The postnatal period is the time for recovering from the birth and getting to know your baby. It is also a time for eating well, drinking lots of water, resting with your baby and getting support from your family/ whānau.
Baby sleep and caring for your baby at night
One of the biggest challenges for new parents is getting used to the changes that a baby will bring to their night-time routine. Click here to down load UNICEF’s guide to caring for your baby at night.
- Click here to download Raising Children's guide to changing nappies or for more information click here.
Calming a crying baby
If you ever think your baby has been hurt, call 111.
All babies cry and sometimes it's hard to work out why they're crying. To help stop your baby crying, you could try:
- feeding your baby
- holding them close — you could use a sling or front pack
- rocking your baby in the pram
- going out for a walk or drive
- playing some music or white noise, for example soft radio static or shushing.
If your baby’s cry is unusual — for example, piercing and high pitched — take them to a doctor or phone PlunketLine freephone: 0800 933 922.
It can be really hard when your baby keeps crying and you don't know why and nothing you do helps. Sometimes it's best to put your baby down gently in a safe place, walk away and take a break. You can also talk to your midwife or Well Child Tamariki Ora nurse about how to calm your baby.
PlunketLine is another service available to all families, whānau and caregivers, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Calls are free from cell phones.
PlunketLine freephone: 0800 933 922. Click here for more resources.
Download more resources here.
The Power to Protect: Never shake a baby video gives tips on the power people have to protect their infants from harm, and how to cope with a crying baby.
Click here to view or download Raising Children's handy guide to bathing
- For more information on bathing baby click here
Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby and has advantages for you too. To help make your breastfeeding experience positive, ask for information and advice early in your pregnancy. You can also talk to other mothers who have enjoyed breastfeeding their babies. Breastfeeding is a skill that needs to be learned. Some women experience no problems, whereas others need more help and support to get started and continue feeding. Having the practical support of your partner, family/whānau and friends is important. For more information, help and support with breastfeeding go to our breastfeeding information page and explore the links.
There are many reasons why some mothers don’t breastfeed. If you feel sad and/or disappointed that you are not fully breastfeeding your baby, it is a good idea to discuss your feelings with your midwife, doctor or nurse. If possible, try to maintain some breastfeeding as well as using formula. Babies up to six months of age who aren’t breastfed must only have formula and it is important that formula is made up correctly and bottles etc are kept sterile otherwise babies can get sick.
For more information or support with formula feeding talk to your LMC, Well Child nurse, or GP and look through the links below.
Keeping your baby safe in bed is essential to their health and wellbeing and for your peace of mind. This is very easy to achieve for you and your baby.
Ensure that your baby is sleeping in a safe way by making sure that they:
- always sleep on their back to keep their airways open and clear
- are in their own bassinet, cot or other baby bed that is free from other people or pets who might lay on top of them
- are put back in their own bed after feeding – don’t fall asleep with them
- have clothing and bedding that keeps them at a comfortable temperature – one more layer of clothing than you would wear is enough; too many layers can make your baby hot and upset them
- are in a smoke free environment to allow baby to breathe air free of smoke
- have a parent who is alert to their baby’s needs and free from alcohol and drugs
- have their baby’s bed in the parents’ room at night for the first six months of life.
- it has a firm and flat mattress – to keep baby’s airways open and clear
- it has no gaps between the frame and the mattress – that could trap or wedge baby
- it is close to the parents/caregivers at night for the first 6 months since birth
- there is nothing in the bed that might cover baby’s face, lift their head or choke them – no pillows, toys, loose bedding, bumper pads or necklaces (including amber beads and ‘teething’ necklaces).
- For more information on baby sleep click here
- If you need financial help so that baby can have his or her own bed you may be eligible to receive a pepe pod (baby sleep bassinet) or for a grant from Work and Income.
To download the Ministry of Health's guide to safe sleeping click here.
- For more information about safe sleeping go to Whaka Whetu's website or Change for Our Children
- For more information about wrapping/swaddling babies and safe sleep click here.
- Click here for information about Ngai Tahu’s pepi pod registration.
ImmunisationsChildren under 18 can get free immunisations against infectious diseases, regardless of the child's immigration and citizenship status. When your baby is 6 weeks old take them to your family doctor or nurse to get their first immunisations.
If your family doctor hasn't contacted you to make an appointment for your baby, call them to make an appointment and to check that your baby is enrolled with them. Your baby should have their first 3 sets of immunisations at:
- 6 weeks
- 3 months
- 5 months.
Immunisation protects babies from many serious diseases and begins when your baby is six weeks old. Immunising your baby at the recommended ages is the best protection against these diseases. The Ministry of Health supports immunisation but it is your choice whether to immunise your baby. All childhood immunisations are free in New Zealand. For more information talk to your health professional, contact the Immunisation Advisory Centre on 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863) or visit the Ministry of Health website.
For more information go to:
What to expect after baby is born
Registering your baby’s birth
The hospital (or your LMC if you had your baby at home) has to notify the Registrar of Births within five working days of your baby’s birth. The hospital will also give you a copy of the birth registration form for you to complete or you can complete the registration online here.
You and your baby are entitled to six weeks of postnatal care by your LMC. Your baby will be checked by your LMC at each visit and given at least three more comprehensive examinations as well:
- within 24 hours of birth
- within seven days
- before being transferred to your chosen Well Child provider (ie, the health professional who will provide health care for your baby, in partnership with your GP. You can also make a self-referral by contacting the local Well Child Provider of your choice at anytime).
At your baby’s first examination, within 24 hours of birth, your LMC will check that your baby is feeding properly. Babies generally wake three to four hourly for feeding, although more frequently in the first days after birth (referred to as cluster feeding).
Vitamin K can be given to babies soon after birth to prevent the development of bleeding due to low vitamin K levels. This condition can be serious. Vitamin K can be provided by injection or by mouth. If given by mouth, three doses are required – at birth, one week and six weeks. It is important to get information from your LMC before your baby is born so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not you want your baby to have vitamin K. You can obtain more information from your LMC.
Your LMC will also look for any potential health problems, such as jaundice. Newborn babies can have some mild jaundice about the third day after the birth. Jaundice gives the baby a yellow appearance and is easily remedied by frequent feeding. More severely jaundiced babies may need exposure to special light treatment, called phototherapy (treatment using blue light).
If you have your baby in hospital, your LMC will visit you daily while you are in hospital unless they make special arrangements with the hospital staff. The length of your stay will depend on your clinical needs. The decision about when to leave will be made through discussions between you, your LMC, and the hospital staff.
In situations where your care has been transferred to the hospital specialist service, you will be transferred back to the care of your LMC when you no longer need the specialist service. Your LMC will explain what their role is, alongside that of the hospital specialist service, for the time you are in hospital.
Once you have gone home, you can expect between five and 10 visits from your LMC or a midwife. You are entitled to at least five home visits unless you ask not to have them. If you had your baby in hospital, you will receive your first home visit within 24 hours of going home from hospital. The postnatal care you will receive from your LMC includes assistance with and advice about feeding and caring for your baby, as well as advice about caring for yourself, your nutritional needs and contraception.
Your LMC will refer your baby to your chosen Well Child provider. They will also refer you and your baby to your GP for ongoing care and the start of baby immunisations at 6 weeks of age.
Start of your Well Child visits
Your final LMC mother and baby check usually occurs between four and six weeks after your baby’s birth. This marks the end of your maternity care. Up until six weeks, you are still able to contact your LMC about any maternity-related problem.
You and your child have the right to publicly funded Well Child Tamariki Ora care. This Well Child care is different from the medical care (i.e GP care) you receive when your child is ill.
Talk to your LMC about who provides Well Child services locally. Some examples of Well Child providers are Plunket, some Māori and Pacific providers, or the public health nursing service. If you want your baby to have Well Child care, your LMC will refer you to your Well Child provider, usually around four weeks after your baby’s birth, as the first well child check is scheduled before your baby is 6 weeks old. If you have not been contacted by a Well Child provider about an appointment, by the time your baby is five weeks old, give their office a ring.
At six weeks, you can also take your baby to your usual GP for a medical check. This is the same time as a baby’s first immunisation is due. This check is not a maternity visit or a Well Child visit but is part of the subsidised primary health care for children from birth to six years.
Screening for your baby
Screening is an important way of identifying babies who are more likely than other babies to have a health issue. It is your choice whether your baby has screening. The Ministry of Health strongly recommends screening for your baby.
Newborn metabolic screening
The Newborn Metabolic Screening Programme detects rare but life-threatening metabolic disorders. This screening is a blood test and happens when babies are 48 hours old, or as soon as possible after this. Early diagnosis means that treatment can start quickly, before the baby becomes sick.
Your LMC will provide you with information about newborn metabolic screening (the heel prick test) before you consent for this test. Ask when to expect the results and consider whether you would like the leftover blood spots to be stored or returned to you after screening.
For more information, see the brochure, Your newborn baby’s blood test (available from your LMC or GP, or at www.healthed.govt.nz) or the National Screening Unit's website.
Newborn hearing screening
Parents or guardians of all babies born in New Zealand are offered the opportunity to have their baby’s hearing screened. This screening is designed to pick up moderate to profound hearing loss. If your baby can’t hear, it is hard for them to learn to speak, socialise and learn. Screening is done before your baby is one month of age and you will be told the screening results straight away.
Your LMC can provide you with more information about newborn hearing screening.
For more information, see the brochure Newborn Hearing Screening (available from your LMC or GP, or at www.healthed.govt.nz) or the National Screening Unit's website.
Postnatal depression affects some parents in the first year after having a baby.
It's normal to feel down, unsure or anxious in the first few weeks after having your baby. If these feelings last longer than a few weeks they could be signs of postnatal depression.
- crying a lot
- feeling hopeless, alone or guilty
- feeling anxious when doing things you normally do with ease
- feeling angry
- not sleeping
- feeling you're a bad parent
- thoughts of harming you or your baby.
Postnatal depression is treated with medication and therapy. Talk to your:
- midwife or obstetrician
- Well Child Tamariki Ora nurse
- family doctor or practice nurse.
You can also call the Depression Helpline or PlunketLine or click though to any of the information and support sights below:
- PlunketLine freephone: 0800 933 922
- Depression Helpline freephone: 0800 111 757
Approaches to parenting
Everyone has their own, unique ways of parenting, shaped by what happened when they were a child. Think back to how you were raised, what do you remember? Do you want to parent in the same way or do things differently? What's your parenting style?
Tips for parenting in the early days
Baby brain development & bonding/attachment
It’s only in recent years that we’ve truly come to understand the importance of the first three years for brain development. It’s during this time that the brain is hard-wired and the foundation laid down for how a person will feel, think and behave for the rest of their life.
While that may sound overwhelming, it’s all pretty simple. Forget flash cards, gimmicks and expensive toys, the most important thing a child needs is at least one adult who loves and cares for them. They need someone to respond to their needs, have fun with them and provide them safe opportunities to explore the world.
Bonding/attachment with your baby
Further information on parenting
Newborn CPR and Choking
- Plunket CPR guide