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Ignoring advice

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The consultatiebureau is by and large a wonderful, helpful resource designed to help parents and children, and in general it does this (in my opinion) pretty well. Depending on the staff at your local clinic, they will, in addition to the unmissable 'medical' bits (is she gaining weight, are teeth coming through, etc.) give you lots of other information about parenting.

A good clinic does this in a non-critical way, and will pass on knowledge without dictating How Things Must Be Done. However, even the gentlest of non-critical advice from a Dutch healthcare professional could easily be confused with a direct order, especially to parents unsure about nearly everything related to their beautiful new baby or growing infant. It could well be that the advice is not what you feel is best for your child; but how are you to know whether it's a medical necessity, or a matter of opinion, to start with?

The best way of dealing with this is to aim for a constructive chat about the issue and establish in the first place whether you're discussing a Must or a Could. To give an example of what I mean a Must: yes, you must feed your newborn during the night if it cries for milk; it needs the food is not crying purely to annoy you. Your eighteen-month-old who still wakes many times nightly, however, could almost certainly gently be steered towards waking less frequently without harm to anybody, and whether you do this or not depends on your personal choices.

When it comes to matters of parenting style, the clinic is there in an advisory capacity and you are perfectly at liberty to disagree and ask questions. This is Holland , after all, where everyone's entitled to their opinion, so (if you feel like it), why not explain to the nurse exactly why co-sleeping (or late weaning, or baby-wearing, or a host of slightly-non-mainstream practices your nurse might 'disagree' with) is what works for you? She will probably not mind in the slightest and in fact welcome the discussion!

If your nurse does not encourage your opinion and simply argues right back, then (assuming it's not a crucial clinical issue) I would recommend the path of least resistance: listen very nicely, then go out and do precisely what you want. If you're still unsure about the importance of the issue then inform yourself: ask for a second opinion from someone else at the clinic, read up about things and/or make an appointment with your huisarts to discuss things further.

The advice on vitamin supplements for the breastfed infant is one particular one I chose to ignore. Did you know that in Italy no supplements are advised at all, in the UK many doctors don't advise any extras either, in Switzerland vitamin D drops are recommended up to a year old but in the Netherlands they say you should give vitamin D until the child is four? Why are British babies fine while Dutch one-to-four-year-olds apparently so short of vitamin D? Could it be that perhaps it's not entirely necessary?

Well, exactly. My conclusion was that I would not give any supplements to my healthy breastfed babies or growing children so long as I and they were eating otherwise balanced diets and had no growth or developmental issues. That was my choice. It is entirely your decision what stance you take on supplements. Read more on for discussion of this and many other aspects of baby care in Dutch; I don't know an equivalent English-language resource.

Skipping vaccinations is one very large step further than the common-sense approach to mild civil disobedience that I discuss here; read more on the vaccinations page.

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