Birthing Centre Newsletter November 2020

Newsletter November 2020

Birthing Centre Newsletter | November 2020

In this issue

Jacquie Nutt - Whāngai Ora Milk Bank

Meet Lesley-Anne Grobler


Letter from the founder 

Kia ora,

As hard as the COVID-19 pandemic has been for many, not least our health workers, it has resulted in a nucleus of great minds coming together to examine how we adapt and move forward to deliver better outcomes for our people. I have been privileged to hear about the cumulative research and the direction of neuroscience that can alter the landscape of how we support mothers and their babies’ future wellbeing.

The promises of our reformed Government mean that we can expect to, at last, make changes in policy to reflect the critical importance of the first 1000 days of life, including from conception. It is not rocket science to understand that security for mother and baby in the first 24 hours is of utmost importance to the beginnings of attachment. It is not rocket science either to understand that the environment of birth and postnatal care, along with caring professionals to guide new parents over those first few days, can create a lifetime of love and connection.

This is why we do what we do at Birthing Centre. The motivation for us in building the centres from the get-go was to ‘go where no woman has gone before’. We hoped that the beautiful facilities and the careful nurturing they offer in the first days would clearly and compellingly bring attention to policymakers that, with equitable loving care, the futures of our children and the wellbeing of their mothers and whānau stand a far greater chance of success. It is not only common sense, it is research, it is science. It is kindness, it is love.

The narrative comes in bucketloads: postnatal depression, whether it begins in pregnancy or flares up later, is not accurately reflected in the reported data - though the data is shameful anyway. The narrative tells us, through story after story, that key factors such as shame, lack of confidence to ask for help, belief that no help will come, and fear of losing their children are preventing women from reporting the crippling effects of PND. This means these women sometimes suffer for a lifetime, along with their children.

The Mothers Matter campaign was initiated to boost knowledge about women’s legal right to a minimum of 48 hours postnatal care and to petition the Government to provide equitable care for those who, for a number of social reasons, are dismissed. Certainly, the Birthing Centre initiative - our mahi, philosophy, practice of care, and purpose - has been shunned by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health and attracted scandalous comments from the Associate Minister of Health and Minister for Women.

Through no choice of our own we were forced to close two of the non-funded Birthing Centres last Christmas. We hoped that the silver lining to this difficult situation would be to draw attention to the stresses of mothers, midwives, and families around this time of year. In turn, we hoped that the bureaucrats who make decisions about maternity care might come to their senses and adopt reasonableness by putting the health of our mothers and babies first. Untold millions of dollars are frittered away in talkfests, resulting in postponement of decisions. How many of these decision-makers turn up at these meetings? How many use their voices for the good of humanity? How many are accountable to the people who voted them in?

Rumour is rife, I discovered, around these two Birthing Centres closing again this Christmas. We have decided to keep the centres open this year, despite being in the same situation where funding is nil. We don’t want to cause mothers and their whānau stress again this year. We just plead with those who have the power to legislate for the basic care mothers need at this time to sit up and take note. ‘Chinese whispers’ abound and yet not one person has asked me directly about these centres over the Christmas period. Open mouths find open ears.

After all these years of struggle I have concluded that the potential for Birthing Centres to close would come through:
  • A shortage of midwives, or midwives whose support is directly linked to union control. A union that, in my opinion/experience, is more committed to a culture of dependency and control than in best outcomes for mothers.
  • A final closing of the door on any collaborative relationship with DHBs and targeted Government support for mothers that we can be a part of.
I feel we have earned our place at the table and offer a prayer for inclusivity and transparency.

“There is a story behind everything. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story because hers is where yours begins.” – Mitch Albom


Chloe  ❤️
Chloe Wright


As we reach the end of another year with no targeted Government support for at-risk mothers, the Mothers Matter campaign is more important than ever.

Yes, there was $242 million announced for primary maternity services – including $35 million for a Maternity Action Plan to decide what to do with the rest – but the time for talking is over. Vulnerable mothers and babies need our help now.

The statistics we shared in our front-page advertisement in the New Zealand Herald in September make for grim reading. We’ve had a huge response, with messages from both women and men, and the message is clear – our birthing system and postnatal care must change!

Mothers Matter founder Chloe Wright and spokesperson Dame Lesley Max followed up the advertisement with an appearance on the Breakfast show on TVNZ to discuss the campaign with John Campbell.

We now have more than 4000 signatures on our Mothers Matter petition calling for DHBs and the Government to recognise and fund private and charitable primary birthing units so maternity care funding follows the mother’s choice of care and needs. Have you signed and shared it? Find it here and help make a difference for our mums.

Meanwhile, Mothers Matter social media goes from strength to strength, with more than 9800 Facebook followers. Add your voice here.

Milk Bank established in Palmerston North

While Te Papaioea Birthing Centre is now under the management of the MidCentral District Health Board, the Wright Family Foundation continues to support the centre’s Milk Café breastfeeding support group and the newly established Whāngai Ora Milk Bank.

The milk bank has been established for the safe collection and distribution of breast milk for vulnerable babies in the MidCentral district. It is working out of the kitchen at Te Papaioea Birthing Centre and is awaiting delivery of a pasteuriser from overseas, donated by a local businessman.

Whāngai Ora Milk Bank is run by a board of trustees made up of local lactation consultants and mothers with a passion for supporting breastfeeding. One of the founders, Jacquie Nutt, is an experienced milk banker (in South Africa) and lactation consultant and oversees the collection and pasteurisation of the donor milk.
The milk bank already has already built up a good supply of donated milk and is awaiting the finalisation of paperwork to start dispensing it.

“We’ve had an excellent response to our call for donations – our freezers are full. Mums have been really generous,” says Jacquie.

“Tremendous teamwork has been involved, enabled by the Wright Family Foundation, the assistance of the DHB and the tireless volunteer work of the steering committee.”

This will be the first milk bank in the North Island, with only two others in Christchurch.

“There’s a lot of renewed interest in milk banking and the partnership with the Wright Family Foundation has enabled us be at the forefront of this,” says Jacquie.

Donations of breast milk from screened, tested donors are processed for babies requiring supplemental feeding, if they don’t have full access to their own mother’s milk.
“This means that new parents who need to supplement their baby’s feeds, but do not wish to use formula to do so, do not have to find their own suitable donor when they are under stress and have a fragile newborn to look after,” says Jacquie.
The milk is free to recipients, but if milk is in short supply, the most ill and the most premature babies will be supplied first.

In rare cases, viruses and bacteria can be passed through breast milk, so testing, screening, and pasteurising is carried out to reduce the risks.
“Milk, unlike blood and other donated tissues, can be pasteurised while still remaining useful,” says Jacquie.

To keep up to date with Whāngai Ora Milk Bank’s progress, follow the Facebook page here.

Jacquie Nutt stores some of the donated milk in the freezer at Te Papaioea Birthing Centre.

Donated milk is pasteurised before distribution.


Lesley-Anne Grobler

Not everyone is a fan of working night shifts, but for Bethlehem Birthing Centre maternity care assistant Lesley-Anne Grobler, it’s the perfect time to enjoy cuddles with babies.
Lesley-Anne moved to New Zealand with her husband and daughter from South Africa in 2016 where she had worked as an intermediate life support paramedic. She worked as a caregiver in a rest home for three years while volunteering with St John.
She joined the BBC team just over a year ago and loves the camaraderie among her colleagues, as well as the interaction with mums and babies.
“It was challenging in the beginning. The work of a paramedic is more focussed on pre-hospital care, whereas working in a facility such as Birthing Centre is about providing continuous care. It’s quite different, but I love it!”
Lesley-Anne’s role includes preparing birthing rooms, assisting in emergencies, and sometimes helping the staff midwives during a birth if the woman’s lead maternity carer hasn’t arrived, but largely involves postnatal care and education.
When she is not working, she enjoys exploring New Zealand with her family.
“The three things I Iove the most are family time, patient care and business studies.” 
Lesley-Anne obtained her SMME business management qualification at the University of South Africa in 2015 and is currently studying human resource management and people practice at Milpark Business School in South Africa through distance education. 
She recently achieved her Level 3 Certificate in Health and Wellbeing in New Zealand and is looking forward to studying for Level 4.

News from our centres


Happy Birthday!

Bethlehem Birthing Centre is celebrating its sixth birthday this month, with 2129 babies born there since it opened in 2014.

New carving
Bethlehem Birthing Centre has a new carving in its foyer thanks to a group of carvers at Rimutaka Prison.

‘Ko Rangi Raua Ko Papa’ represents the first conception between Ranginui (the Sky Father) and Papatūānuku (the Earth Mother) from which all life was born.

The first pregnancy, the first birth, the intertwined bodies are the symbols for growth and expansion, which is fitting when we speak of a child coming into the world and a man and woman becoming a whānau.

The prisoners also gifted a carving to Te Awakairangi Birthing Centre in Lower Hutt to celebrate its opening in 2018.

BFHI certification
Bethlehem Birthing Centre has been reaccredited with its Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) certification.

BFHI is an international programme launched in 1991 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to ensure all maternity services become centres of breastfeeding support worldwide.

Baby friendly facilities work to see that all women, regardless of their feeding method, receive unbiased information, support and professional advice in their decision to feed their babies.

BBC is immensely proud of its exclusive breastfeeding rate of 97 percent.

Clinical midwife manager Alexandra Deas says it is a privilege to work in an environment where all the team are passionate about supporting mothers to feed their babies.
“I have never worked anywhere where all the midwives give such consistent advice and support. Bethlehem was originally guided by an incredible and passionate lactation consultant, Shauna Walters, who guided the team through our initial Baby Friendly accreditation, so the foundation is strong. Our latest accreditation is a credit to the entire team for their passion, dedication and hard work, and the amazing mothers we work with.”
Find out more about BFHI here.

Nga Hau Māngere

Birthing Centre features in Baby Done

CMM Tish Taihia with some of her family at the premiere of Baby Done.

Have you seen the fabulous new Taika Waititi film Baby Done?

Wannabe-adventurer Zoe (Rose Matafeo) freaks out when she falls pregnant to her long-term boyfriend Tim (Matthew Lewis). As Tim embraces the prospect of fatherhood, Zoe attempts to rush through her dreams.

Not only is it a great movie to see if you’re pregnant, but one of the scenes was filmed at Nga Hau Māngere Centre! The filming took place before the centre opened to the public last year.

Actress Rose Matafeo also has a special connection to Nga Hau Māngere – her auntie is our very own clinical midwife manager Tish Taihia!

See the movie trailer here. See if you can spot Birthing Centre in it!

NHM a port in a storm
American couple Arwyn and Andrew Rogers gave birth to their son, Atticus, at Nga Hau Māngere Birthing Centre on 1 October after the super yacht they were crewing on got stuck in New Zealand due to COVID-19.
The rest of the crew has since flown home but the couple decided to stay with the boat until the borders open again.

Clinical midwife manager Tish Taihia says the couple, who also have another son Lionel, opted to birth at Nga Hau Māngere and were “full of praise” about the experience and the care they received at the centre, and their LMCs Amanda Fergus and Donna Ritchie.
Arwyn and Atticus returned to the centre recently for a visit.
Te Awakairangi

Knitting donation
A special thanks to Barbara Hinton who brought some beautiful woollens into Te Awakairangi Birthing Centre for our babies in October. Donations of knitted woollens are greatly appreciated at all our centres.


Find us online

Our website,, is a great port of call for anyone who wants to find out more about primary birthing, our philosophy and service.

You can also find previous issues of our newsletter here.

Check out our Facebook pages too:
Bethlehem Birthing Centre:
Te Awakairangi Birthing Centre at Melling:
Nga Hau Māngere Birthing Centre:

Quote of the day

“Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers - strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.”

Barbara Katz Rothman


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