Parenting in New Zealand
For a first time parent, a new baby brings many new joys and challenges. The first twelve months present huge learning curves. It can seem almost impossible for a new parent to look after themselves after a full day and night taking care of their baby.
In New Zealand there are free or low-cost support services available for first time mothers and fathers as well as those who are having second and subsequent children. These services range from social and coffee groups, to advice on breastfeeding and other feeding issues, support with caring for your new baby, post-natal recovery services, and support for women with post-natal stress or depression.
Free health checks
Under the Ministry of Health’s current Well Child schedule, every child is entitled to eight free health checks. Five of these checks are done in the baby’s first 12 months. These are usually done by a Plunket nurse or your local general practitioner (GP) and are opportunities for a new mother to discuss her own health, or parenting concerns and issues. If required, your Plunket nurse or GP can refer you to other specialist health professionals.
Plunket is New Zealand’s largest provider of Well Child services for children under five. Plunket also provides a range of support services such as parent education and Car Seat Rental Schemes. Plunket visits take place in the family home or at a Plunket clinic.
Some cities have Plunket Family Centres where parents can go for additional individual support and practical assistance. Here, registered nurses offer support and information on parenting issues including breastfeeding, infant nutrition, sleeping, child behaviour and postnatal depression. These services are provided free of charge.
Your midwife or GP can refer you to your local Plunket nurse, or look for Plunket in the ‘White Pages’ of your phone book. You can also enrol at Plunket online and their website has information on the services they provide. Plunket produces a free booklet called Thriving Under Five that has a useful section on parenting. This booklet is given to new mothers enrolling with Plunket and you can also find the information on the Plunket website.
Being tired is a feeling that is common to all new parents and is often the thing that people find hardest about being a parent. It can take a long time for your baby to develop sleep patterns that allow you to get a decent night’s sleep. Talk to your Plunket Nurse, GP, or local Plunket Family Centre about ways to help you cope with fatigue.
Some Plunket Family Centres have staff who will look after your baby and give you an opportunity to rest.
Chatting with other new mothers in your local coffee groups can also help. Even if you don’t come up with a way to get your baby sleeping soundly, you may feel less stressed talking to other mothers and know you are not alone!
Having a new baby can be an isolating experience, especially if you are new to the country and are without family support. Social groups for new mothers and fathers are a great way to get out of the house and meet other parents who will often have similar questions and concerns about their babies.
Plunket organise PIN (Plunket in the neighbourhood) groups, where mothers can meet and chat informally over coffee. They also organise young mums’ groups, dad’s groups, walking groups, dance and movement groups and playgroups. Talk to your Plunket nurse about what is available in your area.
Many women continue to meet with other mothers they have met through antenatal classes. Some antenatal classes are run privately and have a small cost, but are a good way to learn about pregnancy and birth, and to meet other women who are having their babies at the same time. Ask your GP or midwife to recommend a class for you.
Your local newspaper is also a good place to find out where new mother’s social and playgroups are being held. Also check the noticeboard at your local hall and places of faith, as they often host different social activities for new mothers and young children throughout the week.
A few mothers may experience ‘PND’ or postnatal distress or depression. This is a common illness which can affect one in five women giving birth, irrespective of their backgrounds. Feelings of isolation, anxiety and tearfulness, and a general feeling that you are not coping are some of the symptoms women experience. The first ‘port of call’ for women who feel they may be depressed is their GP or Plunket nurse who can refer them to further help if required.
As a migrant you might find that being away from your family and familiar support systems can make it more difficult to deal with PND, so it is important to talk to someone who can help.
There is no national organisation for women with PND, but different areas will have organisations that can help you. Again, talk to your GP or Plunket nurse who can guide you to the right help. Plunketline and Healthline are free telephone health advice services. Registered nurses offer advice and can guide you to the available services in your area.
A free telephone advice service offering advice on child health and parenting issues. Available 7 days a week, 7am–midnight. PH: 0800 933 922
Plunket’s website also has some good advice on parenting, and a section on support for new fathers in New Zealand.
A free 24-hour telephone advice line providing support for parents. Registered nurses assess health needs and can refer parents to appropriate local services. PH: 0800 611 116
Ministry of Health
The Ministry of Health has a website with information about keeping you, your child and family healthy and well during pregnancy and the first 5 years of your child’s life. Watch our videos to see different families going through pregnancy and sharing their children's stories.
Offer support and educational programmes through a support network throughout New Zealand. Visit their Facebook page too.
Post and antenatal distress group
This Wellington based group has telephone support line and a website with information and resources to help with understanding PND. They also have a private Facebook group where mums can share their experiences and get some support. For more information PH: (04) 472 3135 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
La Leche League
La Leche is an international organisation providing support and advice to mothers about breastfeeding. There are groups based throughout New Zealand. For a list of contacts throughout the country, visit their website.
Visit your local library
Your local library is a good source of parenting books. Most books are free to borrow. Libraries are also good ‘parent friendly’ areas to spend time with a new baby, and many libraries have free story time for older children, and shelves full of books suitable for babies. Most libraries have parents’ rooms for changing and feeding babies. Speak to your local librarian about joining the library.
A free telephone advice line providing support with all parenting challenges. Available from 9am to 11pm, seven days a week. The Parent Helpline also provide affordable family therapy, counselling, parenting education, mediation service and information on parenting.
Parent helpline has no time limit on calls. Phone 0800 568 856.
The Great Fathers website has lots practical advice for new Dads including a tool-kit of information, DVD movie for first time fathers, and free brochures and posters on everything from managing stress to supermarket shopping with children. Many of these resources are available in different languages including Samoan, Tongan, Chinese (Simplified) and Korean.
New mums and the community around a new baby also have great resources available through the SKIP website. These are also translated into 19 different languages to help all parents feel supported and positive.