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after the birth

iStock 000014394161XSmall-birthThis is the time for enjoying and getting to know your baby. It is also about eating well, drinking lots of water, resting with your baby and getting support from your family/wh¯anau.

Your baby

Your baby will be examined within the first 24 hours after birth. Some of the things you may notice are very common, for example:

Jaundice – newborn babies can have some mild jaundice about the third day after the birth. Jaundice at birth is not normal. Jaundice gives the baby a yellow appearance and is easily remedied by exposure to sunlight, even indoors. Regular feeding is important. More severely jaundiced babies may need a different kind of treatment, eg, phototherapy (treatment using blue light). If severe jaundice is left untreated, it can cause brain damage.

Feeding – babies generally wake three to four hourly for feeding – sometimes more frequently. If your new baby is not waking and feeding regularly (approximately three to four hourly), contact your LMC as dehydration can be a problem or your baby may be unwell.


Hospital stay

Your Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) will visit you daily while you are in hospital. The length of your stay will depend on your clinical needs. The decision about when to leave will be made by your LMC, in discussion with you and the hospital staff.

In situations where your care has been transferred to the hospital specialist service, your LMC will explain what her/his role is alongside that of the hospital specialist service for the time you are in hospital.


Home visits

After the birth, you can expect between five and ten visits from your LMC or a midwife, in your home. You should not receive less than five home visits from a midwife unless you ask for less. 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 your nutritional needs and contraception.



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/wh ¯anau and friends is important.


Benefits of breastfeeding

The Ministry of Health recommends that all babies are fed only on breastmilk for the first six months of life. This means NO water, infant formula or fruit juices. After six months you can slowly start your baby on solid foods and other fluids while you keep breastfeeding for two years or more.

Breastfeeding is best for your baby because:
• it can assist with the development of a close bond between you and your baby
• breastmilk is the only food which is exactly the right nutrition and temperature for your baby
• it will help protect your baby from ear infections, gastroenteritis, respiratory infections and eczema.

Babies who are breastfed are less likely to have respiratory problems, coughs, colds, or infections which may need admission to hospital before they are one year old. Breastfeeding may also reduce the risk of cot death. Some things can help you breastfeed successfully. For example, a drug free birth provides an excellent start. It is also important that you and your baby have skin-to-skin contact for at least the first half hour after the birth and that you breastfeed your baby during this time. This develops a close bond and helps start breastfeeding. Your LMC can tell you about any support groups in your area such as La Leche League, Parents Centre or Home Birth Association. There are also books to read on breastfeeding and brochures available.


Guthrie Test

All New Zealand babies should be screened at three to five days of age for seven rare conditions, which if not detected early can lead to serious disease including permanent brain damage. If detected early, most can be prevented through provision of medication or a special diet. Your LMC will provide you with information about the Guthrie Test (heel prick) before you sign the consent form for this test. Ask how to obtain the results of this test, if you wish.


Vitamin K

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, at one week and at six weeks. It is important to get information from your LMC before your baby is born so you can make an informed decision about whether or not your baby will have Vitamin K.


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 that you have had a baby. The hospital will also give you a copy of the birth registration form for you to complete.

It is compulsory for you to complete and return this form to Births, Deaths and Marriages Central Registry, PO Box 10526, Wellington as soon as possible after the birth.

You can now also register your baby's birth online - find out all about it here.


Final maternity check

This usually occurs four to six weeks after your baby’s birth. This marks the end of your maternity care. However, you are still able to contact your LMC about any maternity related problem until six weeks after the birth.


Baby checks

Your baby will be given three examinations by your LMC:
• within 24 hours of birth
• at seven days
• before being transferred to your chosen Well Child provider (ie, the health professional who will provide health care for your baby).

At six weeks, you can take your baby to your usual GP for a further check. This is the same time as a baby’s first vaccination is due. This check is not a maternity visit, but is part of the subsidised primary health care for children from birth to six years. You may be charged a part payment for this.


Start of your Well Child visits

You and your child have the right to free Well Child Tamariki Ora care. This Well Child care is different from the medical 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, the general practice team, some Mãori and Pacific providers, or the public health service. If you want your baby to have Well Child care, your LMC will refer you to your Well Child provider, usually between four to six weeks after your baby’s birth.


Returning to work

If you are returning to work, and your baby will be using childcare facilities, try to make arrangements that allow you to easily see your baby during work time so you can continue breastfeeding. If you can’t do this, you can give your baby expressed breastmilk while you are at work and breastfeed the other times of the day. One breastfeed a day is enough to continue lactation. Your LMC can show you how to sterilise containers and how to safely store expressed breastmilk in the fridge or freezer. You may be  eligible for paid parental leave. For further information phone 0800 800 863.

Article provided courtesy of The Ministry of Health

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