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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.