photo: Marit Severijnse

“We must break the taboo surrounding breastfeeding on Bonaire,” says breastfeeding specialist Mariëlle Olaya Romero. She sees that breastfeeding is no longer the norm and public feeding is taboo. “People frown upon it. But you should be able to feed your baby anywhere.” 

Global attention is being paid to breastfeeding during these weeks. Olaya Romero organized an event to raise awareness and exchange experiences. “The older your child gets, the more people frown upon breastfeeding”, she notes based on stories from other mothers on the island.

According to Olaya Romero, a number of things need to change on Bonaire. First of all, she advocates more information about breastfeeding for mothers and care providers. “Unfortunately, they still often give advice that discourages breastfeeding. This also happens among family and friends.”

Breastfeeding and pumping at work

Olaya Romero would also like women to be reimbursed for getting assistance for breastfeeding. She would also want for employers to inform their employees about their rights. “This includes, for example, a suitable lactation room and time during work to pump.”

“My employer never informed me about my rights regarding pumping and feeding,” says Alicia Xuan-Krijgsman. “Fortunately, I learned through a pregnancy course that I was entitled to feed or pump during 25 percent of my working time until my baby is 9 months old.”

“My supervisor encouraged this, but the facilities for pumping weren’t there. Driving up and down home also became a hassle and cost me a lot of time. That is why I had to be creative myself to facilitate myself in this”, says Xuan- Krijgsman. “For example, one of my colleagues made me an ‘I pump, do not disturb’ door hanger and we taped the window.”

Ilse also recognizes this. “There is actually not enough information available. It’s not clear. For example, my employer is Spanish-speaking, so information about rights to work regarding pumping or feeding should also be available in several languages.”

“Waiting my turn at the consultation office, I was feeding my son,” says Dragana. “When it was my turn and I got up with him on my chest, I was asked to cover it anyway. I respect that, but it was striking.”

Dragana then received compliments for still breastfeeding, she says. “I thought: huh, isn’t this actually a normal thing to do?”

Ilse also recognizes such comments. “They were a bit surprised that I was only breastfeeding my baby. So not in combination with bottle feeding.”

“The health center should be a little more positive about breastfeeding and they should also know more about this,” says a mother who prefers to remain anonymous. “Because Bonaire is small”, she says. “But mothers are still told to feed every three hours and sometimes I also hear that they advise against feeding at night. That’s a terrible advice!”