stop because of issues so I promised myself not to stress or feel guilty about it if I'd have to give up.  But I never doubted to start.

During our info sessions at the hospital I learned a newborn baby might need feeding up to 12 times a day. 12 times...that is a lot! Gasp....I had no clue. I started to count the hours in a day and mentally inventorised all essential tasks I have to do in a day and  I realized I needed to accept all help I could get. So I booked some household help.
And I learned I'd need to make sure the baby latches on correctly and frequently enough or I'd risk hurt nipples or breast infections: yikes! That sounded quite frightening.  Nevertheless I still didn't doubt that I'd try breastfeeding.
I also learned about the changing composition of mother milk according to the baby's age as well as during a single day (for that reason it makes no sense to weigh the baby before and after feeding to check if (s)he drunk enough).  I had no clue how cool that is!

So when our Kabouter arrived and was put on my chest, we treasured the skin contact  in the delivery room with the 3 of us during the first hour(s) after birth that the hospital policy stimulates us to have undisturbed. While getting to know each other and exploring and cuddling (and crying a bit from happiness), Kabouter started to smack with his lips as predicted and with good ease he started to drink. We had to laugh by the loud smacking noise this tiny baby could already make.

A few hours later, when we all had moved from the delivery room to my maternity room, I let him latch on again.  Later on the midwive came to check upon us, while she was so surprised that we had not called her yet for help to let him drink.  The next times she checked in with us more regularly and with hindsight we better had done that right from the start as quite soon Kabouter had managed to hurt my nipples full of cracks.  Hmm that early smacking wasn't good probably.   Ooouccch!! Jan could hear the moment of latching by my painful groans  (and that would continue for the next 2 weeks) and on day 3 the hospital midwives advised me to start extracting milk with a breast pump to allow my nipples to cure a bit.

So when we went home, I struggled first weeks to find a rhythm and get enough sleep. Even if you are told before that they'll drink 12 times a day, you cannot imagine the fatigue until you experience it. I'm sorry to admit I was kind of crossing my fingers constantly the first weeks to have the baby asleep so I could rest too or eat or do a quick phone call.   I constantly lacked time. And it was so painful in the beginning, I didn't particularly looked forward to the next moment of feeding. I was getting told it'd get better but it didn't quite get better soon enough. It's not comforting to know that in a few weeks time things will be different if you are tired & in pain at this moment. A few weeks sound like eternity in that case.

The midwive/lactation expert that visited me at home warned me about the growth spurts that would come at week 3 and week 6   "install yourself in bed with a magasine or music or ..., assure your husband is near to bring you cookies & drinks ..;because you'll be in there for a while".    Growth spurts, hmm, I had heard of it for the first time at work previous summer where a colleague/new daddy mentioned them but I thought they were exaggerated. You know those Dutch, right ;), exaggerating everything and making themselves interesting.   Hmmm it turned out those growth spurts aren't exaggerated...Wow I had no clue. I had never heard of them before.   Kabouter spent at week 3 twice 5-7 hours of drinking each half hour, hardly giving me time to run to the toilet, let alone get a snack or so. Thankfully I knew what was happening so I did camp in bed with tv on my ipad.  At week 6 I fed him 18 times in 24 hours. I was exhausted!  No wonder those are the times that many people seem to be giving up breastfeeding.    ...hmm I'd better be ready at week 12 for the next growth spurt that might come as a nice early Christmas present.

In the mean time I continued to have cracked nipples for the first 4-5 weeks, so I had to express milk again to allow them to cure.

I became member of a breastfeeding support organisation and I'm getting their forum in my FB feed constantly (Sometimes too much info/discussions in fact).  But I learned this way that babies up to 6 months still require 8 feedings a day and that nightfeedings are essential if you want to keep up your production longer than 3 months. I had no clue either....I thought the 12 feedings per day at the start would decrease steadily in the weeks after, giving me a nice much more relax rhythm by the time Kabouter would be 2 months. Wow, that illusion got nicely killed. Indeed: he still feeds about 8 times a day and still eats a few times at night. And if that information is correct, I guess it's not going to change in the coming months although everyone keeps asking me if he already can sleep through the night.

Many of these things are unknown to my parents (in law) and older colleagues as well. I also had no clue that so few people of the previous generation have only been breastfeeding for more than a couple of weeks! So they listen to my stories in amasement and don't seem to understand.  Even a doctor last week told me "oh if it is difficult, don't push yourself, you can give a bottle" motivational!

So all in all breastfeeding demands a lot more motivation and determination than I had imagined upfront.  And I knew so little about it when I started.

BUT I am in the mean time stronger convinced of the advantages that I'm giving to my child (health wise, emotionally, nutritionally, ...). And it's true what they say " it is getting better": those weeks that seem an eternity at the start, do pass.  At one point without realizing it, I noticed that my nipples aren't as sensitive anymore as at the start (ok, hmm shouldn't have typed that...ouch today again) .  And I also am convinced that although I need to feed him at night....breastfeeding + co-sleeping allows me to feed him without the need of getting out of bed and that's actually quite cosy.  As long as I'm not working, I guess I can cope with feeding at night and interrupted sleeps. And since 10 days now, he is skipping (almost) one feeding at night giving me at least once a break of 4-6 hours at the start of our night. Going away during the day is even much easier: I always have everything I need to feed him with me just like that without the hassle of carrying bottles, powders, searching microwaves, ...   Now that the fatigue of the pregnancy and labour has been digested by my body, I seem to cope with this rhythm and I don't constantly feel like a mindless zombie anymore. Obviously some days are better than others, but I can honestly say it's going well with more conviction than a month ago. I am enjoying this little man on my chest more now.  I guess I've managed to get to the more difficult start and that it should be easier from now on, so I do hope to be able to continue a while longer until I start working again in 2014. We'll see.

And we'll see how much more I'll learn about breastfeeding along the road.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Let's never forget

11/11/1918 11h 

in a train wagon in the woods of Compi├Ęgne, the negotiators of the Allied Forces and the German Army signed the armistice ending WW I.
Let's never forget and learn in a world where we all seem to become more and more intolerant and seem to be less inclined to give solidarity when we all feel the ongoing crisis.

In Ypres they'll never forget , where volunteers still play every single day at 8 PM the Last Post.

We usually remember today the battlefields of Flanders Fields (eg on this blog here), the millions of deaths there and the many graveyards scarring the landscapes for ever as a remembrance.  What I often forget, is that most of Belgium has spent 4 years as an occupied country. Leuven really suffered in WWI when the German troops thought they had to take revenge for a (wrongly assumed?) attack on them and set the inner city on fire , destroying 1100 homes and sending many hundreds of hostages to work in Germany.

Most houses in the historic city centre have this plaque...indicating they've been burnt down in 1914

Side remark: 
I noticed a cultural difference today:  in Belgium we celebrate Remembrance day with focus at the end of WW I  and to lesser extend WW II. We remember the atrocities of the wars.  My FB feed is full of North-American friends that remember & honor family & friends & acquaintances that have served in a war.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Supporting local horeca

Having a newborn baby at home shrunk my world substantially : no more international commuting, no long drives, .... the first week I just camped in the house, either breastfeeding Kabouter either trying to get some food or sleep.

Thankfully Jan really stimulates me to go out for a walk each day. These are usually cramped in between 2 feedings.  Nevertheless we found time lately to sit down briefly downtown for a coffee after running some errands or have a quick lunch.

I realised that I'd gain much more freedom & flexibility once I learned to breastfeed at public places.  And last weekend I did for the first time a couple of times with our friends from Edinburgh...Handy if you find a more or less calm place!!

and by doing so, Lucas is getting to know the loccal horeca little by little...but still lots left to explore ;)

Friday, November 8, 2013

My morning view out of the window

I spend hours in the sofa lately 
and I discover a new friend outside: 
a small red breasted friend softly whistling 
jumping from branch to leave to wall to table
I'm glad, since I miss our neighbor cat on the wall who moved away

now our tiny garden is alive again
with a little red breasted friend
....and a different neighborhood cat, nervously trying to sneek up in vain.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

International visit from Scotland

Last weekend Kabouter got visitors all the way from Edinburgh! 
We really enjoyed the company from our friends and all together we explored Leuven all over.  Fun fun!