The next generation


We’re expecting a great nephew and another great-baby whose gender is yet to be determined.

Two of our nieces are pregnant and the extended families are tickled pink.

It’s all so different from when we were expecting our own children. The surgeon, who was the only one who did scans in Oamaru, wouldn’t let fathers watch and if he could tell whether it was a boy or a girl he didn’t share that information with the mothers.

Now expectant fathers, and sometimes other family members, are encouraged to be present at scans which is definitely a change for the better.

I wasn’t so sure about knowing the gender before the birth. I’d always thought it would be a bit like taking a sneak peek at Christmas presents in advance.

However, when the mother to be had her 12 week scan she  was told the gender and shared the news with us. He’s a he and we’ve seen his scan image on Facebook.

Knowing that, and his name, makes the news of a new baby in the family more real and more exciting.

Had my mother still been alive she’d have greeted the news with joy and would then have started knitting singlets. Since she’s not I’m doing the knitting instead.

My farmer asked me if it wouldn’t be easier to buy some singlets.

It would, but knitting is like home cooking, doing it with love adds something which can’t be bought.

Mothering not always natural


Deborah Coddington  is right to be concerned about the lack of care new mothers and their babies are getting from our health system.

Current policy concerning mothers and babies is to get them out of the hospital as soon as possible, regardless of how they are coping.

I blame the feminists who, in declaring quite rightly most deliveries are straightforward and mothers are not ill, went overboard in their quest for minimising hospital care (especially if male obstetricians or general practitioners were in charge of the birth) and made mothers feel pressured to get off the delivery trolley, pick up their blinking newborns and sail home pretending they could cope.

When our children were born 23, 21 and 19 years ago it was usual for women to have 5 days in hospital following a normal delivery and up to 10 days after a caesarean.

Now Ministry of Health policy stipulates that the Lead Maternity Carer will determine when mother and baby are clinically ready to be discharged; and that this is usually within 48 hours of the birth at least a day before breast milk comes in.


The Ministry’s list of reasons for delaying discharge includes feeding problems, so in theory mothers and their babies are able to stay until breast feeding is properly established. But this isn’t what happens in practice: women are often discharged within hours of birth and some maternity centres even offer incentives such as free napkins to encourage early discharge.


 Some women are happy to get home as soon as possible after delivery and of course should be free to do so; others may be unable, or choose not to breast feed. But many wish to feed their babies themselves and some of these need the immediate assistance which is available 24 hours a day in maternity centres to do so.


Without that help there is an increased risk babies will fail to thrive and mothers will develop mastitis or opt for bottle feeding in desperation.


I haven’t found any research into the link between feeding problems and our appalling record for violence; but an unhappy baby and the unexpected expense of formula will put strain on a family.


A birth blip has put pressure on maternity services and even without that it isn’t sensible to tie up tertiary and secondary hospital beds with well women. It may be better to establish mother care units but however it is done we need facilities that ensure 24-hour, on the spot assistance and advice is available from lactation specialists until breast feeding is established.

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