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Experiences of migrant mothers.

Thanks for the thoughtful piece by Wendy Hicks on breastfeeding choices (October, p23), suggesting that midwives need to be flexible in attitudes and practice. I was particularly struck by Wendy's comments about "Caring for mothers as well as babies". The Centre for Asian and Migrant Health research has recently completed a 14-month project funded by the Families Commission's Blue Skies Fund and Plunket volunteers (see We interviewed 40 Chinese, Korean, South African, British, American, Indian, Palestinian and Iraqi women about their experiences of pregnancy and birth in New Zealand.

A striking finding, which resonates with Wendy's comments, is that rooming-in was a major concern. Many migrant mothers were caught between current practice that encourages women to be independent with mother craft as soon as possible (through rooming-in), and traditional practice that supports the woman having time to recuperate white being attended to by family. The findings were similar to a 2000 Australian study which found that, when migrant mothers were asked about hospital routines they found difficult, the practice of rooming-in was significant. (1) They did not like the practice and felt the policy did not meet their cultural needs, because they perceived that postpartum rest was crucial for physical and emotional well-being. Not taking proper care of oneself after one of the most vulnerable periods in a woman's life would result in long-term health consequences. Similarly, rooming-in and associated hospital experiences led to unmet expectations of being cared for. They felt they were treated unkindly and as if the baby was more important than the mother. Several participants felt they were left on their own to manage with their babies. The expectation of attentiveness and "endless care" that is typically received from extended family can be lost in the process of migrating, leading many women to expect it from their caregivers. The same could be said for mothers in general, as there is frequently a mismatch between the help new mothers expect and actually get. I would like to thank Wendy for raising such an important issue.

As a footnote I would also like to thank your columnist Chris Cottingham for his light hearted but incisive A-musing on nursing articles!


(1) Rice, P. L. (2000) Rooming-in and cultural practices: Choice or constraint? Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology; 18: 1, 21-32.

Ruth DeSouza, Dip Nurs, Grad Dip Adv, Nurs Pruct, MA (Nursg), senior research fellow, Centre for Asian and Migrant Health Research, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland
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Author:DeSouza, Ruth
Publication:Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Dec 1, 2006
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