For 75 years Finland’s expectant mothers have been given a baby gift box by the state. It’s like a starter kit containing baby clothes, a sleeping quilt, mattress, bathing products and nappies. The box can even be used as a bed for the baby.
Some say it helped Finland achieve one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates. It’s a tradition that dates back to the 1930s and is designed to give all children in Finland, no matter what background they’re from, an equal start in life. The maternity package – a gift from the government – is available to all expectant mothers who visit a doctor or pre-natal clinic before fourth month of pregnancy.
Waikato DHB’s Māori Health service (Te Puna Oranga) has adopted the Finland model and is giving out Mama and Pepi (baby) Packs based on the Finnish model to all pregnant mothers and their whānau who attend its Hapū Wānanga pregnancy and parenting programme.
Waikato DHB Māori Health general manager Ditre Tamatea believes his unit was the first health service to adopt the model in New Zealand. Expectant mums and whānau receive a safe sleep bassinet (Pepi-pod®) with bedding, (including merino blanket), nappies, wipes, face clothes, baby wraps and stretch and grow, along with a medical kit for baby as well as tooth brush and paste, and condoms.
“The pack also includes an ipu whenua container made of clay which the wahine make as part of the programme which can house the babies placenta until it is buried back at the babies’ turangawaewae to connect them to their ancestors’ land,” said Mr Tamatea
“ The approach of the Hapū Wānanga pregnancy and parenting programme is about removing barriers – we pick mum and whānau up if they have an issue with transport to the classes, and they needn’t worry about bringing morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea as we will feed them.
“That’s just part of a kaupapa Māori approach – we like to support and show manaaki or hospitality to others,” said Mr Tamatea.
“The Hapū Wānanga upholds tikanga Māori but at the same time is safe and inclusive in its approach. We know that many of our whānau aren’t strong in te reo Māori and are still learning our traditions. The wānanga supports our people to learn a little bit more about this side to us as Māori. They may have no knowledge at all but they still will be safe and well looked after.
“The course runs over two days and covers antenatal information, labour, preparation for birth, and postnatal information. Another key feature of the programme is the way a much broader range of life skills and information is woven in. Guest speakers cover topics from healthy eating and immunisation to careers and education opportunities.
Hapū Wānanga facilitator Alys Brown also shows the young women and their partners/supporters how to grow vegetable seedlings and make the ipu whenua and muka (a flax tie for the umbilical cord).
Brown says the response from those on the course has been “absolutely amazing.”
“They have fun while they learn the skills they need as parents. We create an environments where everyone can share experiences.
“They learn how to grow through that and transition to being a loving parent who can enjoy taking care of their baby.”
New mum Latoya Nicholas attended one of the Hapū Wānanga programmes before the arrival of her new born daughter Zy-ahn and said that the course had made a difference.
“The course has been really helpful. I wouldn’t have known nearly as much if I didn’t attend the classes. It was good to have my partner there also to help me along the journey.
“The free Pepi-pod® bassinet was really handy. We used it with Zy-ahn in our bed. I felt safe knowing that I wouldn’t roll onto her.”
Latoya’s message to expectant mums and their whānau is: “Get on board with these classes, they are really helpful and will make a huge difference”.
“The course was fun and was like being at school. I felt really comfortable. I wanted to learn as it was interactive and we would play learning games. Thanks to the classes I know a lot more than if I didn’t attend.”
For anyone interested in attending a class go to our website