A New Zealand first is transforming care for babies and whānau
A vital service which is the first of its kind in Aotearoa New Zealand is transforming care for babies and their whānau, setting them up for the best possible start in life.
Developed in collaboration with Starship’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Te Whatu in Ora Te Toka Tumai Auckland’s Women’s Health, Whitinga ora pēpi is designed to support parents with babies who require a high level of support.
Since opening its doors in November 2021, the unit has supported 413 pēpi (babies) and 352 māmā (mothers).
The unit’s name, gifted by Dame Naida Glavish, Chief Advisor Tikanga, Te Whatu Ora in Te Toka Tumai Auckland, can be interpreted as ‘babies transitioning to wellness.’
More than just its name, this reflects the unit’s whānau-centred model of care, which was developed in alignment with international best practice and in consultation with Māori midwifery, including at clinical governance level.
Key to this whānau-centred model of care is a partnership approach where parents are empowered by a multidisciplinary team to take the lead in learning about and caring for their own pēpi.
Māmā and pēpi are cared for together in a homely environment designed so that māmā can have support people stay to assist with caring for their baby.
Rebecca Clark, Co-Charge Midwife, Whitinga ora pēpi, says “It’s acknowledged that whānau play an integral role in being here and that they’re a key part of supporting māmā and pēpi to thrive and transition home.”
The service’s whānau-centred approach works to improve access to equitable, compassionate and high-quality care for all babies.
Evidence shows that the implementation of similar services internationally has led to a range of improvements in short and long-term outcomes. This includes improved attachment and bonding, reduced length of average hospital stay and likelihood of readmission, improved breastfeeding rates and improved parental confidence.
Many whānau have credited the service with easing the challenges of caring for a new pēpi with additional health needs.
“The care we received was absolutely remarkable,” says Laura Sio, mother of baby Maiwa, who was born at 36 weeks and five days. “Whitinga ora pēpi became like a second home. It gave us the knowledge and support to meet Maiwa’s needs and really set the tone for our breastfeeding and bonding journey.”
Whitinga ora pēpi was established with critical support from Starship Foundation Five Star Partner Barfoot & Thompson, which exclusively funded its furnishings and equipment.
Kiri Barfoot, Barfoot & Thompson Director, says, “Barfoot & Thompson has partnered with the Starship Foundation for 20 years and we’ve supported a wide range of initiatives during that time. Whitinga ora pēpi is a New Zealand first and we’re incredibly proud to be giving back to the community in this way.”