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Parental Proximity: A Vital Aspect of Our Message

By Marianne Vanderveen-Kolkena, IBCLC 

In the year 1994, our third daughter was born. It was a beautiful home birth and we all felt blessed to be safely together. After a few days, however, I fell seriously ill with an old-fashioned disease: puerperal fever. It brought me to the hospital and I entered a world I had never been in before: the delivery ward. My stay awakened an awareness in me that has grown ever since: mothers should be central in the care of their infants, and healthcare providers ought to refrain from interfering with the essential process of secure attachment.

Skin to SkinStarted in 1994, my work as a volunteer breastfeeding counselor evolved to the private practice I have now as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in Assen, in the north of the Netherlands. As an ardent reader, my notion of “breastfeeding” has broadened immensely over the years. Breastfeeding is a dyadic, relation-building process of which a baby latching properly and taking in enough breastmilk is only a small part. This notion made me decide to take up a couple of translation projects besides my consultations. Many parents are desperate for good information, information that helps them to make choices that match their family values. Many parents intuitively know that being close to their infants is something they will all benefit from. Western societal habits, however, often hardly allow for that much needed proximity of primary attachment figures. Talking with parents, seeing how they are moved when I address the issue of how much their baby needs them and how much they have to offer, is very inspiring. My Dutch translation of Sleeping With Your Baby, written by James J. McKenna, led to beautiful responses from parents in the Netherlands: “Wonderful, to have this book now! I always knew it was a good thing to sleep together!” Mid April, the Dutch translation of Jill and Nils Bergman’s book Hold Your Prem will be published.

We all need a place where we can feel safe, so that we can develop physical and psychological stability in life. We do not only need that as a baby, but also as parents, in order to take care of our babies. I feel privileged to be able to professionally contribute in different ways to that sense of security!

SONY DSCMarianne Vanderveen-Kolkena started her breastfeeding work in 1994 with the Dutch breastfeeding association VBN. She became an IBCLC in 2008 and runs her private practice in Assen, the north of the Netherlands, Borstvoedingscentrum Panta Rhei. She still works with the VBN as editor for the brochure committee and gives presentations in different settings. She contributed to the Dutch national guideline on dealing with excessively crying babies, making a warm plea for responsive parenting, and was one of the two final editors of the Dutch National breastfeeding guideline. Marianne is a coworker of the biggest Dutch breastfeeding website,, advisor of ‘Het OuderSchap’, a Dutch organisation for parents (to be) and and an ILCA member.  All her practice and advocacy work focuses on the normalcy of breastfeeding, the importance of the mother-child relationship, the value of parental proximity in the early years and on language use that supports these aspects. She is preparing to study Anthropology at the University.


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