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Babies need love and affection

Babies need love and affection

Our appalling child abuse statistics indicate that many of New Zealand’s children are growing up in households with carers who have not bonded properly with their babies. There is much evidence to show that babies’ brains need to have stimulation and be able to build strong relationships with their families in order for them to develop normal brain pathways. The early years are vitally important in forming lasting relationships that are crucial to their ongoing development.

“Many people don’t appreciate just how responsive and interactive even the tiniest newborn baby is” says Dr. Marguerite Dalton, paediatrician and coordinator of National WellChild/ Tamariki Ora week. “Babies don’t just eat, sleep and produce dirty nappies, they start to take notice and respond to the world around them the moment they are born. They have been listening to all the sounds around them while they have been in the womb – now they need to connect those sounds with faces and significant people in their lives.”

Adults should get away from the Xbox / computer/ mobile phone and spend time just watching, talking to and playing with their new baby, according to Dr Dalton.

New Zealand’s National Children’s Day on 4th March 2012 has the theme of ‘Love and Affection’ - this is echoed by the focus for WellChild/Tamariki Ora Week which follows. This year it is concentrating on the first 6 weeks of baby’s life and the important 6 week check.

Huge changes occur in a family when an infant is born, not only physically and emotionally, and may involve a whole range of people.

Interaction and bonding with a new tiny baby is vital for that baby in many different ways, and something that health professionals can help families with.

Counties Manukau DHB produced a short DVD called “Look at you , Aroha Atu, Aroha Mai “ in 2009 which we think reflects the theme of ‘Love and Affection’ and spending time getting to know and bond with your newborn baby in the first few weeks of their life. It helps Parents and Health Professionals to spot baby’s cues and respond to them and stresses the need for babies to have quality time with their whanau . Health Professional groups working with new or expectant parents may wish to use this particularly over WellChild/Tamariki Ora Week, to promote positive interaction and bonding.

By six weeks, carers have chosen their Well Child/Tamariki Ora service and this relationship/ partnership should continue right through until school-age. At six weeks babies have a free, physical check with the family doctor and may also have their first immunisation. The health of the mother and the family are important considerations especially when there is a new baby in the home. Well Child/Tamariki Ora nurses and family doctors are able to provide support and advice, and the six week checks are designed to ensure these opportunities are available to all.

“At this time the baby and family should have been transferred to their WellChild / Tamariki ora provider who will then be with them helping them to monitor the infant’s progress through the WellChild / Tamariki Ora checks right up until they start school at 5yrs., so this is another really important milestone” says Dr. Dalton.

The 6 week check consists of many other important health messages and information and support as well as just the physical and developmental check and immunisation. Across the country during Well Child/ Tamariki Ora week some providers will also be promoting these, dependant on their own local situation. Including e issues such as breast feeding, Sudden Unexplained Death in Infancy, Post Natal Depression, or safety around the home.

For more information on the WellChild/Tamariki Ora programme or promotion contact Dr. Marguerite Dalton on 09 373 7599 ext 84666, or click, or

Information on the “Look at You, Aroha Atu, Aroha Mai” DVD and Order form email:

Information on research in early childhood brain development can be found on the Brainwave Trust site


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