New Zealand’s Plunket Society has a long history and a great reputation – for good reason. Mother of three Pippa Henderson reflects on specific ways Plunket supported her and her growing family, demonstrating how this iconic Kiwi organisation is staying true to its original vision.
If you mention Plunket to a non-Kiwi they don’t know what you’re talking about – or even what they’re missing out on. Mention it to Kiwis, and they’ll instantly conjure up images of a kindly nurses weighing and measuring babies and offering support and advice to those with babes in arms. It’s an institution here in New Zealand, having proven itself as a trustworthy source of encouragement and information for generation after generation. For those in the messy throes of raising young families Plunket represents a solid benchmark, a navigational necessity, and a listening ear. For those like myself, who have, or are, moving on from that stage, the mere mention of Plunket is more than likely to evoke a sense of nostalgia and a grateful smile.
Plunket was founded in 1907 in Dunedin by child health visionary Sir Frederic Truby King, who, along with a group of influential Dunedin women pledged to form a society to carry forward the vision for a new health regime based on the support and education of mothers. These days, Plunket summarise their three strategic goals as: healthy tamariki, confident whānau and connected communities. It’s a vision that’s easy to get behind. Small businesses and large organisations alike connect with Plunket’s desire to help young families.
For me, as a mother of three children now aged 10, 7 and 4, Plunket has provided five key means of support.
I sought advice from Plunket once again when it came to toilet training second time round. Strangely I’d forgotten how the process worked, and besides, boys are different to girls! Plunket armed me with a toilet training information pack and, crucially, a Buzz Light Year star chart to stick up in our bathroom. It worked a treat, and our little boy was honestly dry in no time.
So, a heartfelt thank you, Plunket, for helping make this wild and wonderful parenting journey more manageable. I take my hat off to all your extraordinarily devoted and capable staff that travel from Cape Reinga to Bluff to offer up crucial words of support and reassurance to millions of mothers, right when they need them the most. You are living out the vision of New Zealand’s pioneers of health, and ensuring our future is at least as bright as our past.
I’ll conclude with an extract of introductory text from the front of my 1978 Plunket Book, which offers great timeless advice to new parents – including the importance of plenty of attention and a happy home – proving, once again, Plunket’s devotion to the Kiwi family.
“Best wishes to you and continuing good health to your baby. From the very beginning he is a separate person, growing and learning with astonishing speed. He was completely dependent on his mother for everything before he was born and he is hardly less so now. You will still be the centre and focus of his life for years to come.
Most of all he needs the support of your love for him. One of the most important lessons he has to learn is as to who and what he is. Babies learn who they are and what they are from the ways in which they’re treated from those around them. They develop feelings that they are liked, wanted and accepted, because they have been liked, wanted and accepted. An infant learns that he is these things, not from being told so, but only through the experience of being treated as though they were so.
Lots of things will interest you as the months go by. Please regard the Plunket Nurse as a friend and discuss all these matters with her. She is also vitally interested in your baby.
Your family doctor would like to keep in touch with your baby too and will be pleased to arrange for all the immunisations at the appropriate age.
If you live in an area where there is not yet fluoridated water your baby’s teeth will be stronger and healthier if you give him the right amount of fluoride each day.
Though your doctor can immunise your baby against infectious disease there is no immunisation against accidents. Only a mother’s carefulness can protect her baby. He should be guarded from burns, scalds, from sharp objects, and highways, ditches and ponds. And as he grows he should be educated about these dangers.
Parenthood is a happy time and happiness in the home provides your baby with his best opportunities for growth and development.”